Don’t Get it Twisted…Why Customer Success Has Nothing to Do With You…An Open Letter to Executives

“Customer Success…” a term that has gained in popularity in the last 3 years.  We are seeing the development of entire teams and departments dedicated to achieving this worthwhile goal.  The surge in the popularity of this term has everything to do with a fundamental change to our marketplace and a shift in the customer’s expectation.  Spurred by innovative new technologies that provide more choice and social media marketing that connect consumers to products more easily than ever before, it is simply not enough any more to service our customers. For any company with a customer base and propelled by customer lifetime value, we must become dedicated and focused on helping our customers succeed.

But, how?  That is up for debate.  Everyone seems to be running at it a bit differently, trying to figure out the winning formula, but don’t get it twisted, your customer’s ability to succeed lies squarely in the hands of your employees.  Simon Sinek put it fantastically when he said, “customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.

Love…all you need is love.  Not just a great Beatles song but also the secret to customer success.  You can’t force love, you cannot manufacture it, you can’t make someone love you.  Love is something you give freely because you want to.  And love is given in response to love received. So let’s recap and get to the root of it, shall we…?  You want your company to grow and profit.  And to do that, you must have customers.  But, customers will only choose you if they find success with you.  And, if they find success with you, they will love you.  But, how do they find success and receive love…?  When your employees freely give it!

Okay, so how and when will your employees show the love?  Can’t we just write a policy and add it to the employee handbook?  Hmmm…probably not.  Here are 3 things to consider to let the love flow:

Your Brand IS Your Culture 

When you say one thing to customers and another to employees, you are going to have problems.  Authenticity is king when it comes to building trust and trust is paramount for customers AND employees.  The days of marketing and advertising one thing to customers and quietly promoting something else to employees are gone.  With social communities and review sites like Glass door, the two must be one in the same.  This means that the days of lip service are over.  It is not enough to get Facebook likes or purchased testimonials because consumers are growing wise to our marketing propaganda.  They are more likely to look to insiders for cues, referrals and information about your company, because well you can’t fake employee happiness.  This is why the employee experience and customer experience are inextricably linked and your new formula should be employee happiness = customer success.

You Don’t Have Control

We have already determined that your customer’s success is in the hands of your employees so stop acting like you can control every move your employee makes.  You don’t need to empower your employees if you never try to take their power away in the first place.  Simply acknowledge that they have the power and then create an environment that makes them feel loved, safe and successful.  Stop making rules, processes and procedures for the “few” that affect the “many.” The processes that you do create should be designed to help them do what they need to do more easily, more productively and more effectively.  And how do you know those things…?  I’ll give you a hint; they are not decided in some board room.  Ask them.  You need to create a system to ensure you are hearing the voice of the employee just like the voice of the customer.  They must feel safe to give uninhibited feedback without fear of judgement or reproach.

Your Leadership Vacuum Sucks

I once heard a well meaning executive say that he was creating a leadership vacuum.  Leadership layers are seriously killing customer success.  “I need to speak with my manager to get approval.”  If this comes out of your employees mouth, I promise you they don’t love your company and neither does that customer that has to hear it.  I am not discounting leadership here.  I actually believe leaders are the foundation to creating a culture and brand that your employees will love.  Notice I said foundation, because top down leadership stifles innovation, speed of service and being so far from the action, they often become poor proxies for reality.  Simplify, please for the sake of your customers and mental wellness of your employees.  Decisions are like doors, there are those you can walk back through and those that you cannot.  Most decisions in business are reversible.  So date the idea, test it, experiment, and know that if it does not work, you can walk back through the door.  It is really only those doors that you cannot walk back through that merit additional consideration and C-suite discussions and those are few and far between.

With all of the choices that customers have between what you are offering and everyone else, choose love and they will choose you!