The Top 6 Reasons Why Your Customer Success Program Will Fail

Nobody likes to be told they’re going to fail, right? But when it comes to implementing a Customer Success program, there are certain elements that you just can’t gloss over or failure will be inevitable. Know that it’s not about the process of creating the Customer Success program itself – it’s what you do before implementation, after a mistake or failure, and while the program (if we should even call it that – see below) is active that will make it as effective as possible.

Never heard of Customer SuccessIt’s a relatively new concept that originally emerged from the SaaS world but that's now begun to permeate all industries. Simply put: it’s a formalized framework for empowering, retaining and delighting your customers. From the initial impressions your brand makes, through onboarding and working together to achieve value realization, all the way to establishing firm loyalty and expanding the engagment, Customer Success is about enabling your customers to best utilize your product or service, and using data to predict what the customer might need and identify potential issues before they arise.

The thing is, pulling together a complete Customer Success program isn’t exactly an easy feat. And let’s face it – no company is perfect, and sometimes adapting to new strategies means leaving old approaches behind. So here you go – the top 6 reasons why your Customer Success program will fail (and ways you can reverse the damage).

1. You dove in without any research.

Like a JV high school swimmer at the Olympics in Beijing, you’re in way over your head. Things get better with practice. You’ve gotta train hard. Insert various other sports idioms here.

It’s not enough to say, “Okay, now we’re going to adopt more customer-focused strategies,” and leave it at that. Did you define what Customer Success actually means to your business? What are your goals for implementing these processes?

More importantly, did you define what it means to your business with the rest of your business departments involved? The implementation of Customer Success needs to be company wide; without everyone on the same page, there will be cracks in your plan that could lead to service issues down the road.

And most importantly, did you define what "success" means to your customers? Each one will have a different set of goals and challenges, and your Customer Success plans must take this into consideration.

Reverse the Damage: Pull back on the reigns here! You don’t need to be diving into the trend just because everyone else is doing it. Start slow. You should be sitting down with all the departments within your company and pulling together a cohesive definition of what “customer-focused” means for your business. Then, start with a clear strategy statement – what are your goals? How will Customer Success help you achieve your goals? What experiences and outcomes are your customers expecting, and how can you deliver them? Ask yourself these questions and you’ll be on the right track.

2. You’re thinking of a Customer Success program as a program.

The word “program” means different things to different people. But in this case, it's not meant to be prescriptive. Customer Success isn't just a series of steps your team carries out to extract an outcome. Implementation should be more about a mindful recharge, a revamp—a makeover if you will—of your company culture. Remember when we said that you should be getting together with every department to help each one connect the dots and catch up with each other? You should really be doing that! If the C-Suite, Sales, Marketing, Operations, Finance, etc. are just working as free-floating entities within the company, your Success efforts will be fruitless.

As stated in this blog post from Access Development, “customer engagement and loyalty is a result of a cultural commitment by an organization.” That’s pretty much the best way to sum it up. By creating a cultural commitment to the success of the customer as a way to succeed yourself, you automatically lay the groundwork for your customers becoming your advocates.

Reverse the Damage: Set up a monthly meeting to connect on how you’re committing to a company culture that focuses on Customer Success. How is each department contributing? More than that, how are they working together? Does each party have access to the data and information they need to effectively help the customer? Every department’s goals must be aligned, and the right technologies—like a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system—should be in place to provide each group with a real-time view into each customer's record of experiences and company touches.

3. You don’t have a Customer Success team.

Okay, this one’s a little tougher than the others, because it makes implementing a Customer Success program seem like its only accessible to larger companies with more resources. Not so!

Even still, having a Customer Success Team, or at least a person or two committed to leading, organizing and overseeing Customer Success initiatives (and holding other departments involved accountable for their own Success tasks and projects), will make bringing this concept to life doable. Without a dedicated person managing all the moving parts and owning the process, it's difficult to prioritize Customer Success, and your program will flounder.

Reverse the Damage: As previously mentioned, Customer Success is relatively new to the business world. In fact, the recently created Wikipedia page for this term lists it as an “emerging role” in business, which means it’s not just a strategy: it’s a job on the payroll. If you don't have the budget to hire a Customer Success Manager (yet), find a capable person on your team, perhaps from Marketing or Sales or the Product Team, to focus solely on Customer Success and interdepartmental cooperation.

