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Customer Centricity – When Customer Success is Everyone’s Job

In tech, there are many hackneyed ideas that everyone – everyone! – bows down and pay homage to. Most are lip service. But sometimes – sometimes! – there are rare companies that walk the talk that is on everyone’s lips. Seal is such a place.

Last week, we didn’t have a kick off focused on sales.  We had a global, all-hands kick off focused on success. And not the success of Seal, although we had plenty to celebrate.  We focused our entire kick off on the success of our customers. All Seals from the States, Sweden, Egypt, the Nordics, England, and myriad other locations came together to focus on how to make our customers more successful.

When I had my own chance to speak on a panel on the keynote stage, I emphasized an approach that holds customer-centricity at its core: revenue is a lagging indicator. Revenue follows after delivering significant business outcomes. This approach garners happy customers who enjoy measurable value, and those customers not only renew, they grow.

Gainsight is the absolute cornerstone of all things Customer Success.  It was a delight to have Gainsight’s CEO Nick Mehta as our keynote speaker. He delivered an entertaining and informative talk.  He showed goofy pictures. He wore colorful shoes. Most importantly, Nick did what he’s always done the many times I’ve seen him speak: he delivered passionate insight into how Customer Success can benefit all parties.

One key takeaway from Nick’s talk was a simple formula: Customer Success = Customer Outcomes + Customer Experience. I’m going to take some creative license to modify this a touch: Success = O + X = Negative Churn. O + X is cute like hugs and kisses, which makes it super easy to remember, but cute doesn’t keep the lights on. This formula encompasses business benefits while delighting customers during the journey to those benefits. And a delighted, successful customer renews. And grows. And gets you to the promised land of Negative Churn.

If I ever write an ode, it would be to Negative Churn. In a subscription business, renewing what has been sold is a basic goal. It keeps you treading water at the same mark of revenue that you originally sold. If you lose a customer, that revenue “churns”. Churn is bad. Negative churn is good: it means that not only are your customers renewing what they originally bought, they are buying more. So $1 becomes $1.10 in year two of your engagement. Truly epic Negative Churn would be $1 becoming $1.40.

Another great insight Nick provided was how to flip the customer journey on its ear so that silos break down and companies can be truly customer-centric. Customers don’t care who at your company is responsible for implementation or training or billing. What they do care about is going live, seeing value and getting help when they need it. Instead of thinking about your organization as a row of silos with discrete responsibilities, rotate those silos 90 degrees so they are a stack. Now you’re set up to deliver whatever a customer needs up and down your resources without regard to silos.

I can geek out all day long about Customer Success, how to set up repeatable processes, etc. but that’s probably not that interesting to you. What is interesting is to think about the big picture of what customer-centricity can bring to your own work. Although we can’t disclose exact names, two Fortune 100 customers spoke on our keynote stage. Seal is only seven years old; this is a huge testament to our O + X.

The best part about both of these presentations was the spirit of partnership. We didn’t invite them to just sing our praises or tell us how great our product is. We invited them – and they accepted – because we wanted to hear their honest feedback and what we can do better together. After many years in the tech world, I can tell you that customers of this caliber don’t show up just to be nice. They are very nice people, but they show up when there is a benefit. Coming to our kickoff showed that they see great value in Seal and that they believe in us as a vendor who listens and truly cares about their success.

So in this season of kickoffs and celebrating successes, we at Seal are eager to do more, go deeper and provide even more goodness to our customers. I myself am happy to talk with you about any and all of these ideas. Find me on Twitter or LinkedIn.