The Very First Question a Customer Success Team Needs to Ask
If you are like many customer success managers, you are probably extremely focused on the question:
“Will our customers be successful with OUR software.”
You and your team probably ask yourselves what you, as a customer success professional, need to do to ensure the customer is successful using your product.
But there is a more critical, more fundamental question you need to ask first.
You need to ask, “Can our customer be successful with ANY software?”
Shifting focus is critical
By asking if the customer can be successful with any software, you are identifying if the customer has within its internal organization the knowledge, skills, experience, and capacity required to get maximum business value from its software investments.
You are identifying if the primary problem you need to solve first is related to your customers’ organizational capacity to adopt and benefit from any technology or if the major challenge is specific to your system.
Once you understand this crucial distinction between the customers’ ability to achieve success with any software versus their ability to achieve success with your specific software, you can focus and prioritize your CS efforts on the right things.
Here’s the problem
What may come as a big surprise to you, is that most buyers of software don’t know how to get their organizations to drive change, get their staff to adopt software effectively, and ensure they get the full business outcomes they expect.
The issue is not the software.
The issue is a lack of knowledge, experience, and expertise in driving new behaviors and ways of working across the organization to get the full value from the software.
When we train the buyers of software on user adoption techniques and practices, they are amazed at how many things they are doing wrong that prevent their success in getting value from software. The vast majority of these issues are people, organizational, and process issues. They are NOT specific to a given piece of software.
It doesn’t matter if it is a cloud system, on-premise, or a custom-built application. The crisis of effective user adoption is ubiquitous.
Here is the solution
Here are some questions you need to ask your customers to identify if the biggest blockers of customer success are tied to your specific product or are related to the customer’s internal ability to absorb any technology within their organizations:
- What do you do internally to drive adoption and realize business benefits when implementing any new system? Do you have a defined user adoption program and methodology?
- How do you ensure systems are quickly adopted and that you sustain effective adoption 3, 5, and 10 years down the road?
- Across your software portfolio, what percent of applications are delivering the full business benefits and outcomes you expected? How many of the systems would you consider a mind-blowing business “success”? What makes them so incredible?
- What prevents you from getting more value from your existing IT investments?
- What will you do to ensure that your investment in our system is a success and delivers all of the business benefits you expect to achieve?
- Where do you need our help to ensure that your investment in our system is a success and delivers all of the business benefits you expect to achieve?
What to expect…
What you will most likely hear from your customers is that they have a plethora of systems that are NOT successful.
The vast majority of their systems are likely underused or underperforming. There is probably a lot of value leakage in their existing IT investment portfolio.
Many of your prospects and customers likely provide a limited version of “change management” (typically focused around the go-live date). These are probably the customers that report very few systems delivering full business value.
It will be the rare gem of a customer that has a structured, ongoing program to sustain effective system use (and business outcomes realization) over a 5 – 10 year period. These forward-thinking companies are likely the ones that report high success rates across their software portfolio.
The red flag for your customer success approach
When asking these questions, you will quickly see that many of your customers are unlikely to achieve great success getting value from any system, not just your system.
When you encounter this, you need to ask yourself if there is something magically different about your software. What is the magic that will lead customers to achieve success with your software when they have proven time and time again, they struggle to adopt and get value from any system?
If your software is sans magic then, you need to offer a different approach to helping your customer achieve success.
Otherwise, your system will quickly become just another underwhelming investment in your customer’s software portfolio.
Solve the first problem first
Before you waste a ton of time, resources, and effort narrowly focusing on the success of your product, you will likely need to help your customers recognize that they need to address this fundamental capability gap within their organization first.
They will need to spend time learning the principles and practices of software adoption. Then they must adjust their internal efforts to get more value from any of their software investments. Only then will they even have the potential to get full value from their investment in your system.
Your customer will be amazed at how you helped them
Realizing this, you need to focus your customer success approach on building your customer’s capacity to adopt any system effectively. They will then apply this skill to adopt your system.
And then everyone wins.
There is also an added benefit for you from this approach. By enriching your customer’s capacity to adopt any system, you will tremendously differentiate your company and your customer success program from all of your competitors.
Your customer will view you as the coveted “trusted advisor.”
Your customer will give you rare references and reviews.
Your customers will renew and expand their accounts.
And you will amaze and delight your coworkers, managers, executives, and investors.
Contact us to learn how we can help you or your customers increase their potential for software success and develop their internal software adoption programs and capacity that delivers success.