A Common Thread
Every Customer Success Meetup, blog, or conference generally talks about generating and delivering value to customers, through CS. While CSMs might be successful in deriving that value for customers, they might not be so apt at communicating the importance of their function to executives in the organization. This is what limits the role and scope of Customer Success, and deters it from assuming a position of influence in a company.
While it is clear that CS is important to those on the frontlines of daily customer-facing activity, not everyone in a company sees it that way. Why is this the case? Customer Success doesn’t have an advocate on the executive team, who is responsible for evangelizing all the positive account expansion and relationship maintenance that CSMs deliver. As a result, CS is undersold and undervalued, which is why CSMs need a representative at the executive table. The question is, how do they achieve this?
1. Internalize Your CS Skills
Customer Success is focused on making your customers and partners successful. As a CSM, you would do this by identifying pain points, solutions, and measuring outcomes. You would then report back the findings, along with recommendations to your customers, demonstrating the value generated. That’s how you build relationships your with customers, right?
I want you to stop and think for a moment – if you are willing to implement CS for your customers, why not implement it in your own company?
Identify your company’s pain points, work with internal stakeholders to develop and implement solutions, measure the outcomes, and, most importantly, report back the results and provide recommendations to help drive your company’s success. Implementing Customer Success for your organization, if done right, is the best way to prove its worth to company executives, and earn a well deserved spot at the proverbial table.
2. Numeralize Success
The number one reason why CSMs find it so hard to justify investing in CS to senior management is because they fail to show how Customer Success is benefiting the company, numerically. Run CS throughout the organization, generate reports, and revert back with data-driven suggestions. After tabulating this data, tie it to financial results and Viola!, you have a seat at the table!
Of course, this is way harder than it might seem. Make sure your entire CS team is working towards this goal, and team efforts are aligned with company goals. A lot of hard work, effort, patience and time goes into achieving Customer Success within an organization.
3. Let Your Work Speak
While striving to get a seat at the executive table, you should have your eyes on the prize, but never lose sight of what’s most important to get you there! Empower, motivate, and enable your CS team to deliver consistent results – make sure not to over promise and under deliver. This is the time to show them that you have what it takes to be a leader, and you deserve a say in how things are run.
4. Huddle With Your Customer
Whatever you are trying to achieve, your customer should be your focal point of interest. Schedule regular meetings with them and see if new strategies need to be implemented to better engage them. Similarly, keep your customers in the loop, make them aware of product updates or bug fixes, if any – your customers need to know that you care about their success, as much as you care about keeping them on board.
Tips & Tricks to Gain a Spot at the Executive Table
Hard work only takes you half the way – it’s passion that takes you all the way to the top! Show your company’s executives how passionate you are to excel and to make the necessary changes to accelerate the company to new heights of success.
Be a Risk Taker
Being an executive at a company is all about taking the right risks, going out on a limb, and achieving the impossible. If you want that precious spot at the table, you need to show your executives that you have what it takes to take calculated risks and experiment with projects that will ultimately add value.
An inherent part of being a senior level executive is having some kind of context to various processes and projects going on in the organization. This is not only restricted to being informed about whatever is happening in your department, it also means being aware about what is happening across various departments in your organization.
During your conversations, try to be to-the-point, don’t beat about the bush. Executives appreciate directness – try to convey your point as briefly and professionally as possible – less is always more!
Case In Point
Currently, I am the head of Customer Success at SmithRx, which is the next-generation pharmacy benefit partner built on a new path forward that aligns incentives and harnesses data analytics to deliver an exceptional pharmacy benefit product. When I joined the company, it was still raw – at the Customer Success level. I often provided a lot of guidance in meetings, and it soon became obvious that implementation should report to me because of my operational background.
Looking around the organization, there were other areas that seemed to need some help. These areas included Strategy, Operations, Sales, and Support. I leaned in to build tools and help think through processes, in order to show my holistic vision for the greater good of the company.
It was only a matter of time that I became a formal leader for several initiatives and an informal leader for Support and Operations. After only 5 months on the job, I was formally responsible for Customer Success, Implementation, Support, and Operations. I didn’t actively “try” to own these areas. Leaning in and being an informal leader made it clear as day, that these areas should be under Customer Success.
As the Head of Customer Success at SmithRx, Roger Lee has over 20 years experience as a senior executive leading Service, Operations, Strategy and Success teams within healthcare technology organizations. Roger’s experience spans healthcare segments from the provider to the payer space providing a unique perspective and skill set that to understand the customers’ needs and develop innovative tech-enabled solutions. Previous to SmithRx, Roger was the Senior Director of Customer Success for FDB (First Databank, Inc), responsible for strategy and execution of all post-sale activities with the customer-base. He has also spent time at CVS Caremark, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and other health technology startups.Roger Lee