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.

 

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:

Gapingvoid

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.