November 4, 2015

Expert Interview: Why Customer Success Is a Company Philosophy, Not Just a Department

Kaiser Mulla-Feroze, the CMO at Totango, was a recent guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series. In this episode, we discuss customer success, understanding operational models, and the future of CSM.

SEE ALSO: Building Customers from Leads to Loyalty

Below are a few highlights from our conversation:

TechnologyAdvice: How do sales, marketing, and customer service agents work together within one platform?

Kaiser Mulla-Feroze: Customer success is broadly a company priority. It’s not a departmental priority. If your customers are not succeeding, that means you’re not going to be a successful company — not just an unsuccessful department.

Customer success, first of all, goes way beyond a department. It is a company philosophy. It is something that needs to be pushed from the top down. We just did our most recent state of the profession report at Tatango on customer success. We saw that most customer success teams within an organization had been in operation for less than three years — they’re all new departments that are being set up.

So there are industries like software and SaaS where customer success is a separate team, a separate organization within companies. And we definitely sell and target those users as prospective buyers and prospective users of Totango.

That said, there are various Totango users that go beyond just a team perspective. For example, marketing plays a very, very important role. Marketing has changed dramatically in not just the last ten years because of obvious things like social media, but even in the last three to four years. The concept of customer marketing has completely changed recently. 

Customer marketing is no longer about sending updates to your customers about your company, new products, and what’s the greatest. Imagine if you actually knew what your customers were doing — and what they were not doing. And imagine if you knew that they were not getting results from your product. Your marketing to them could be so much more powerful. And that is what we help other CMOs and other marketing teams achieve.

TA: What were some red flags or challenges that you found in your recent Customer Success Salary Survey & State of the Profession Report?

Mulla-Feroze: One of the things that will be a challenge is this new world where everything is digitized. Your engagement model with your customers will change, and what your customers are doing is the core of your customer data — not the data sitting in your traditional CRM system. In this world, you need new rules to manage your customers because there are new rules for the digital game.

If you continue playing by the old rules, you’re most likely not going to succeed. Customer managing and customer relationships have always been an important concept — that’s not new. But the way that companies have typically done that is by hiring either the sales team or a team of accounts managers to manage this customer relationship.

It’s very much driven around this interaction between your account manager and the customer, which is extremely important. There’s no discounting the importance of building strong customer relationships. But at some level, that doesn’t scale to your entire customer base.

If your deals are $10,000 or even $20,000-50,000, you can’t afford to have this high engagement staffing model with account managers. You have to learn how to make sure every customer feels, no matter how big or small, like they are getting the success and business results that they signed up for. And that may mean that you need to alter the way in which you do business.

The old way of operating is not going to work. And I think that’s one of the challenges. We see a number of companies take what has traditionally been more of an account managing function and rename it customer success — because that’s the new flavor of the day. They think that will result in the end impact they need in the organization. But that doesn’t always work.

We see companies stumbling when they take that path. I think that has certainly been one of the big challenges we’ve seen companies face as they embark on customer success. It’s really figuring out what the nature of the role is going to be. What is the nature of a customer success manager? What is the profile of the person I need to hire? And it’s not just taking something that’s worked and translating that in this new environment, it’s something very different.

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