Brilliant Customer Success: Categorize to Prioritize


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It is nice to proclaim that you are dedicated to delivering customer success to all customers. However, if your resources are limited (aren’t they always?), the reality is you can’t do it today and you probably won’t be able to do it tomorrow. Maybe eventually, but not in the near to mid-future.

So my recommendation is that you categorize your customers so that you can prioritize your efforts.

The figure below shows the three customer importance categories, your desired customer outcomes for each category, plus my recommended approach to each category.


Must-Have Customers

Your Must-Have Customers are the ones that will take you into the future. These are your strategic accounts, those with the highest lifetime value potential. Seek their loyalty first. Your goal is to help them achieve customer success as they define it, and you will dedicate any and all resources needed. Your one-to-one approach means that you will customize your offering and do what it takes to make these vital customers extremely pleased to have you as a supplier.

Want-to-Have Customers

Your second most important customer category is your Want-to-Have Customers. Yes, you’d love to help them achieve success, but because of resource limitations you hope that you can just keep them satisfied. Your one-to-many approach allows you to try and tailor your offerings to their uniqueness. However, you realize that customers in this category will change suppliers if they perceive a better deal…as satisfied customers are not loyal customers.

Nice-to-Have Customers

Finally, there are your Nice-to-Have Customers. Once again, because of your limited resources you cannot customize or tailor your offering. The standard offering you provide often means that they are not particularly happy with you, but they keep you as a supplier because switching costs are too high, or it is just not worth the effort to get another supplier. Your desired outcome is that they will tolerate your lack of attention enough to keep you as a supplier.

Scaling Success

If you are in the early stages of customer success, the one-to-one approach outlined in Must-Have Customers is my recommended starting point. Your learnings there will help you to streamline and hopefully automate some important tasks. Additionally, applying the findings from your industry/market/geography segmentation research will show you that key players with similar roles will have similar desired business outcomes and personal wins. This will help to make your one-to-some approach in tailoring your offerings a higher probability fit with the customers in this category. It also will improve the appeal of your standard offering to Nice-to-Have Customers and will make your one-to-many approach more efficient.

Also, as your customer success experience grows, your enhanced technology, system sophistication, and improved process management, especially touchpoint management, will help customers’ perceptions of you improve within all three classifications.

All customers are not created equal—don’t treat them that way.

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.


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