Customer Success: The Next Generation of Customer Service?
What was it you do again?
I was asked this question several times, as I gathered with family and friends over the holidays. Its not that they have forgotten what I do, due to ignorance or apathy. Rather, they have a hard time remembering because it is a new field that hardly existed five years ago.
Cal, my best friend since the third grade, had his life pretty well figured out. As early as eighth grade, I remember him saying that he wanted to be a dentist. After graduating college with a degree in microbiology, he went to dental school and then received additional education with a specialization. Today, he is a pediatric dentist.
My life was not such a clear-cut path. My path wandered through radio, video, and broadcasting. I eventually meandered on a course that included entertainment, linguistics, and corporate training. No wonder no one can remember what I do!
What I do is CUSTOMER SUCCESS. Customer Success (sometimes Client Success) is a role whose goal is to make the customer as successful with their purchase as possible. This success leads to repeat purchasing and improves the customer lifetime value.
Customer Success is most prevalent among software as a service (SaaS) companies. As these tech companies move to subscription services selling models, helping the customer optimize the value of their software is more important than ever.
Some sources site Customer Success as having been around as early as the late 1990s. Nonetheless, according to Forrester Research, very few people carried this title as of 2010. Since then the number of professionals on LinkedIn with Customer Success listed as part of their title has grown rapidly. In my case, Customer Success did not even exist when I finished my post-graduate studies.
Being such a new field, I often explain my role using the following analogy.
Imagine you are purchasing a new car. You find a make and model that you love. However, when you begin driving your new vehicle, you quickly recognize that you only know how to turn on the car and roll down the windows. In this case, my role in Customer Success would be to sit in the passenger seat on your first drive and show you how to operate the stereo, the GPS, and the seat warmers. I'm also available for any future assistance you need. The goal is to have you love the car and all of the features so much that when it the time comes to buy a new car (renew or upgrade your software subscription), you will almost certainly buy from me again.
At its heart, Customer Success is about maximizing value for the customer. This ensures customer retention, increases expand (upsell) opportunities, and improves renewal rates; leading to revenue growth for the organizations willing to invest in the success of the customer.