Brilliant CS: Pitfalls on the Path to Performance


Share on LinkedIn

Most of us are addicted to best practices as guidelines as to how to best turn the crank on the customer success engine. I agree and approve (eat my own dog food).

However, from an organizational learning perspective, you will speed your own success by first proactively focusing on avoiding worst practices. Here are five pitfalls on the path to customer success performance. Avoiding them can help you escape being bitten on your…tail.

1. Holy Proclamation

Picture this: From your folding chair in the second-to-last row, you see 47 gorgeous showgirls atop dancing elephants strut across the stage at the annual sales meeting in Vegas. Quickly and assuredly the CEO (the Top Dog) saunters to the podium with Steve Winwood’s “Back in the High Life Again” blaring over the speakers. With a tone of deep conviction, she announces that your organization is now totally committed to customer success. It is the future, and it is now…customer success is our success. As the “We Love Customer Success” tee shirts are being passed out, the audience rises and sings their just-penned Customer Success Hymn and 1,000 red balloons fill the air. Wow!

But unless you have lots of leadership-backed, appropriately funded, detailed change plans and early decisive action, the grand proclamation so ceremoniously voiced becomes just another faded, soon-forgotten slogan relegated to the wastebasket.

Brilliant Best Practice: In for a penny, in for a pound.

2. Calling Your Dalmatians Schnauzers

Changing the titles on everyone’s business cards to “customer success manager” or “customer success leader” or “customer success is job one” or whatever, may make you feel good, but that’s about it. You can call your Dalmatians Schnauzers, but your customers will still see the spots. In the old days, when professional services was building momentum, we called it “putting ties on the techs.” Success is defined by the customer; it is not deemed a reality from your marketing slogan.

Brilliant Practice: If you want your people to think and act differently, you need to train them, coach them, train them again, and reward them for brilliant performances.

3. Adding Chaos in the Kennel

If your pups (your customer-facing team) don’t hunt as well as you’d like, adding more canines will just add chaos in the kennel. Bolting a new CS organization on top of your current frontline organization is not good…do not do it.

Brilliant Practice: When making any significant change, deal with structure last—only after the organization blueprint, game plan, touchpoint management, definition of capabilities, etc., are in place. Then adjust the structure that best addresses customer issues, wants, and needs.

4. Promising French Champagne and Russian Caviar, but Serving Ripple Wine and Stale Peanuts

It is ingrained in the genetic makeup of marketers and sellers to only promote sunshine…to emphasize the strength, the beauty, the flexibility, the all-around goodness of your unbreakable, unbeatable offering. They avoid dark clouds and rainy weather like vactioners in Florida.

However, painting a halo on your hound and never mentioniong the darker side—the possibility of fleas and the probable barking on ocassion—is decietful. Customers hate this lack of transparency, and if they feel they were not told the truth, they never forget, and they never forgive.

Brilliant Practice: Yes, emphasize your strengths, but share the weaknesses…respect and trust will follow.

5. Parting of the Red Sea

Expecting a deeply embedded culture driven by product sales to change its ways without putting up one heck of a dog fight ain’t going to happen. For many organizations, this is the biggest mud puddle along the path to performance progress.

Brilliant Practice: Get your big dogs off the porch. Do your due diligence to assess possibilities and demonstrate the financial impact of customer success done well.

James Alexander, EdD
James "Alex" Alexander has a doctorate in Human Resource Development, and after a dozen years in corporate life has spent more than two decades helping product companies build brilliant services businesses. Alex researches, publishes, advises, trains, and speaks on transforming good services organizations into high-performance services machines that create loyal customers, drive sales of services and products, and dominate the competition. He has written five research studies, four books, and over 150 articles, and has spoken, consulted, and trained in 25 countries.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here