Altering Your Customer Success Vision

As we enter 2020 with a promise to better fulfill customer needs and proactively meet customer expectations, Customer Success is becoming even more mainstream. Conventionally, CS is mostly associated with traditional SaaS business, whereas the principle in theory and practical is as suited for non-SaaS companies as it is for SaaS.

Let’s dive into an example of a traditional fish market called Pike’s Place and see how they implemented the concepts of CS to scale their business.

Where do Great Ideas Come From?

We may assume that the concepts like ‘happy employees’ and ‘happy customers’ are the results of streamlined processes, deeper analysis, and in-depth surveys. Well, that’s not the reality! How will you react if you get to know that a fish market employee from Pike Place Fish Market came up with the idea of “enjoying their work” and “taking pride in it?”Curious to know more about it and see how it’s connected to Customer Success? Let’s dive in..

It was in 1986 when Pike Place Fish Market was close to bankruptcy. The owner John Yokoyama called his team for a meeting and told them, “It’s either sink or swim” and they decided to swim.  John contacted Jim Bergquist, founder of BizFutures Consulting Company, for advice. Jim coached the fishmongers to create a great future. Their success story hatched out of the question raised in the early meetings about the kind of image they intended to project about Pike Place Fish Market. One of the employees said, “Let’s be world famous!” and so were they! 

Pike Place Fish Market was the subject of a documentary film. It’s been the ultimate destination for several best-selling corporate training videos. They have been featured in the book “Fish”, the national media, television shows, commercials  and also appeared in a movie. They are now a part of the Guinness Book of World Records by setting a world record for catching—with one hand—the most fish in 30 seconds!

In their journey to become world famous, they worked on the following three objectives:

  1. Empowering their employees
  2. A single goal for the entire organization (becoming world famous) 
  3. Intentionally making a difference in the quality of life of those around you.

 From Pike Place to Customer Success

Customer Success can earn a distinguished place for itself by implementing the above mentioned objectives. Let’s just tweak these goals a bit and apply:

1. Empowering CSMs: 

If the required tools, automations, playbooks, regular training and support documents are made available to the CSMs, they will be better placed to help customers. CSMs can push customers to use the right features to increase usage and adoption.

2. A Single Goal – ‘Customer First’: 

Keeping your customers at the epicenter of all business initiatives is the stepping stone for a “Customer-led growth model”. The simply implies that ensuring customer satisfaction is not just the responsibility of the CS department, this needs to be a company-wide cadence. With customer first being made as the unified goal of the organization, every member can understand their importance and work towards delivering their best. This creates teamwork and comradery and an overall customer-centric culture across departments and divisions.

3. Intentionally making a Difference – Design Products that Simplify your Customers’ Job:

Ensuring that your customers get a product or service that meets their requirements, solves half the problem. Continuous improvement in the product helps in customer retention, expansion and ultimately advocacy and loyalty. A CSMs role does not end in providing what the customer needs, but in constantly working towards serving them better.

Fishing in the Sea of Customer Success

The FISH philosophy was created by John Christensen in 1998 to improve organizational culture. During his visit to Seattle, he observed the fish sellers at Pike Place Fish Market, taking pride in their work and effectively engaging with customers. The FISH philosophy is a technique to enjoy the work one does, which ultimately leads to happy employees.

Following are the four lessons we can learn and implement from the book “Fish” by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen. Implementation of these principles into everyday CS operations will help in empowering our CS team and making our CSMs more proactive.

1. Choose your Attitude: How would you feel going to work each day and listening to complaints, facing angry customers and an overwhelming number of support tickets to respond to? Surely not like a winner!

It’s not about the work or the workplace for that matter, but your attitude and the energy you carry to the workplace. It’s about your level of connectivity with your work, your colleagues, and your customers. So, CSMs charge yourself and connect with all the teams, spark up your communication and take pride in what you do! It’s always a delight to engage with happy customers. But how to approach the unhappy lot? It’s simple! Treat them like an old friend. We tend to fight with friends but they are still on our list. Just the same way, attend to customers’ requests or needs with the same empathy and concern.

2. Enjoy What You Do: It’s only when you enjoy what you do, that you can give your best to it. Being very serious at work is not what counts but being serious about the quality of work is what matters. CSMs need help from various departments to get their work done. Just as in sports, an entire team enters the playground and not individuals, the same way, all the departments need to support the CS team in delivering value to customers. The key is to build team spirit and work as a whole and eliminate silos. Play is the way to give wings to the creative spirit and to add more enthusiasm to work. This spirit helps in facing challenges and going beyond.

3. Make Someone’s Day: CSMs handle a number of customer accounts on a daily basis. A CSM should try to understand customer pain points and requirements, then encourage and train them to use a particular feature to derive value. It’s about making your customers understand that you care for them and you are ready to go that extra mile to help them out.

4. Be Available: Be it questions related to product usage or modifying existing features to fit requirements, customers always need a little helping hand. Being available to help is a great way to strengthen your relationship with customers. Give them your complete and undivided attention and ensure that they have a great experience working with your product and team.

A Shift in Perspective

The aim of the “Fish” philosophy is to generate and multiply the number of happy employees and eventually happy customers. By incorporating this philosophy into Customer Success, CSMs can transform the way they interact with customers. The entire focus shifts from merely “doing” your work to enjoying the work you do which would mean more productivity, increased efficiency, and great quality of work.

There comes a point in everyone’s life when work ceases to be fun and becomes a series of monotonous tasks. This is where one starts to seek for change. It’s not the change in the work or workplace, but a change in one’s approach that matters. The above stated four principles can help you get to the desired state and in the process, also assist in delivering meaningful outcomes for yourself and your customers.

Deepa Vernekar

Content Specialist, Strikedeck