In a very unofficial poll (or maybe just through our Monday morning talks with Customer Success Managers we work with), we’ve come to realize that “most” Customer Success Managers are avid football fans (whether it’s professional, collegiate, or their own kids’ peewee league). Nary a Monday morning customer call (during football season) doesn’t involve a passionate acclamation of victory, play analysis, bold assertion about bad calls, or disappointments in injuries. Our CSM customers aren’t just politely participating in virtual water cooler banter. Post-game analysis is a predictable, and, dare I say, essential, part of the work week kick-off. We can’t get to churn reduction strategies until we process the outcomes of the head-to-heads and current standings. It’s apparent that there’s a correlation between the mindset of a Customer Success Manager and that of an avid football fan. Here’s our take on why football is the favorite sport of Customer Success Managers.
While individual sports showcase athletic prowess, they don’t have the dynamism of team sports. And, while team sports have superstars, a team can’t win without throws that are caught, field position that is gained/lost, and both an offense and a defense. Customer Success is all about teamwork. It’s collaboration between the vendor and customer that creates wins. CSMs enjoy team sports because they know the value of team play. They are part of both their own team and their customers’ teams. So, they get that being a solid team player is essential to success – both on the field and in their own work.
Who doesn’t love a great flea-flicker or a Hail Mary pass? What about a fake punt or the statue of liberty play? They are attempts to win through creative planning and execution. That’s exactly the art of Customer Success. Working from a personalized game plan of engagements for each customer promises the best results. Sometimes that means calling an audible and switching gears. Customer Success Managers love a game won on strategic play calls, not just shear athleticism, just as they love finding the right solution for their customer by understanding their unique goals and capacity.
Avid football fans don’t just know the talent, but they know and appreciate the coaches. They have their favorites: Chuck Pagano, one of the Harbaugh brothers, or their neighbor who coaches their son. They identify with the coaches because great coaches understand their players and they lead them accordingly, just as Customer Success Managers must understand their customers’ capacity as they coach them into delight. CSMs, like coaches, have their playbooks and their teams, and it’s their job to coordinate the two into victory.
Not all players are Peyton Mannings – smart, athletic, dedicated and congenial. Some are, shall we say, more difficult to coach, and garner more diverse opinions about their contributions. The diversity of player talent and personality offers great fodder for discussion among fans of the sport. Whether its lauding poise in post-game interviews, or abhorring showmanship or off-field lapses in judgment, Customer Success Managers pay attention to the character and personalities of football players, and they dedicate their fanship accordingly. They also “get” that coaches and managers have to work with all types to be effective. Similarly, not all customers are easy to help. CSMs appreciate the diplomacy involved in figuring out how to work with the easy and the difficult personalities, as that’s a big part of their world, as well.
Not that delighting and retaining customers is a contest, but it is the end game for customer success. Garnering renewals is essentially winning. Witnessing your favorite team win is basically as good as celebrating a big renewal or upsell. Customer Success Managers, while selected for their position because of their unique combination of relationship skills and solution knowledge, also have a competitive spirit. They want their company to win, just like a devoted player wants his team to win. It’s no surprise they embrace the competitive spirit of the gridiron.