Helping Customers Succeed

As it appeared in the Daily Nation on July 2nd 2019
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu

The role of the customer in any business is indisputable. Henry Ford the founder of Ford Motors alluded to the fact that customers pay employees and that a business devoted to service only worries about profits. Despite this understanding, customers have had contrasting relationships with businesses over time. Though some of the relationships have been pleasant, many have been remorseful. At the centre of these relationships has been the perceived value that customers receive from businesses. There is no doubt that businesses that proactively help their customers succeed by creating value are more likely to hold on to them for life.

The term Customer Success originated from a technology company. Almost three decades ago, Vantive a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software provider introduced customer success teams and customer success managers. The introduction of customer success teams was in an effort to support their customers and manage the relationship after the initial sale. Customer success teams therefore replaced customer support teams which were considered to have a reactive approach. Vantive later merged with PeopleSoft which was eventually acquired by Oracle Corporation. This concept of customer success spread widely amongst the technology companies especially those providing software as a service (SaaS). The customer success managers have become the central point of contact for customers. They are required to know what is going on with every aspect of their customers. Further, this role replaced traditional account managers in many software companies. Today, the emerging concept of customer success has gone beyond software companies to other industries.

Customer needs vary across industries. However, the need for a customer to succeed cuts across all industries. For example, customers using banking services want help in managing transactions but they also need financial management advisory services to succeed. Customers taking up medical insurance policies need financial stability in case of an illness but they are also keen on healthy living. Customers using software as a service need not only a software that helps them run their business but also one that easily changes with the times. Irrespective of the industry, customer success should be a key area of focus. We can only help our customers succeed if we are genuinely interested in them. This means building strong customer relationship. These relationships are based on trust and go beyond meeting basic customer needs.

Every smart business leader needs to recognize that customer success and financial success go hand-in-hand. When we help our customers succeed, we are helping create a customer base not only in the present but also for the future. Businesses therefore need to more proactively help their customers succeed. They need to define what customer success looks like universally, in their industry and in their business. Further, the definition of customer success needs to include the customers’ perspective. If you are a smart company, time is ripe for you to adopt a customer success approach in running your business. By helping our customers succeed, our businesses too will be succeeding!

Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy

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