The most prized and desired principle in Customer Success


5 min read
26 May

In this interview, Dan Farley (VP of Customer Success at Seenit), talks about the importance of authenticity and why business relationships should start on this foundation.

Customer success is the embodiment of the business that our customers have invested in. They have not just invested in the technology itself but the output that the product delivers upon.


Authenticity: Stop Listening and Start Hearing

In every kind of business—either SaaS or non-SaaS, the central tenet is to build a relationship that both you and your customers will profit from. The question is, “How do you build an authentic brand?” 

As a CS professional, Farley pointed out, “We’re that person who enables that desired output”. Without us (CS professional), that output becomes less likely. I believe the role that Customer Success plays is more important than it has ever been. 

In the B2B SaaS world, CS is not only about delivering on business promises but also on connecting and cultivating a relationship that would last and stand the test of time. 

I observed over the last 8 years, business relationships faltering because of the parade of automation and the human charisma has disregarded and passed over. 

Automation has a great importance in Enterprise B2B SaaS, however when the relationship is built upon this element rather than the human component—businesses soon realized that they’re already far removed and at odds to their target customers. 

Building meaningful relationships with customers should start with authenticity and in the best interest of your customers. Focusing on promises you can’t keep (or deliver on) is the surest way of destroying and damaging the perception that your customer has of your business.

The following are the key principles that we the Customer Success Team at Seenit follow and stand behind:

  1. Unequivocal Honesty. I believe every business should stand to what they promise and what they believe to be the right thing to do. This should never be broken. Remember, customer success isn’t just about telling customers what they’d like to hear but providing recommendations and setting the right expectations.
     
  2. Authenticity. In every single touch point, it is important for the organization to understand that like them, they’re also dealing and working with a human being. Be yourself at all times, never compromise your own personality in order to act or behave in a certain way that you feel is more ‘professional’.

Hence, as CSMs your goal is not to be liked and loved by your customers, but to be seen as a trusted advisor and a partner who cares for their success and will stand by their side no matter what. Simply put, your customer’s success is your top priority.

3. Being true to your word and at all times set the right expectations. Don’t excite the customer by saying “yes” to every request. Remember, not all requests and changes are applicable. As CSMs, you are the voice of the customer (in your organization) and it is your role to share their views and sentiments. Never promise anything.

Lessons Learned – Be Insanely Curious

Farley relayed back to a time when he lost his first customer. He pointed out, “I was completely stunned, I couldn’t believe it”. This was someone I had such a close relationship with (working with the champion), had a great NPS score, and regularly told me what a great investment the tool had been.

Any indications there were that they would leave were non-existent. What I learned, happy customers don’t stay. They don’t sign that Renewal contract. They don’t chew out their boss’ to free up the budget to keep you on another year.

All my eggs were put in the wrong basket and what I learnt was there are always things going on upstream that change the game. You have to be constantly looking for those signs.

Similarly, having great plans or a set of activities don’t guarantee success. It requires a follow through on each of these processes. There are two kinds of business success (and why the latter is the most important driver of maintaining and sustaining business relationships).

  1. Business success. The investment they have made creates opportunities to drive intrinsic value or tell a wider story about how the ‘needle’ has been moved.
     
  2. Individual success. Through the procurement of your solution, has that individual (your champion) personally gained on a professional level? As a result of your tech, has it enhanced their career progression? If you could help your customer / champion achieve this personal level of success, they will be a customer for life, at that organization or the next.

One thing that we really emphasize at Seenit is a level of excitement, of fun. When our customers see us or interact with us, I want them walking away thinking ‘those Seenit peeps, they are awesome!

They are totally not like the other tech partners we work with…’ We try to operate in a fun, relaxed environment which makes our customers feel comfortable and want to interact with us.

The Future of Customer Success

Without Customer Success, your business will not survive. Simple. It isn’t a trendy term, a ‘nice to know about’. It is a company wide belief that needs to be embedded throughout every single department of the business.

It is not a churn reduction mechanism, it is about company wide revenue growth. Simply put, if your customers derive value, they buy more. If they buy more, they are less likely to leave you and that will always go straight to the bottom line of the business.

Remember, the display of true success is when your customer realizes that they’re getting more value than they originally anticipated. That is the ‘light bulb’ moment that changes the landscape.

If there’s a big change going to take place in the marketplace, you’re looking at it under the hood of CS. This team will change and improve other disciplines where the driver or the focal of interest “is on the success of their customer”. 

We’ll be seeing more alignment in the success criteria they have not previously thought about. What we are seeing is a different approach between sales and customer success. The former is centered on the opportunity while the latter sees where things stand and how customers will see the value of the product/service over the long term.

Characteristic of an ideal CSMs

In this discipline (Customer Success), 60% of what you need to know is hidden under the surface. As a CSM, you have to search and find all the relevant information and ensure that information is aligned with customers’ needs and pain points. Having a sense of curiosity is paramount. You should always think behind the “why”, always thinking upstream.

Second, someone who has an unparalleled enthusiasm towards CS. Have you read one of ‘Jeanne Bliss’ books. Do you know Jason Lemkin? Do you have strong opinions about what Customer Success means to you?

Similarly, someone who’d invest time for their success so they can emit it forward to their customers. 

The last characteristic is having an entrepreneurial drive. Customer Success is the only role where you physically connect and work directly with every single part of a business (Marketing, Sales, Product, Engineering, Finance, Operations…). You have to manage up, sideways, get other teams working with each other. You need to know how to engage other parts of the business and be brave.

VOC (Voice of the Customers)doesn’t mean confinement of expression but strengthening business initiatives

First is to understand the “why”. What are the business objectives of running this program and what do they intend to do once they take the customer feedback?

I believe the VOC needs to be heard by the CEO and the board of directors. If you can’t have it on that high touch level or participation from the senior management executives, I don’t think the customer’s voice has been heard. The CEO and board of directors need to understand how the VOC affects the business bottom line.

In a nutshell, everyone should know the impact of their doings and initiatives with their customers.

Takeaways

  1. Customer Success is the embodiment of business that customers have invested in.
  2. As CS Professional, we’re that person who enables that desired output.
  3. Every business should stand to what they promise and what they believe to be the right thing to do.
  4. As CSMs your goal is not to be liked and loved by your customers, but to be seen as a trusted advisor and a partner who cares for their success and will stand by their side no matter what
  5. Be Insanely Curious
  6. The display of true success is when the customers realized that they’re getting more value out from the dollar they’re paying (or spending) for.
  7. Everyone should know the impact of their doings and initiatives with their customers.


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