Feeling Stuck? Maybe You Need a Shift in Perspective

February 1, 2023

Melissa Langworthy

Category: Customer Adoption, Customer Experience, Customer Retention, Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Strategy, Digital Customer Success, Monetizing Customer Success

There’s a good chance that if you are a Customer Success leader, your workday began by logging in and reviewing your CS metrics dashboard. Checking to see how the teams’ effort yesterday affected today’s retention rates, the number of customers whose health score were improved, customers lagging on adoption and TFV realization, and customers whose user telemetry data demonstrate that they may be at risk.

And if you’re a good Customer Success leader there’s an even better chance that your workday yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that, and the day before that… all started with this very important task of starting the day by reviewing how your CSMs have positively impacted your customers’ experience and their chance to renew.

In case you wondered if this daily routine of beleaguered managers will change any time soon, the august management consulting firm, McKinsey, sees no escape. On the subject of leveraging a data-driven cockpit in the digital and remote work age, they offer in this article a 99% confidence level that employing such a routine produces a significant, positive revenue impact. “Across B2B industries and regions, our work has shown the development of one capability to be crucial: data-driven commercial-performance management. Done well, it can help companies capture up to 15 more percentage points in EBITDA growth than their peers.

So, no change in the routine which makes it all a bit… repetitive. The best Customer Success leaders, and let’s also include the best Customer Success Operations leaders, can probably relate to Bill Murray’s portrayal of Phil Connors, a cynical TV weatherman who finds himself reliving the same day over and over again in the movie Groundhog Day.

In case you missed it…

Each year, Phil Connors travels to Western Pennsylvania to see if the infamous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, awakens on February 2nd to see his shadow and the outcome predicts the next 6 weeks of weather. If Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, the folklore goes that there will be six more weeks of “winter-like” weather. If the groundhog does not see his shadow, the folklore predicts an “early spring” to occur over the following six weeks.

OK. Time out. This whole folklore prediction reminds me of a poorly constructed Customer Health Score that uses a series of haphazardly-selected user metrics and behaviors in an attempt to predict a customer outcome but the metrics do not correlate with the customer’s desired outcomes so regardless of if the scores are positive or negative the customer is equally at risk for churning, maybe not in 6 weeks but you get the general idea.

Back to the story. In the movie, Phil goes about that day unsuccessful in his attempts to leave the town due to a massive blizzard, which even he, the best weatherman in Pennsylvania, couldn’t have predicted, and ends up falling asleep in the same hotel room. That’s where the story and Phil’s impending doom really begins as each day when he awakes its February 2nd, Phil must go to see the groundhog, try to escape the town during a blizzard, and break the cycle.

It’s all a bit like the stage of business transformation when the CS organization is transitioning from a support-driven organization reactive to the needs of the customer to a success-driven organization that is proactively engaging with customers and one step ahead of their customer’s next steps.

In the movie, Phil shares his frustration reliving the same day in infinitum to Rita (portrayed by Andie MacDowell) who sees the daily iterations as opportunities to do good things. (Don’t you think Rita would make an excellent CS Operations leader?) Taking her suggestion to heart, Phil learns from yesterday’s mistakes and mishaps and does remarkable things – saving individuals from misfortune and deadly accidents, he learns new skills like ice sculpting, to play the piano, and to learn a new language. Phil eventually breaks the cycle when he admits he can’t continue to do what he’s doing alone, and his life would be better with Rita than without.

Eureka (or whatever high-pitched scream a groundhog makes)! Faced with the same day to day routine, Phil changed his attitude and therefore the narrative.

In our recent white paper “How Long Does It Actually Take to Build a Customer Success Organization?” we shared a timeline that CS leaders should allot 6 to 12 months to test, iterate, and validate the initial engagement models, customer journeys, health scores, playbooks, and broader data mapping. This by no means suggests that you need to do any iteration, testing, or validation in infinitum, but that these things take time.

Testing and validating your engagement models will work towards saving your customers from misfortune with your product, increase their rate of adoption, and decrease their time to first value. Watching, observing, and changing messaging, strategy, and outreach to help them reach their goals.

Acknowledging that your CSMs do not have all the skills and tools needed to execute the engagement model will allow you to find opportunities for them to learn new skills, adopt new technologies into their day-to-day activities, and increase the value that your customers find in having a trusted advisor within your organization.

And these efforts cannot be performed in the vacuum of Customer Success. Looking at what it will take to test, validate, and iterate the engagement model, CS Operations needs to align and collaborate with many areas of the business to support the team. The relationship building might look something like this:

  • Working with Finance to integrate renewal dates, opportunity creation, and accurate accounting metrics into dashboards and reports the team will reference each day.
  • Collaborating with Product to create and craft in-app messaging to nudge customers through the tasks required to help them onboard, train, adopt, and transform their daily tasks to find value in the product they just can’t live without.
  • Collaborating with Marketing to interview customers to identify what is important to them when purchasing software so that it can inform proactive outreach, health-score dimensions, and upsell/cross-sell opportunities.
  • Working with Data owners to integrate all customer data into a centralized application to inform an accurate and actionable health-score.

And tomorrow when you wake up and view your dashboard, we hope you’ll have a fresh perspective on the mountain of work the team has accomplished to integrate those data points and an informative plan of action for how to tackle the challenges that your customers face today.