Rants of a Customer Success Analyst: The Chase in Customer Success

May 20, 2022

Justin Garlock

Category: Customer Retention, Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Maturity, Customer Success Strategy, Voice of the Team

The Reason

It’s a normal day so far. Pre-pandemic when I went into an office every day. The commute this morning was long—typical combination of traffic and Cincinnati construction. I just got back from lunch with my friend and coworker Gary—double reward points day at our local sandwich shop somehow makes roast beef taste better. I open my laptop and start scanning through the five or six emails that have come in while I was gone; mostly spam—straight to trash. It’s such a nice day out. I have a window seat and it can easily make the back half of the day seem endless; it’s no aerial view, but at least it’s green and we get the occasional deer that graze on by, so no complaints.

My phone rings. It’s my mom. I can call her back after I respond to this email—it’s a simple request from a coworker, so it shouldn’t take long. I look back at my phone just in time to see a text followed by another immediate call from my mom; she only does this when something’s wrong. I lock my laptop and go into a conference room to answer. Before I can say anything, I can tell that she has been crying.

“Justin…don’t be mad. Your dad opened the door to get the mail and Sox ran outside and down the street. Your brother just went chasing after her.”

Sox is the name of our little seventeen-pound Pekingese/Shih-Tzu mix. We didn’t pick the name, but we also didn’t bother changing it when we rescued her a few years back. My wife dropped her off over at my parents’ place this morning for a little play date with their dogs—her friends Jazzy, Lily, and Aria. Sox likes being around them all. She was in the same animal rescue as Aria so she’s familiar, Jazzy will snuggle up with anything that has a heartbeat, and Sox submitted to the truth that Lily’s queen of the castle and was therefore accepted as part of the pack.

When I say that Sox is our world and our child, I don’t say it ironically or metaphorically—Sox has the robust wardrobe, overflowing toy basket, and healthier food than the humans in the house to prove it. She unexpectedly came into our lives at a time when we needed her and filled a void we didn’t even know we had. She is perfectly imperfect, with her fluffy tail, floppy and scrunchy ears, and crooked underbite. She will make you the big spoon against your will, steal your pillow in the middle of the night, and disregard any concept of personal space you think you’re entitled to.

I hang up the phone and go into complete panic mode, feeling helpless and hopeless. It’ll take at least 45 minutes to get to their place with traffic if I leave right now, and the backroads route could knock about five off that time. I power walk back to my desk and start disconnecting my laptop from my three monitors. This is taking too long. Just leave the laptop. I walk past the window of my boss’s office and signal I’m leaving. He’s on a call. No time to explain. No time to wait.

My parents live on a really busy street. I can’t bear the thought of her getting hit by a car, but I can’t get the idea out of my head. Even best case where she doesn’t get hit while darting across traffic, what if we don’t find her before the sun goes down? Where is she going to sleep? What is she going to eat? I’m almost to my car now. What am I going to even do when I get there? Drive around? How long before I should make posters? There is no way I am going to sleep tonight knowing she’s still out here. She’ll be so confused. I can hear her whimpers in my head. I can see her laying down in brush. That isn’t the life she was supposed to have when we rescued her. We were supposed to keep her safe and make sure she always feels loved. I drop my keys as I fumble to unlock the door to my car. Calm down. I can’t drive if I can’t even see. A panic attack will not help find her. Calm down. Breathe. You’re going to find her. She’s going to be okay.

I start the car. Why didn’t we get her a GPS collar? I’ve never felt so helpless in my life, knowing that Sox is out there with no understanding of how to come back to us, with no understanding of what went wrong. I want to blame someone. I want to be mad, but what good will that do? I just want to know she’s safe. I want to know she is okay. I turn right out of the parking lot, and I get about fifty feet, just before the roundabout, when I see my mom’s calling again. This is it. I know it. This is my worst fear. My heart’s pounding, keeping time with the cadence of my thoughts. I answer.

“Okay—she’s fine, but you’re never going to believe this.”

My mom’s not crying anymore. I sense a relief in her tone but mixed with a bit of hysteria and…humor. She proceeds to tell me what happened—

My dad opened the front door to get the mail and Sox ran outside in the front yard and headed straight for the road. My brother Jeremy, who was shirtless, shoeless, and had just been in a deep sleep, immediately ran out the door and started running after her, chasing her across the busy road, dodging traffic as his feet slapped the asphalt. He followed closely for about a half-mile down the hill, cutting through yards and hopping fences, watching Sox dart from left to right, right to left before completely losing sight of her. In an attempt to cover more ground, he ran back home to put on a shirt, his shoes, and then got in the car to search in a grid pattern, going street by street, block by block, stopping and scanning—the haze of a deep slumber replaced by the reality of the moment. At that point, my mom called my dad to let him know I was on my way over to help look for Sox and Jeremy continued to drive around. As my dad made his way around the house from the sideyard, he stopped in disbelief, hearing a faint jingle in the distance. There, properly sitting on the front porch of their house, with a smile only a dog with a crooked underbite can smile, sat Sox. My dad opened the front door and watched Sox swagger right into the kitchen, tail wagging and eyes slightly squinted, where she sat and patiently waited for her treat, looking similarly adorable to these photos.


