I think I've spent the majority of my career working in Customer Success (or Customer Experience if you prefer).
Even my days as an Account Manager at the PR agencies I worked at count as Customer Success because my goal was to ensure the client was happy and was achieving their goals.
But if we look at the business world, very few companies are truly customer-first.
The sales department and the sales quotas rule the world as that's how most businesses make money.
And so many companies have never truly focused on putting the customer first, meaning completely shifting their business models.
Doing this is actually quite simple, yet complicated within an entire organisation that's used to working another way.
And if you don't believe me, go no further but to read Feargal Quinn's quick book called 'Crowning the Customer'.
I read it on the plane to Lisbon a couple of weeks ago and I loved it.
It was written in a simple to follow language, with plenty of examples (granted, many for the retail business but that make sense for any industry) and perfectly logical advice.
If you work in Customer Success, do read the book and then go tell all of your Sales and Product people to do the same and I hope you do convince them to read it.
Today, I'll leave you with my top 15 quotes from the book.
27 Quotes from 'Crowning the Customer':
I took it as the norm that the right way to run a business was to concentrate on getting people to come back again... Later, I realized that it was anything but the norm. Most businesses, after all, do not get their money up front: how much they take in now depends on how they manage this sale, here and now. And because of this, most businesses focus on the task of maximizing the profit from the current sale. Of course they are interested in repeat business. Who isn’t? But they tend to see it as a bonus rather than the main pay-off. And naturally they tend to concentrate on what they see as the main pay-off, with the lesser part of their energy devoted to creating the bonus. In effect, what they say is: let’s look after our profit now, and repeat business will largely look after itself.
If you look after getting the repeat business, the profit will largely look after itself.
The customer approach should turn upside-down the way a company does everything. By customer-driven I mean a company where all the key decisions are based on an overriding wish to serve the customer better. A company where everyone in it sees serving the customer as the only business that they are in.
We had to teach ourselves, and the new people who joined us as we grew, that being a good salesperson was not getting the customer to buy more, but getting the customer to come back again.
Existing customers can either bring back business themselves, or they can create new business for us by referral. This is an absolutely vital way of growing your business, but it tends to get less than its fair share of attention from marketing people because creating referrals is not something that you can do with conventional “marketing tools” — it is entirely a matter of how you run your business.
All too often, the real energy on the marketing front goes into attracting new customers, while the ultimately more important task of nourishing the existing customer base gets a lower glamour rating. Don’t get me wrong: obviously attracting new customers directly (not just through referral) is very important, and most businesses have to do it. But most of us simply cannot afford to buy all our customers in this way, week after week or month after month. The cost is always too high, if the only payback from marketing costs are the immediate sale. On the other hand, when that cost is a first investment in a continuing profitable relationship — then it makes sound business sense.
The reason why we too often fail to match the marketing effort with follow-through is because we get bewitched by short-term payoffs. Because they are the easiest to measure, we are tempted to measure them alone. And what we measure, we do something about. What we don’t measure, gets put on the back burner unless leadership from a customer-driven top person changes the priorities.
You learn to see customers as people, not as statistics.
First, when faced with any business decision, any call on your time or resources, get in habit of asking: What will this do to help bring the customer back again? If the answer is “not much,” then ask whether you should be doing it at all. But if the answer is “a lot,” then you can be a lot surer that you are on the right track. And you should not be too worried about getting a full return on your investment right away.
Becoming customer drive is, above all, a question of getting closer to the customer than people in business usually are. Why? Because to make the decisions that will bring your customers back, you need to think like a customer.
The customer perspective is something that you have to experience for yourself... Being your own customer on a regular basis is something that you must do to become customer-driven.
The first temptation is to run the operation to suit yourself, not the customers. Giving into this temptation can be fatal for a business. Sometimes what the customer needs is very inconvenient, and the knee jerk reaction can be to avoid giving it to them. If you don’t run the business to suit your customers, your customers will suit themselves — in the long run.
The second big temptation that gets between us and our customers is to think that we know the customer very well. We don’t. And we never will. The best we can hope to do is to keep increasing our knowledge of the customer, all the time.
Getting customers to come back again and again depends critically on your ability to develop a feel for the customer. It’s a feel that can never be achieved through indirect means such as market research. You can achieve it only through direct personal contact with the customers who generate your business.
The single most important skill you need to become truly customer-driven is the ability to listen.
The second big secret of listening to customers is: Listen from the top. In a truly customer-driven organization, everybody listens. But that’s not the way it usually is. In the typical organization, the higher up you go the less direct listening to customers there is. Some top people regard listening to customers as something that their subordinates do.
You are not listening to customers at all if someone else does your listening for you. Listening second-hand means that your information is filtered through other people. That can work with hard data, but where it won’t work is with the feel of the marketplace. “Feel” is not something you can get second-hand.
A typical organizational chart will be in the form of a pyramid. What this is saying is that the further up the pyramid you go, the more important things get. But at what point of the pyramid does the company meet with its customers? Very often it will be right down at the bottom. This is certainly true of service organizations — like banks, hotels and supermarkets. Most of their dealings with customers are made by people who the organizational chart says are least important. Any person who is truly customer-driven must feel very uneasy with a chart like this.
Customers are not troops to be reviewed; they are people to be served. The best way to meet customers is to roll up your sleeves and do the job.
When you do succeed in eliciting criticism, one of the biggest temptations is to spend a large part of the available time answering the criticism. This is a very natural response — an instinctive one. It is, however, one you must train yourself to resist. If you don’t do so, the balance of the customer panel will soon shift. Before you know what is happening, the customers will perceive the occasion as being company-driven rather than customer-driven... This attitude helps me to remember the right way to respond to criticism at a customer panel: to continue to probe, for more and more information — both from the customer who raised the issue and from the others present. Very often, that probing uncovers new suggestions for dealing with the problem. At worst, it leaves me
much better informed as to the exact nature of the customer response — and therefore much better equipped to deal with it.
But as with everything else in the customer-driven approach, you should take the attitude “Why not?” to the suggestions that emerge, instead of concentrating your energy on rejecting them. With a positive approach, you will be amazed how often it is possible to implement the ideas that
customers give you. And the first time you make money from a customer’s idea, you will become a real convert to this virtually untapped source of profit.
The truth is that a reduction in the number of complaints does not necessarily mean a reduction In the number of customer problems. If you reduce the number of complaints without reducing the number of problems, then in the long run what you are doing is reducing the number of your customers.
Dealing properly with a complaint is not just a matter of keeping that particular customer satisfied. Much more important, it is a matter of learning from the mistake. Every time a complaint is made, part of the process of dealing with it should be to ask: can we stop this problem from arising again?
If you or your staff look on your customers merely as numbers, then you will be tempted to deal with them as quickly as possible rather than as well as possible.
People are far less “typical” than we would sometimes like to think. And they do not live in niches.
When you are truly customer-driven, you will find that much of your most valuable contact with customers is initiated by them — not you. And all you have to do is make it possible, let it happen. Contact that is initiated by customers rather than by you is more valuable because they and not you are setting the agenda.
We hear a lot in management circles these days about visible leadership. The focus is usually on managers being visible to their staff, which I agree is vital. We hear less about the need to be visible to our customers, but it is equally vital — and that is what availability is all about.