A State of Flux

The emergence of Customer Success (CS) as a discipline has further blurred the traditional boundaries of responsibilities between departments. In this state of flux, a very legitimate question has come up – who owns customer advocacy? Is it CS or Marketing?

This was the topic of debate at the Peninsula Customer Success Meetup yesterday, which was co-sponsored by Strikedeck and Waterstone Management Group. It was a lively discussion moderated by Mahesh Baxi, the Head of CS in Plutora. The panelists were Robert Israch, the CMO of Tipalti who took the side of Marketing (of course) and Kavalpreet Ganti, a CS leader from Visa, who took the side of CS. It was a lively interactive discussion in front of an audience of 50+ professionals.

Below are the key takeaways:

Why Should Marketing Own Customer Advocacy?

  • Marketing is best positioned to amplify messages from happy customers because it is responsible for communication channels such as social, video, and review sites.
  • The number of referred leads is critical to Marketing because they convert up to 12X better than other Marketing and Sales leads. Ownership of customer advocacy enables Marketing to focus on increasing referred leads.

Why Should CS Own Customer Advocacy?

  • CS knows the customers the best. Therefore, they will know how to go about generating genuine advocacy.
  • They are already in charge of other related initiatives such as maintaining the list of referenceable customers and implementing value assessment (more on this later).

Even with these opposing viewpoints, a common agreement emerged that both departments need each other – CS should be in charge of customer happiness and even generating advocates – but Marketing can generate results from advocacy (especially referred leads).

These are the other insights from the lively discussion:

Ways to Generate Customer Advocacy

  • Happy customers alone do not necessarily make advocates. Advocacy also requires certain personalities – especially a customer executive who wants to increase his/her visibility for their career advancement and so on. These individuals should be noted and encouraged to create and amplify advocacy. You can provide them with opportunities to do this in a mutually beneficial fashion.
  • Value assessment efforts (done by CS) can convince the customer of the value created and turn them to advocates. Value assessment involves going to through performance measures after implementation to compare to value promised during the closing of the deal (for example – did the development cycle go down by 20% as promised?). This also helps in generating case studies, which are very useful for Marketing.
  • Generate customer communities to encourage cross-learning between customers.
  • Using marketing tactics to spread the know-how of the key contact in the customer company to spread to other relevant employees in the company.
  • A “University” concept that facilitates continuous learning and makes sure customers get the best out of the product and remain loyal.

How to Develop a Customer-Centric Culture

  • Customer-centric culture needs to emanate from the top, ideally from the CEO, who has to be aware of the dilemma of the leaky bucket, and make sure that customer happiness is the focus.
  • A new business model (SaaS) mindset in the company
  • Sales execs getting more compensation for renewals than from new deals (not a common scenario, but one audience member had that arrangement).

Which Tools are Used in CS

  • Surprisingly, panelists and majority of the audience mentioned they use Excel. They also conceded that Excel is not a scalable tool. They do believe Customer Success tools will be necessary as the CS team scales.

Overall, it was an insightful discussion. Thanks to panelists for their insights and Waterstone Management Group for hosting the event!