Sunday, April 17, 2016

Customer Success - Three Little Birds

Rise up this mornin'
Smiled with the risin' sun
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true
Saying', ("This is my message to you")
Singing' "Don't worry 'bout a thing
'Cause every little thing gonna be alright."
Singing' "Don't worry (don't worry) 'bout a thing
'Cause every little thing gonna be alright!"
               - From Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds"

Having been at this enterprise software game for awhile now, I've gotten fairly good at looking at trends and describing what happened (I'm good at spotting developing trends as well, but my track record at predicting the timing of results is weak sauce at best).  Over the past decade, I've seen the shift in customer relationships.  Success for any enterprise software provider is no longer about making the's about customer relationships that lead to customer success.  Granted that sounds a bit like sales and marketing fluff, so let me share three little birds of change to drive home my point:
  1. We've gone from a software licensing model to recurring revenue model baed on software subscriptions (SaaS, PaaS, DaaS, or whatever _aaS you like).  The seller does not get paid up front as in a software license deal, so the pattern of customer relationships has shifted from an all-out, one-off effort to score the big deal to one of more consistent investment in helping customers achieve desired outcomes - which, in turn, keeps the subscription revenue flowing.
  2. Everything has a digital component supporting real time data streams.  This is the big promise of the "Internet of Things".  It's all about providing value via services while the customer uses the products.  And it's made possible because products are digitally tied together.  GM knows when my car has low tire pressure and sends an alert to my dashboard.  DaaS vendors know when my subscribed database hits 85 percent of storage capacity, so they can offer more storage before I hit the limit.  My neighbors know when their children wander out of a certain physical area because they get an alert on their cell phones...including the location of the child when the alert was sent.  Everything is connected or soon will be.
  3. Customers expect more.  They've seen what highly-responsive consumer software can do: Google, Facebook, Snap Chat, Amazon, LinkedIn, Evernote.  And that's now the expectation of enterprise software products.  And to take it even further, cloud and SaaS enterprise applications make it easier than ever to simply click in order to try the next thing.
Faced with the combined impact of these three changes, enterprise software vendors can no longer focus on the one-time license sale by emphasizing a technical platform, or breadth of features, or even ease of use.  To win and keep a customer's business, we have to focus on helping that customer achieve and maintain desired outcomes.  That's the upshot of customer success.  And customer success is the gist of succeeding in enterprise software.

One last thought.  Customer success is a relatively new thing.  Vendors and customers alike are still learning how it works and how to use it.  And that's why you need a Center of Excellence for customer success.  More on this later, but comments are welcome now.

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