Customer Success (CS) has broken free of its SaaS origins to become a human-to-human movement. Ronni Gaun, a top 100 CS strategic strategist in 2020 explains why customer success matters and why the revolution is just beginning.

Customer success isn't going anywhere, just getting louder and prouder and getting smarter.

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Why customer success is important

Sometimes a career chooses you

Ronni didn't choose customer success; it chose her. Throughout her career, what interested Ronni most was to help her customers get better results faster.

And so, a passion for customer success was born.

Customer success management vs. key account management

People often get confused between the two roles, and there are parallels and intersections between them. For Ronni, it's not so important to define precisely where key account management ends and customer success starts.

That's because, for her, customer success is human-to-human. It bridges the gap between technology and how people use, embrace and engage with it.

Besides, as Ronni says,  every person in the organization is responsible for the customer's success.

We have moved beyond just how you might use a solution or a tool or an app. It's not just how you explain that to a customer. It's really about why.

Ronni Gaun // Customer Success Strategist

You can't be everywhere, all the time

If there's one immutable law of the Universe, it's this:

There are not enough hours in the day.

A single Customer Success Manager (CSM) cannot engage directly with every user. So they must be strategic with how they spend their time and the relationships and networks they develop. 

But too many CSMs are overwhelmed by day-to-day operational activities, and they become a catch-all for anything customer-related.

Ronni reminds us to have a 30,000-foot view, and check in on your strategy once in a while, so you don't lose sight of your objectives.

And spend time on the customers that deliver the most value (effective segmentation will help you figure out who they are)

Ronni's says there's a genuine opportunity right now for customer success to spread their wings beyond tactical to become a significant driver of revenue growth for companies.


The problem with customer success

Customer success is an agile role and very responsive to customer requirements. Flexibility is one of its most significant advantages.

And also one of its disadvantages.

If Customer Success Managers don't have a plan, Ronni says it "becomes missionary work" and the quality of your relationships will suffer if you make promises you can't keep or don't deliver on time.

Watch out for scope creep and redefine roles and responsibilities as customer success matures in your organization. 

Discovery isn't just for prospects

Ronni says, "discovery isn't reserved for prospecting new customers. It should be ongoing throughout the relationship."

Stay curious.

Learn about your customer and every single person involved in the relationship. 

Ronni calls it habitual prospecting which means to listen for those churn cues, but also for those opportunities to expand.

What matters most?

There's a long list of responsibilities for a Customer Success Manager, and for Ronni, the most important are relationship management and acceleration.

Ronni says "riding the wave" is not enough. CSMs must create velocity for momentum to continue.

Technical proficiency is essential too, and you should explain your value without show and tell. 

I was curious what Ronni meant by acceleration?

She explained it's to be intentional about developing relationships and helping customers achieve their goals.  Acceleration means you've reached a level of trust where your customers listen. When you make recommendations, they act. When what you offer is compelling and vital to them.

I couldn't agree more. What about you?

How to get started in customer success

If you're interested in a career in customer success, Ronni suggests to:

  • Look at Customer Success Manager job descriptions and do a skills inventory. What skills do you have, which are missing, and how can you bridge the gaps?
  • Immerse yourself in customer success communities, like Success Hacker, Grow Gain Retain and others.
  • Ask prospective employers what customer success means to them? How is it represented and supported? It varies.

Ronni is also a founding member of CS Ladies, a new multi-cultural, multi-lingual community supporting women in customer success. But the focus isn't just customer success. Inside the community the conversations are about women's issues and helping each other navigate the challenges of managing a career, a family and a life. You can learn more here.

Final thoughts

For Ronni, what inspires her most is how loud and proud customer success has become. 

An evolution, or a revolution? You be the judge. 

Ronni is excited to have found her passion, live it daily and be a part of the customer success conversation.

It's really important for everybody to understand that customer success is not going anywhere. Again, just getting louder and prouder. We're getting smarter. And I'd like to invite people to pay attention to it.

Ronni Gaun // Customer Success Strategist

Warwick Brown


Warwick Brown has led business development and account management teams in Australia and Europe for more than 15 years and worked with some of the world's most prestigious firms, including Merck & Co, Deutsche Bank, McKinsey & Company and Vodafone. As the founder at Account Manager Tips, his mission is to help organisations leverage the power of key account management to accelerate client retention and revenue.


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