What are your customer’s desired outcomes?

Any student of Customer Success should know the definition of Customer Success from Lincoln Murphy:

Customer Success is when customers achieve their Desired Outcomes through their interactions with your company.

Nice and simple.

Lincoln and others have explored this concept in lots of detail, and the Desired Outcome boils down to two different parts:

  1. Required Outcome
  2. Appropriate Experience

The required outcome is what the customer needs to achieve while the appropriate experience is how they need to realise it.

Mess these two parts up and, you do not have a successful customer – there are subtleties to this but let’s leave it there.

So how do you figure out these two parts?

One of the initial steps is to understand your customer more than they know themselves. Again simple in concept hard in practice.

A common tactic to understand your customer is to conduct customer interviews. The key to which is the type of question you ask.

One type questioning I like is from the Socratic method, yes there are other methods/ways. But for now, I’m going to explore the six types of Socratic questions adapted from R.W. Paul’s work on critical thinking.

  1. Questions for clarification – Why do you say that?
  2. Questions that probe assumptions – What could we assume instead?
  3. Questions that probe reasons and evidence – What would be an example?
  4. Questions about Viewpoints and Perspectives – Would you explain why it is necessary or beneficial, and who benefits?
  5. Questions that probe implications and consequences: What are you implying?
  6. Questions about the question: What does…mean?

Using questions in this style during interviews you can start to break down what the customer is trying to achieve (required outcome) and how they want to achieve it (appropriate experience).

Of course, once you have some results, you need to build experiments to confirm your hypothesis, but that is content for another day.


Business agility

Agile is not new!

Although if you listen to many current business leaders it is the latest in innovative thinking that will save the world and their business. They are partially right, but it’s not new.

Agile was “born” in early 2001 at a small gathering of software development pioneers in Utah. Out of this gathering came the Agile Manifesto. (In fact, as I write this post that manifesto is now 18 years old, almost a generation ago.)

Agile Manifesto

We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.

Agile in business

A couple of weeks ago I attended 1st Conference all about enabling Organisational Agility in 2018. Overall an awesome conference that got my mind thinking – always the sign of a great event.

For those that don’t know Agile software development is a change-based delivery methodology. From this perspective there are many ways to do agile:


For business, agility is about responding the change in a whole of business perspective. Sounds easy, not so.

To reuse from Sharon Robson‘s presentation agile is:

  • Customer-centric
  • Focus on Value
  • Visibility
  • Transparent
  • Collaborative
  • Team work
  • Flexible/Adaptive
  • Reflective
  • Learning
  • Improvement

All good things for business, but very hard to do in practice.

Many of the speakers highlighted that today business is very focused on the “how” of agile but not the “why” or Kokoro of agile. They are stuck in the Shu of Shu Ha Ri and not moving through the various stages of mastery.

Having been an admirer of agile for the better part of a decade I’m hoping to write a bit more about agile over the coming month. Maybe I’ll explore some of my more recent experiences and flesh out some more thoughts – like agile performance management.

What is Customer Success?

Over the last few years, I have been working at the Head of Customer Success, which for many might seem a strange change of pace from the HR Technology Consultant/Expert/Whatever.

However, it is not that far from what I had been doing. A lot of my career had been spent in project delivery roles of various technology platforms. Over the years I started to realise how critical change management was in the process.

My views on change management could be summed up in a simple cartoon for years I was using on the back of my business card:


The image is from Hugh MacLeod of Gapingvoid, although I don’t seem to be able to find the originally published version anywhere.

This approach to project implementation moved my focus from just being about time, cost and quality. To ensure that the end solution actually met the customer, or user, in this case, needs and added value to their day.

Jump forward and this brings me to the definition of a customer success function that I have been using for the last few years. The basics came from Lincoln Murphy‘s book on Customer Success.

To me customer success needs to be focused on 5 areas:

  1. Orientated around the success of your customers using your service or product – adding value to them.
  2. Revenue generating – yes with a subscription economy if you are not driving up customer lifetime value you are doing it wrong.
  3. Proactive engagements that have a context to the customer – these are the best to engage and demonstrate value for customers.
  4. Analytical focused, not just relationship based – you cannot scale a customer success function based totally on relationships.
  5. Predictive so you can let the CFO know churn and growth numbers.

There are lots of ways to execute on these factors.