When customer success (CS) first came into the mainstream, many vendors focused firmly on their product. They were very focused on specific features and functions. They spent a lot of time and effort explaining the product and its roadmap to customers.
From technology focus to a customer outcomes focus
Slowly, we are seeing a shift where CS teams are focusing on understanding the customers’ business objectives and desired outcomes. The current thinking is that by focusing on business outcomes, you can better demonstrate the value that the customer is achieving from the vendor’s product. This value discussion then will lead to increased upsells and renewals. This is an important and impactful shift. But it alone is not enough.
The critical area that has long been overlooked by CS teams (and their customers) is identifying and proactively addressing the required people-behavior shift that is needed to achieve success. Once desired business outcomes have been defined, CS teams and their customers need to put people at the center of their focus and efforts. They need to concentrate on helping users – people – change their behavior so that they are adopting technology in a way that will deliver the required business outcomes.
The people - behavior challenge
The biggest challenge on the critical path to customer success is not the technology itself. It is getting people to change the way they do their job on a daily basis, to embrace the system, and use it as designed and intended. It is figuring out how to make sure that current staff quickly shift their work behaviors and adopt the new system. And then it is about making sure that new hires rapidly adopt the new desired work behaviors so that they use the system in a way that creates value. And finally, the challenge becomes how to evolve and sustain effective user behaviors as both the technology product and the customers’ organizations develop. Without this ongoing focus on ensuring users deliver desired behaviors, the customers’ success will steadily fall over time.
Implications for Customer Success
What this means for customer success teams is that they need to ensure they have the expertise, experience, tools, and methodologies to help their customers address user behavior change and ensure software adoption over the long-term. All of the KPIs, automation, onboarding conversations, and QBRs will deliver little results over the long-term if your CS team cannot help customers solve their underlying business challenge – that is, driving effective user adoption that will yield the required business results.
CS leaders looking to develop people-centric customer success should do the following:
1. Map out the critical path that a customer must take from the time of first contact (pre-sales) up to the point of achieving their desired business outcomes. What specific behavior changes are required across the user populations to deliver this result? What do your CS services due to address these critical needs?
2. Ask yourself this question: If the system was already live, people had already been trained on the technology, and we still are not effective adoption, what else could we do to change users’ behavior? If you exclude changes to technology and additional system training and focus on peoples’ behavior, could you still drive success?
3. Increase the capacity to drive behavior change. Most CS leaders will find that their organization lacks the expertise, tools, and methods to identify the various factors that affect behavior and then proactively address these to drive desired behaviors across the user groups. If you lack these skills and processes in your CS team, how will you be able to help customers address this core need?
4. Once you have the right expertise on your team, look outside of what is typically done on IT projects to figure out where different actions, tools, and methods are needed to help users change their behavior and adopt the technology. Identify where you need to change how you engage with customers to get them to take the steps that will deliver desired behavior, and in turn, business outcomes.
5. Figure out how to scale your efforts. You will quickly realize that many of your customers probably lack the expertise, experience, and ability to drive software adoption within their organization. The biggest force-multiplier you will find is that by increasing your customers’ ability to drive adoption within their organization, they will remove a large amount of burden from your CS team. You will probably need to educate your customers on effective software adoption practices and methods. And you will need to figure out how to provide this type of education to your customers in a fast, scalable way.
The Success Chain team has worked with a large number of CS teams and the buyers of software to help them increase their ability to drive and sustain effective software adoption proactively. Our proven educational programs help buyers of software develop the skills they need to increase the effective use of software within their organizations. We also have corresponding programs for vendors that teach CS teams how to help lead their customers in developing successful software adoption programs. Please contact us if you would like to learn more and see how our scalable programs can work for you and your customers.