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The Bastardization of Customer Success

In September, I had the privilege of meeting Josh Forman at Denver’s Customer Success Meetup event. Josh is a thought leader in Customer Success and brought forth a very interesting point of view regarding the difference between being a Customer Success professional and capitalizing on buzzwords presented by emerging industries. This guest blog highlights some of his views.

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Customer Success (CS) has hit a tipping point. And some are taking advantage of this inappropriately. Please stop. Many subscription based companies are now thinking about customer success, have CS teams with lots of Customer Success Managers (CSM), and have hired a customer success leader – Director Customer Success, VP Customer Success, and Chief Customer Officers. Take a look at this Google Trends report:

Google Trends Report on “Customer Success”

Google Trend Report on Customer Success

Now that Customer Success is popular, it is facing a popularity problem – everyone wants to be like it. Some say they are committed to Customer Success, without knowing what it means. Those of us in the profession have a clear idea of what it means, though there may be some debate on exactly how to say it, because it’s relatively new. Others have gone farther by using Customer Success titles though they don’t perform functions that CS professionals would recognize as Customer Success.

It is a good problem to have, really. It means we are being noticed and recognized as important, even if others struggle to understand what we do. And it’s understandable; doesn’t everyone want to say they are committed to customer success? Let’s look at what Customer Success means, and what it does not mean. If you are not involved in Customer Success, you should not say that you are.

Customer Success means you are continually focused on providing value to your customers. It has come about as a result of having a subscription based revenue model. If you have moved from a transactional relationship with your customers where you charge a large one-time perpetual license fee, and now need to keep customers engaged so they continually renew their subscription, then hopefully you have recognized how this changes the relationship. In order for customers to continually renew, and buy more, the subscription based product company must continually provide new value to the customer. You continually provide value to your customers, and they will continually provide value to you. How you provide value to your customers depends on you, your customers, and your product. How they provide value to you is through renewals and upsells. Customer Success also provides value back into the company by creating outstanding referrals and identifying market advocates.

If you are not involved in continually driving value to your customers, which requires a deep level of understanding that can only be achieved by talking to them and monitoring their actions, and you are not responsible for customer renewals, upsells, creating references, and identifying market advocates, then you are not involved in Customer Success. If you are not in Customer Success, and your title is, then you are either ignorant to what Customer Success means (and now by reading this you are not), or you are inappropriately taking advantage of a popular trend and you should take a look in the mirror and figure out what your role really is. Don’t bastardize the name.

About the Author:

Josh FormanAt Forman Consulting, Josh Forman focuses on the intersection of customers and technology. He drives adoption and expansion of technology products inside organizations. This leads to continually increasing customer lifetime value for product companies, and continually increasing return on investments for business technology consumers. Josh has been in the tech space since college, holding varying positions from lab assistant to executive. He left for a few months to be a ski bum during the amazing 95/96 season at Vail, where he also discovered the joys of biking and climbing. He lives in Nederland with his wife and kids, and works mostly in Boulder. Visit www.forman-consulting.com for more information.

Omer Gotlieb

Omer Gotlieb, Co-Founder and VP of Business Development of Totango, has been recognized as a top influencer and mentor in the customer success space. As the SVP of Business Development, he is taking Totango to the next level. He speaks frequently at Customer Success events, both locally and internationally, sharing valuable insights and experiences. Prior to Totango, he was the VP of Product at MTS, Director of Client Services at AtHoc, and other customer-facing roles at Addwise and Netvision. His specialities include churn management, business intelligence, and performance management.

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