Customers Don’t Care How You Make the Sausage: Outcomes, Not Activities, Deliver Value


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A team works to help a tree grow and flourish
(Image credit: Totango)

I love helping people. It’s why I started working in customer success, in the first place – and while retention remains the key to survival in the wake of SVB’s collapse and continued layoffs across SaaS companies, customer success is about more than securing renewals and upsells. At the risk of being over-simplistic: our job is to ensure our customers’ success, and they don’t care how we do it. 

I know… duh! It’s in the title. But just so we are clear, your customers purchased your product or service to accomplish something. No matter what is going on in the world, they have a desired outcome to achieve and they have selected your company to fill that gap. Customer success is where you get to step in to ensure those objectives are accomplished. 

Understanding What Value Means

Unfortunately, instead of focusing on the true purpose of the purchase, we often get wrapped up, pun intended, in the sausage-making: the steps or tasks in the process. We keep our eyes on increasing utilization, adoption, advocacy, or even retention, for example, but lose sight of the ultimate outcome and overall success criteria that drove our customers to buy in the first place. 

It doesn’t matter, for example, if you improve platform utilization if that doesn’t directly correlate with the efficiencies customers hope to get from your product. Equally, it doesn’t help your customers if you execute campaigns to drive efficiencies if the information is delivered when it’s not relevant to where they are in their journey. 

Instead of delivering value, we are executing tasks that may or may not help push to the ultimate value or desired outcome. 

To deliver success, you must always start with the end in mind and then work backward to determine what is needed as you build an agile, composable practice that both meets and evolves with their needs. 

At the end of the day, we know how we want the outcome to taste. We also want to make sure it has that satisfying snap. We just need to make sure that we back into that process and determine the right ingredients for each part of the journey – and then, we have to keep perfecting our recipe so that it only gets better.

Your Recipe for Delivering Value

While the traditional sales cycle is a straight line of activities, delivering customer value starts with understanding how your customers actually defines value and what their desired outcome is. It requires you understand your customers’ goals and objectives as they relate to their businesses, leverage that knowledge to build journeys and programs that support them, and then iterate on those journeys so that they only grow stronger. 

In a subscription economy, it’s more costly than ever to believe that understanding stops with making a sale. You must create moments that deliver at every stage so that your customers stay and grow with you, which means all teams – from sales to renewal – must unite around the customer and bring their expertise to the table. 

But where do you start? 

Here is a recipe that you can use to help drive tasty outcomes that result in retention and growth, even in these turbulent economic times:

Vision: When you start preparing any meal, you have to have a vision of the end result. As we’ve established, in customer success that is your customers’ desired outcome. That’s why it’s imperative that you clearly document your customers’ business goals so that you can keep your focus on delivering their objectives throughout the process. 

Recipe: Every good meal has a plan, as does every good customer experience. We refer to this as the customer journey, and it doesn’t just happen by chance. It takes careful planning and consideration to ensure your journeys help guide your customers to their desired outcomes. And as you might imagine, not all customers need the same journey, so you may need a different journey or campaigns for different types or cohorts of customers. As your journeys come together and you begin to have a foundation for your recipe, remember to keep flavoring to taste. Continue to add, adjust, and iterate to improve outcomes and keep up with your customers changing needs. 

Ingredients: Now that you have the journey, there are a myriad of items that will fold into that process to get you to your final results. This could include utilization, advocacy and/or NPS, product or feature usage, engagement; the list goes on. While these are ingredients – or tasks – that may or may not interest your customers, you must monitor them vigilantly as they help drive the journey. Visibility into real-time, trustworthy data is a key element to your ingredients because it empowers your teams to provide data-driven approaches to delivering those tasty outcomes.

Remember, the ingredients are not the outcome. I have worked with many CS leaders over the years who spend so much time focusing on the ingredients that we’ve lost sight of the outcome. Instead of falling into this trap, document the desired outcome and then track and measure the progression through the journey so you can deliver a rich experience for your customers – and keep them coming back for more. 

Chris Dishman
Chris Dishman is Vice President of Customer Success at Totango. After spending nearly 20 years of progressive customer success leadership at ON24, including playing a central role in the company’s IPO, Dishman is focused on elevating how Totango customers maximize the value of their CS programs and technology purchases. He also leads the post-sales support and customer training and enablement department to help ensure a seamless customer experience after purchase.


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