Driving Sustainable Growth and Diversifying Success

8 min read
28 Dec

In this interview, Matt Myszkowski, VP of Customer Success at SAP, shares a strategic approach in creating a growth mindset in the organization, and modernizing the CS program. 

To achieve sustainable growth and profitability goals, Matt believes, functional silos must be torn down. The following success criteria are needed to modernize the CS growth programs (see Predicting the sentiment section).

Customers success: a core discipline and lever for success

Our conversation started on the changes that are taking place in the SaaS world. Matt and I agreed that a sea of change (for the last 10 or 15 years) brought so many changes in the organization, and those who did not change with it would be left behind.

I asked Matt to share his journey and how he finds his way in CS. "Probably about 15 years ago, I've worked for a company called OneSource Business Information. I had a job title of Business Application Consultant, which, if you look back now, is in some form of CS role".

The pivotal moment, Matt shares, when he had a joint project with Salesforce.com (consulting for a leading bank in the UK). "This interaction contributes and brings so much exposure in the CS role, and to its functions."

At the back of this engagement (while we are doing the implementation), I started researching Salesforce, how the business works, how they operate, and the specifics about this role (CS). It leads me to the book of Marc Benioff, "Behind the Clouds."

When I'm done reading the book, my eyes were enlightened about the SaaS economy and everything about this new emerging role. Fast forward a few years, I came across an opportunity leading a CS team at Autodesk, next as Head of CS at Rant and Rave, then SAP.

When you speak about CS, most people think CS is relatively young, and it has an exciting story around. However, this role has been around for years—it is masked in a different name, title, business linguistic, and process.

The dynamic relationship between Sales, Marketing, Support and CS

There's a lot of controversies when it comes to theories about evolution. Still, only one theory makes sense for evolution in the software industry: surviving by learning from experience and usage patterns.

Asked Matt, what's the most significant contribution of Customer Success in the organization? "The way I look at it as a CS Leader comes down to the value we are bringing not just to customers, but also to the other team in the organization – like Sales, Marketing, Implementation, and Support."

CS touches and provides value to the business's different areas, and the best way to illustrate that is similar to a bicycle wheel with many spokes.

If you look at the middle section (the axis, which is the CS), you'll see those spokes deeply rooted on the axis. Each of these spokes is independently hinged and tightly structured from one another.

In the business context, Customer Success bridges the gap and serves as the center of shared interaction across these departments. Hence, CS becomes an integral part of the organizational business strategy.

Furthermore, CS doesn't represent a brand or a single department within the organization, but it stands and represents, ensuring customer success is met and delivered. I believe CS differ when the organization sees them that way.

As an adaptive advantage, CS transforms how business interacts, associates its brand for a meaningful outcome, and provides value whenever it requires and becomes available. The business landscape has changed. It is no longer what the customers are doing for the company, but what the organization is doing for them.

The path forward: the growth mindset

The greatest pitfall in business, especially a new one, is not to understand the market. When you don't know your potential customers and their needs/wants, you are dead on arrival and have mostly failed.

What has changed over the last 15 years is the business strategy. Businesses are quick to read and act on signals of change. Instead of being good at market positioning, businesses become good at learning how to do new things.

The imperative shift: business strategy has become a customer strategy, and customer-centricity is now a strategic imperative.

While it's nice to keep things simple, sometimes, there must always be a desire for reinvention. Focusing too much on specific touchpoints (i.e., usage/consumption) in the customer experience (or customer's journey) is subject to failure. Why? Because you cannot improve your customer experience without considering how it fits into the bigger picture.

Likewise - it's not enough to adopt what you think of as a new strategy without an organizational change. Business clarity is the impetus for change, and it begins within the organizational chart.

Predicting the sentiment

Everybody does things a little bit differently. Which makes sense, considering everybody has a different product — so various product-specific events and activities need to be measured. 

"Without Customer Success in business, is blind in today's competitive SaaS environment. Every recurring business is a Customer Success business."

Think of it this way; retention is one of the most important KPIs – yet - companies persisted for so long on getting new customers than keeping the ones they have? What would persuade them to change course?

It is the leaky bucket syndrome (discussed in the book, Behind the Clouds). Large and small businesses are shifting to a recurring business model, and in the process, CS earned the right name, the keeper, and custodian of the recurring business model.

Matt shares the following action items that CS executives can employ to modernize their CS program:

  1. Define and articulate the goals of your CS program. 
  2. Investing in systems and tools that help a business to engage in a strategic new way.
  3. Knowing what customers want (not what the company "experts" think they need).
  4. Track the right outcome metrics. These include retention, advocacy, loyalty, employee engagement, and growth/expansion.
  5. Bringing in talent with fresh perspectives.
  6. Integrate data silos to get a comprehensive picture of each customer.
  7. Build a predictive model of customer behaviors (through employee engagement scorecards).
  8. Identifying the resources and inherent abilities that allow the organization to provide the business value better.
  9. Increase customer perceived value of your solution and improve customer loyalty (i.e., hiring outside consultants)

There are two ways how we can measure and foster success:

(1) Internally (value to the business)

(2) Externally (value to the customer)

These two are not separated but a concurrence of one another. Therefore – it is essential to manage expectations right from the start.

Matt believes, "gone are the days when you have to be everything to everyone." From my perspective, communication is the key. Framing helps the business articulate clearly what the scope of effort will have to be for the organization to achieve its strategic goals and what a successful initiative would look like.

It is also essential to think through the connection between your core business strategy (internal) and the objectives you set for your growth programs (external).

How talents are being looked at (the CROP approach)

Matt provided four pillars in searching for the right talents and how to keep them successful at what they're doing well. I was introduced to the CROP approach or method, which stands for:

  1. (C) Change management (refers to the vision and why change is necessary)
  2. (R) Relationship management (refers to the ability to demonstrate a relationship with the other core group or to the stakeholders in the organization)
  3. (O) Outcome management (refers to the maturity and for articulating sound business goals and results)
  4. (P) Program/Project management (refers to the process of planning, executing, and delivering the desired outcome).
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