From 1948 to 1975 the University of California Los Angeles’ Men’s Basketball Team was coached by the legendary John Wooden. Over the course of his coaching career, he won over 600 college basketball games, with a winning percentage over 80%. He won 10 national championships in 12 years, including 7 in a row. The totality of his accomplishments and the longevity of his career are without equal. By nearly every account from every player he ever coached, the source of that success was a strategy, practice schedule and execution method that was rooted in the fundamentals of the game. Actually, his commitment to fundamentals started well before he started drills or conditioning or drawing up plays. He is famous for having his new players sit in the locker room barefoot and learn how to put on socks and shoes properly. He would methodically go through the details of putting on the sock so the heel fit right, pulling it up all the way, adjusting the toe to remove wrinkles, pulling the sock up again, putting on the shoe, tightening each row of laces at the eyelets starting at the toe and working towards the ankle and then properly double knotting the laces. Why? Those players must have felt pretty weird being taught how to do something they had mastered in kindergarten. These were blue chip athletes who had been dominate high school basketball players. They were highly recruited and vastly talented. Coach Wooden said he did it because his players rely on their feet. Wrinkles in socks lead to blisters. Improperly laced shoes lead to turned ankles, but also to shoes that come untied forcing the player out of a practice or a game. The time lost to blisters, ankle sprains and even shoe tying reduced the players’ ability to contribute to the team’s goals. It made it less likely that they would win. Coach Wooden was focused on doing the small things well. His players were amazing athletes capable of advanced and often amazing physical feats, but those feats were used to support a set of skills that were steeped in sound fundamentals.
When it comes to Customer Success we see great tools, advanced metrics, inventive strategies and much more every day that equip our teams ever better to aid our customers. We rely on the unique skills of our team to deliver in incredible ways, to amaze our customers. If we are honest though, despite the teams’ best efforts sometimes our customers don’t realize value. They don’t succeed. They don’t experience their desired outcome and as a result they churn out. If this happens more than you would like, I might suggest you find a vintage Fedora and channel your inner John Wooden. Perhaps it’s time to revisit the fundamentals of Customer Success and make sure that you are planning, practicing and performing in a fundamentally focused way. It’s not that you don’t know or have abandoned the fundamentals all together. It’s likely you have just been so focused on doing big, incredible things that you haven’t thought much about the small, simple things in a while. Like most Customer Success professionals, you have some big goals to hit and you want make the big play that makes the crowd explode. So you focus on that play. It’s complex and takes great skill to make it work and as we practice that play the crisp two-handed bounce pass that is tried and true starts to be a sloppy one-handed, no look pass that often works but is less accurate and more is more susceptible to being stolen. We start to lose ground in little ways that we might not notice at a glance, a little bit at a time until we are down too many points with too little time on the clock and not even the big play can bring us back to win the game. In this article, we’ll talk about 5 fundamentals that we can stay focused on each day that are key to the experiencing the greatest amount of customer delight.
A huge complaint we hear from customers of B2B software is that they don’t have access to the right resources at the right time. In your customer’s moment of need, what do you want them to do? What have you shown them to do? Are they doing it? If you haven’t answered that question for all of your customer-centric scenarios and ensured the answer is acceptable then you are planting a seed for attrition. Having your help center, knowledge base, online support, customer support, customer success and premium service offerings aligned to each area of need is fundamental. You can’t set it and forget it though. As you make changes, as they make changes, as the industry and competition and a million other factors change you need to make sure your availability matches the current need.
Customer’s miss meetings, they fail to report progress, they don’t do what they are supposed to. What next? Hopefully starting in sales you were able to establish a plan for the next level up in your customers’ chain of command to get involved when communication, follow through or accountability start to deteriorate with your primary contact. If you don’t have this now, you need to get it. Without it, you are just one person’s loss of focus or loss of interest away maintaining a meaningful connection with your customer. Cultivating new relationships within your customer organization is an ongoing process and it is critical to ensure that you are always prepared with the next steps.
If you have to probe your customer to find a reason to meet, you are behind best practices. Your relationship with your customer should be prescriptive. You should have a plan for how you are going to grow your customers’ adoption, usage and expansion of your product and services. Through your influence you want to help them achieve their desired outcomes. So your fundamental is having a plan that starts with day 1 and continues through renewal that lays out each planned touchpoint and details the purpose and expected result for it.
Your relationship with your customer is a partnership. For them to be successful, you are accountable to hold up your end of the deal. But guess what, so is your customer. Holding your customer accountable requires you to set expectations for their contribution to a successful outcome. Whether it is the primary contact or user champion, we agree what they will do to help us succeed. If they can’t or won’t do that, it is understood that we will ask for a new primary contact or champion. Our customers shouldn’t settle for a CSM who doesn’t do what they said they would and we have to constantly evaluate and push our customers to live up to their end of this relationship.
How does your customer win? If both sides are engaged and the agenda for interactions is focused solely on your desired outcome (renewal at the end of current term and maybe some upselling) than you have work to do. Your customers’ goals and achievements are what they care about. The partner who comes alongside them and helps them achieve those goals is a partner you CANNOT do without. There goals change. They achieve goals and set new ones. Your interactions and involvement must be as such that when your customer hits, misses, changes or adds a goal, you know about it and are a part of the strategy to achieve it.
Coach Wooden didn’t nail the fundamentals in 1948 and then rake in success across 4 decades. He was deeply committed to waking up each day focusing on the little things and being comfortable that this practice would pave the way for the big things to happen. It’s not flashy. It’s not always ground breaking. It’s not even always that fun. But if you’re reading this, I bet you don’t have to have flashy, ground breaking and fun solutions for everything. After all, you want to win. Take inventory of each of your customers and make a plan to evaluate these 5 elements as often as you can. You’ll start to find that the confidence you have with a fundamentally solid strategy instills confidence in your customers and your teams.