I don’t know if you’ve heard of a small budget niche TV show called Game of Thrones but one of the main characters; Jon Snow once said "how do I convince people who don't know me, that an enemy they don't believe in is coming to kill them all?” and when I reflected back upon this I realised that this is the same plight as starting a Customer Success department. The enemy is an unloved customer base.
I’ve regaled tales previously of how Customer Success is akin to the man with many faces, it has the ability to manifest itself differently in different businesses, territories, and industries. So how can anyone starting out on their Customer Success leadership journey be expected to garner useful advice from peers, colleague, LinkedIn, the entire internet even, if it is such a varied vocation?
My advice is to try and look beyond the entirety of what Customer Success can be, and look specifically at how it works in your field. Are you B2C or B2B? Selling hardware, perpetual software or subscriptions? Are you based in the US, UK, EMEA or elsewhere? Is Customer Success for you very technical, or commercial or a blend of both? Try and find peers and leaders in similar feeling positions to you.
If your area is particularly niche then I have some news for you; how you take this depends on the clichéd “are you a glass half full or glass half empty kind of person”.
Glass half full:
Great news! Nobody is doing exactly what you need to be doing. You have a real opportunity here to carve a new path in the Customer Success annals. Speak to peers outside of your specific niche and take their great ideas and think about how you can make that work in your area. What works; what doesn’t work, what do you need to create to make it fit your profile?
Glass half empty:
There is no exact method laid out before you, you have a ton of work ahead to make this work and even when you do figure it all out; you then need to get people to listen to you; to buy in to your vision and to invest in it to bring it to fruition and make it a true success.
Are you wondering how I view the same allegorical glass?
The glass is full. It is half filled with water, and half filled with air – I like to think that I perceive things as they really are and present factual accuracy.
And just as per my cliché-dodging opinion on the fullness of the glass, my journey with Customer Success has been a meld of the two approaches – creating my own vision of what Customer Success is and how it should work within the exact area in which I work currently, whilst at the same time networking and expanding my deeper understanding of how it works in other functions to improve upon what I have created.
Going back to Jon Snow and his worries about convincing everyone else to forget their current battles and priorities and focus on their shared goals; this is who you should embody when embarking upon your own Customer Success Management journey. Getting other leaders around your business to focus on the future, on customer retention and getting it right now is the right thing to do. It’s not going to be easy, but you won’t let that hold you back. After all, you are the King of the North.