Don’t have the resources or bandwidth for this either? Create a new process—occuring once a week, once a month, once a quarter—where leaders from each of your teams come together to discuss ways to adopt or improve Customer Success or share customer wins. You might be surprised at how many Customer Success strategies you've already implemented.

4. You’re not willing to let go of your old processes.

The key to a great Customer Success program is adaptability. Sometimes, you’ll work with a customer that won’t benefit from the normal way you do things. If you’re not willing to take each client in as an individual, approaching their problems with a sense of specificity, then your program will fail. Too directive? Your program will fail. Not willing to try new things? Your program will fail.

This is another area where all departments need to collaborate. Your Customer Success team or point person might find resistance to change from other team members stuck in their old ways, particularly from those in different departments with whom they rarely interact. So it's important to approach any changes with sensitivity to current internal business practices – and to have full support from the C-Suite.

Reverse the Damage: Even though clients in a B2B business engagement will be looking to you for your expertise, you’re not their boss. You must think of each client relationship as a collaboration. Approach each client as an individual. Ask questions (see below). And don’t try to revolutionize your business practices overnight. Sometimes it's the small changes that lead to the largest gains.

5. You haven't asked enough questions.

If there’s any one item on this list that will be most detrimental to your Customer Success program, it’s this one. ASK QUESTIONS. Effectively executed Customer Success strategies are predictive and proactive – and meant to help you get ahead of issues the customer might have before they even arise (this also includes the tools and data sets you’ll be working with).

If you’re not sure what to be looking out for, what things your clients find distasteful or unsatisfactory, then your Customer Success program, by definition, isn’t even a Customer Success program. It’s just you not serving your customer.

Reverse the Damage: Hold a discovery call for your prospects during the sales process to really tap into their needs, goals, communication preferences, etc. – and to learn more about their business, their customers and what a successful relationship with you will look like. Once onboarded, have weekly or monthly performance check-ins. Even if you have a set list of questions you typically ask, try to approach each client as new territory and customize the list based on research you've conducted about their selling environment or industry. And always continue to ask questions about what they want, what they need, and how things are actually going along the way.

6. You aren't using the right tools and technologies.

A Customer Success program is nothing without the analytics to support it. How else can you quantifiably measure performance, and use data to pinpoint a problem or an opportunity to grow the account or ask for a referral? The touchy-feely, ask-questions-and-hold-hands part of Customer Success is only one half of a whole. You need the cold, hard precision of analytics to measure your churn rate, to assess levels of engagement, and to track performance – in other words, to measure how well you’re actually serving your client.

Reverse the Damage: First and foremost, invest in a CRM system. Using this type of tool will keep everyone on your team in the loop and provide them with access to the same information. You should also calculate and have a solid understanding of the lifetime value of a typical client – and use this as benchmarking data. Curious about Customer Success tools? There are so many types of technologies on the market today – simply find the one that’s right for your goals.

Remember: your Customer Success program is only as good as you build it to be. Don’t dive in without your research just because it’s a new trend – the best, customer-focused companies will recognize that elements of Customer Success are already baked into their current values and practices, namely treating the customer the way they'd like to be treated – whatever that may look like for your business. Lift-off with Customer Success is simply about formalizing those practices and making them the core of every part of your business.

Any questions? We’re happy to help. Contact us anytime! And for a deep dive into this topic, hop on over to our comprehensive piece: The Ultimate Guide to Harnessing the Power of Customer Success.

The Ultimate Guide to Harnessing the Power of Customer Success

Madeleine LaPlante-Dube | Content Marketer
About the Author
Madeleine LaPlante-Dube, Content Marketer

Madeleine LaPlante-Dube joined PMG as a Content Marketer in June 2017 after spending the summer of 2016 as an intern. She loves to write about emerging trends in content – video, podcasting, interactive webpages. When she’s not crafting compelling content and scheduling savvy social, she’s creeping on the outliers in the industry – seeing how leaders are doing things differently and figuring out how she can help readers learn from them.