Driving customer success: A COO insight

Every business is a bridge between a customer and a service provider. Therefore it is essential to ensure that delivery of services creates a sphere of assurance and trust. This brings us to a pertinent question; what makes a customer successful ? In a solution driven age, does merely providing great service suffice or does it take a whole lot more to building a long lasting relationship with the customer?

How is customer success different from customer satisfaction and customer delight?

Customer Success is a powerful concept which is also novel and intriguing.  As I have been thinking about it and involved in discussions and initiatives, I wanted to share a few insights on the same. Let us look at three projects that elucidate, answers to some of these pertinent questions.

Project Alpha: A portion of a customer’s project is being executed by a service provider. The parts executed by the service provider are completed within the committed parameters, however the remaining portions are delayed heavily. As a result the project is delayed overall and there is an overrun.

Project Beta:  A portion of a customer’s project is being executed by a service provider. The parts executed by the service provider are completed ahead of time and with cost saving, however the remaining portions are delayed heavily. As a result the project is delayed overall and there is an overrun.

Project Gamma: A portion of a customer’s project is being executed by a service provider. The parts executed by the service provider are very likely to be completed in time and cost, however the remaining portions are delayed heavily. The service provider provides a plan to contain the delay on the remaining portions. The customer validates and implements the plan with their own team and with help from the service provider. Subsequent to this, the overall project parameters are largely met.

I would label Project Alpha as an example of customer being satisfied with the service provider’s service because the expectations from the piece of work assigned to the service provider is met, but the overall project and hence the customer herself/himself was not viewed as successful. Project Beta would be an example of exceeding customer’s expectation on the assigned scope of work and hence reason to believe that there is an element of delight in the service provider’s service, but the overall project and hence the customer herself/himself was not viewed as successful. Project Gamma represents a scenario where the overall project and the customer herself/himself met the assigned objectives and was hence successful.  It is an example of an individual, a group or the service provider organization being sensitive to customer success, understanding what success meant to the customer, aligning and enabling that even though it was not really in “scope”. I would like to believe that this is when there is the most significant outcome for the customer and would very likely have a deep regard for such a person, team and organization.

While the benefits of a “Customer Success” culture may be obvious when one looks at the above scenarios, specifically for the people involved, this is a huge acknowledgement and deeply motivating for them. Such behavior and outcome is more likely to get rewarded as well.

Right Intent and Good Listening Matter Most

In order to achieve this, representatives of the organization need to first recognize the fact that requirements and preferences vary with every customer. However, understanding customer success needs is definitely possible – it needs to be approached with the right intent, combined with good listening and asking questions in the right manner. Understanding is itself powerful because it shapes the service provider thinking to align to this need. Armed with this understanding, it is likely that a journey needs to continue and may require actions beyond the defined may be required. While this journey may challenge the brain and the heart, I would predict that, more often than not, it would provide rich learning and great satisfaction to the service provider teams.

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