The amount of time that went by from the moment Sox began her adventure to the time she sat comfortably on the kitchen floor chomping on her bone?

Four minutes. In four minutes, we went from all-hands-on-deck to all-clear.

So, what would you do in those four minutes? What do you naturally do in the space between chaos and resolution, dissatisfaction and remediation, risk and reward? It’s human nature to want to jump into action when something goes wrong—to do everything we can to solve the problem, but there is one truth about this scenario that is undisputable: as soon as the clock starts on those four minutes, the time to prepare has passed and you either execute based on your preparation or run out the door chasing after a dog with bare feet and no shirt. (No offense, Jeremy.)

The Rant

I see a lot of chasing in Customer Success: chasing metrics that our data doesn’t support, chasing insight, chasing answers to the reason customers churn, and chasing a haven of exemplary plays and processes to mitigate risk and drive value. We love chasing the idea of getting ahead of our customers’ business problems, enabling them to receive value that helps accelerate their success, and establishing processes based on the customer journey to help prepare for churn risk, poor health, or behavior that would drive the customer away from the value they’re looking for.

Before I get too much further into this rant, I do want to acknowledge that we are all on different paths to success with a wide range of maturity in our Customer Success motions…and that’s okay—each of our businesses have their nuances that keep us chasing. But without knowing where the chase will take us, and regardless of your maturity level as a CS organization, there isn’t time or money enough to be trapped in perpetuity.

So, let’s talk about some things we should stop chasing.

  1. Stop chasing metrics without documenting the business outcomes they are driving. We hear this a lot, so if you don’t know what it means, let’s talk.
  2. Stop chasing a Customer Success platform that doesn’t do what you need it to do. Don’t lean on enhancement requests. Know your use case and find the one that meets it.
  3. Stop chasing perfection in your data. It’s never going to happen.
  4. Stop chasing perfection in yourself. That’s never going to happen either.
  5. Stop chasing a 0% churn rate. You have customers today who probably never should have become customers.
  6. Stop chasing validation in your abilities, worth, and expertise. Imposter syndrome is alive and well, but you’ve got this. (Skip to number 9 before reading 7 if this resonates.)
  7. Stop chasing reports that don’t provide actionable or prescriptive measures. Again, we hear this a lot, so if you’re in this boat, let’s talk.
  8. Stop chasing your analysts and data scientists around with new projects. Get a program manager. I’m not sure where this expectation for data analysts to also manage the entirety of the program came from—same objective, but very different skillsets.
  9. Stop chasing self-doubt. You’re in your role for a reason. Embrace it. (If you came here from 6, go back to 7 and read it again on the way back down.)
  10. Stop chasing customers who don’t fit your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). You’re wasting your money. You’re wasting their time.
  11. Stop chasing your definition of value…unless it aligns with your customers’.
  12. Stop chasing customer surveys that aren’t actioned. You know you have feedback and Voice of the Customer (VoC) metrics that you aren’t fully categorizing, analyzing, and actioning to better your product or customer’s experience. Read the responses your customers are taking the time to submit.
  13. Stop chasing assumed expectations. Clarify with stakeholders—the deliverable, the timeline, the objective. Don’t confuse your customer by presenting a deliverable they didn’t know they requested.
  14. Stop chasing variables in your data independently. Very rarely will it give you a holistic picture of your customer. Hypothesize outcomes and then analyze how variables impact each other in the data you collect based on your customers’ behaviors. (This is Research Methods & Stats 101.)
  15. Stop chasing scenario-based Net Promoter Scores (NPS)—not going to get into that again here, that was last week.
  16. Stop chasing CSMs for a forecast. They aren’t sales.
  17. And finally…stop chasing the dog who bolts out the front door. Get a treat, get down to their level, use a calm voice.

The Resolution

There’s something to be said for a good chase—a target set off in the distance and the strategic, fast, and sometimes stealthy approach needed to gain ground and finally end the chase to receive the reward. It can help keep us focused on specific programs, projects, or deliverables. But the closer we get to what we are chasing, the further away we are from the starting line.

You might be expecting me at this point to lay out what to chase—where to focus your efforts to make the catch worth the chase. With so many areas to stop chasing, where should we redirect our resources to get the most impactful results?

But that’s not going to happen today—the topics are too deep, too complicated, and too important to be a bullet list at the end of a rant. They deserve their own rant.

So, this week ends on a cliffhanger…worth the wait and worth the chase—

Until next week.

Missed last week’s installment of Rants of a Customer Success Analyst? Go back and read! And keep an eye out for the next Reason, Rant, and Resolution next week.