A brief history of Customer Success
By now you are probably familiar with the term ‘Customer Success’. And if you aren’t, let us bring you up to speed…
The concept arose in relation to a problem, which was that Software as a Service (SaaS) companies - think: Trello, DropBox, Salesforce - were facing high sign up to low renewal rates. They put two and two together to realise that bringing new customers in couldn’t be where the story ended. The end couldn’t even be offering customer service in isolated instances, like when a customer reached out after encountering a problem.
There had to be more.
There had to be an ongoing relationship post-sale, where the value of the product was repeatedly perceived, to prevent customers jumping ship into a sea of competitors.
Early Customer Success (CS) pioneers realised the relationship between business and customer was not one-off at the point of sale, but symbiotic - long-term and based on mutual benefit.
After buying water, no one needs teaching on how to drink it. At a stretch, if the cap on the bottle is unusually designed, they might need advice on how to open it. But that’s where their learning journey ends. There’s no ongoing support on how to effectively use that product (a water bottle) to their gain (hydrating themselves). But if a customer is unsure of how to effectively use your product - a living, evolving software - to their gain at any point it can be game over.
In 2005 Salesforce set up ‘Customers for Life’ - the largest CS department in the industry at the time. They shifted their mindset from one of selling a product, to delivering value that first ensured their customers experienced success. They in turn secured their own.
Customers are not paying for your product, they are paying for their outcomes. It is not realistic to believe that customers will stay on a successful path, or discover new outcomes your product can deliver, on their own.
- Jonas Stanford, Director of Customer Success at Unbounce
Customer Success has since been established as the most effective method for customer retention.
It has been an epiphany (and a dealbreaker) in a fiercely competitive arena where customers have wavering loyalties. Because if your product is not consistently proven as useful, cancelling their subscription and replacing you with any of a large number of competitors is as easy as the click of a button.
“Give the lady what she wants”
If you haven’t heard the saying, “give the lady what she wants”, you’ve almost certainly heard “the customer is always right”. Both idioms, attributed to American entrepreneur Marshall Field, have been part of our vocabulary since the 19th century. Similar phrases exist in German, Japanese and French.
The customer has long been acknowledged as an important party. It’s a key tenet of customer success to value them. After all they are a business’ lifeblood, right?
The issue with this is a misplaced emphasis on just one part of the equation for success. For too long, customers have not just been acknowledged as an important party, but the only party. The focus has been entirely external - on catering to a customer’s needs and improving their experience.
But a dissatisfied customer is transparent - they will either cancel or not buy your product in the first instance. You know where you stand. What happens when the people responsible for finding customers, for sealing all-important deals are apathetic? When they are not committed, engaged or motivated?
A dissatisfied employee is less immediately obvious and can be the silent killer of your company. What measures can you take to ensure your workforce is successful as the customers they serve?
Introducing... Workforce Success
While the goal of Customer Success is to ensure customers achieve their desired outcomes using your product, the goal of Workforce Success is to ensure that your workforce are empowered with the knowledge and motivation they need to succeed in their job. So - doing your best for each employee so that they in turn do their best for you.
“But I onboarded a new employee a few months ago - they watched three 40 minute long videos back-to-back while I went to get a coffee. And I sent them to a workshop the other day!” You say.
This won’t cut it anymore. We can no longer lean on workforce improvement “solutions” that aren’t delivered at the right time, in the right place to the right people. They also can’t be one-off in nature. Heard of the forgetting curve? Your memory of newly learned knowledge can halve in weeks if not consistently reviewed. We touch on methods to combat the forgetting curve here.
Workforce Success parallels Customer Success in that it needs to be a continuous journey. Just like you can’t sell your product, leave your customer be and expect their loyalty, you can’t hire an employee, offer them inadequate support and expect them to be successful
For a modern workforce to be successful companies need to train, communicate and engage their employees. And currently, companies aren’t.
Workforce Success parallels Customer Success in that it needs to be a continuous journey. Just like you can’t sell your product, leave your customer be and expect their loyalty, you can’t hire an employee, offer them inadequate support and expect them to be successful and stay with the company. Employee dissatisfaction is leading to rising staff turnover - nearly 50% of on-demand workers will quit in 2 years. In the late 20th century, you’d join a company and stay there for the foreseeable future, if not life. Not anymore…
The changing nature of the workforce
Millennials, who by 2020 will grow to make up 75% of the workforce (and Gen Z in close pursuit behind them), operate differently. So much so that they are referred to as the ‘job-hopping’ generation. A report from Gallup revealed 21% of millennials had changed jobs within the past year - more than 3x the number of non-millennials who report the same.
This difference in the make-up of our workforce is only one of three seismic changes occurring in unison. The other two being:
With the advent of the smartphone, the way we consume information and communicate has fundamentally changed.
We are becoming increasingly mobile. As it stands 2.7 billion - more than 80% of the working population - are deskless.
Why every business needs Workforce Success
Investing in Workforce Success is future-proofing your workforce.
Everything about the way we work is actively changing or has already changed. Yet the tools used to empower people to succeed in these changed contexts has stayed the same. Why?
To thrive, you need to deliver information on an ongoing basis, and in a motivating way, where and when your workforce needs it. The information can’t be a 60 minute e-learning slide presentation, it must be engaging in nature. What constitutes engaging? Studies show we prefer and retain short, easy-to-digest bits of information.
Investing in Workforce Success is future-proofing your workforce.
By giving access to relevant knowledge at an employee’s point of need, they are empowered. This will motivate and engage them, which will build a sense of community. A sense of community breeds loyalty and productivity. And repeat.
The business benefits to employing Workforce Success are huge:
Up to 21% increased profitability
Up to 20% increased sales productivity
Up to 40% increase in quality of output
A 41% decrease in absenteeism
Ultimately - be good to your employees and they will be good to you.
Customer Success emerged out of necessity. It was an inevitable response to uncontrollable, external forces that fundamentally changed the nature of business’ relationships with their customers. Forces like abundance of choice and improving technology that threatened the very existence of SaaS companies.
The same can be said for Workforce Success. It’s the inevitable response to uncontrollable, external forces that have and will continue to fundamentally change the nature of your relationships with your employees. Forces like the rise of the smartphone, and an increasingly mobile and younger workforce.
It’s as clear to us why Workforce Success is needed now, as it was clear to Salesforce that Customer Success was needed back in ‘05.
Will you be part of the change? The time for Workforce Success is now.