May 13, 2016

Read Time 4 min

Kayne West, Customer Success v. Customer Service, Churn Reduction Tips


Whether you love or hate Kayne West, one fact is undeniable: the man knows his market, arguably better than any other current celebrity. While his success in promoting himself and his music is a clear example of creative marketing and stellar brand promotion, Kayne can also teach those of us in Customer Success a thing or two about keeping our customers happy and, to an even greater extent, interested.


This great read breaks down four lessons we can learn from Kayne about customer happiness (never fear – fashion advice is not among the lessons). Here are our two favorites to get you started:

  1. Never forget about quality: One thing that people have begun to lose sight of (mostly due to Kanye’s own questionable decisions and actions) is that Kanye has actually been producing quality music for more than 15 years now. You can hate everything about Kanye, but “Jesus Walks” is a song that can stand against timeless classics because it is one. The lesson? Maintaining quality should always be at the core of any business-customer relationship. You can go all out with thrills and frills, but if there is nothing solid at its foundation, this relationship will never become everything it can be. Not sure where to begin? Start with the basics.
  2. Don’t be afraid of change: If there is one thing Kanye was never afraid of, its change. Unlike some artists that have been doing the same thing for years and even decades, Kanye has always tried to do something new. If your goal is to keep your customers happy and interested, a little bit of change can go a long way. This is not saying you should give your brand a complete overhaul every few months — believe it or not, there is such a thing as too much innovation. But bring a bit of change into the way you do things every now and then.

Customer Success ≠ Customer Service

There’s a common misconception that Customer Success is just a more advanced version of Customer Support for SaaS companies. After all, if Support is helping customers become happy, then those happy customers will renew, right? The harsh reality is that you could have an industry-leading Customer Support team and still have failing customers.

The distinction here is that success does not equate to happiness. Because our perception of happiness is inconsistent and relative (Ted Talk alert!), it is an extremely difficult outcome to control for and it rarely correlates to the things we think it does. Success, on the other hand, is a more robust, objective outcome. We can achieve success (or not) by applying a systematic approach to solving a well-defined problem. From a customer’s perspective, the question shifts from the subjective“are you happy with our response to your problem?” to a more objective “how close did we help you get to a successful outcome?”.

With this knowledge in hand, this thoughtful article breaks down a more practical definition of a Customer Success team and recommends interesting ways to measure it’s impact on your customers:

 “A great way to measure the effectiveness of a Customer Success organization is to measure the efficiency with which their experience in the trenches translates to improvements in product, marketing, and sales processes.”

Definitely worth a full read.

The Customer Success Mindset

Whether your Customer Success team is brand new or well established, we all want our CSMs to have a strong customer-centric mindset. The most successful CSMs with such a mindset typically share the same four predominant traits; do the members of your team have these strengths? If yes, keep up the good work! If no, we recommend investing in hiring and training for these skills.

  1. Emotional intelligence: Individuals with high EI have a self-awareness that helps them understand and empathize with co-workers and customers. EI is key to a great customer success mindset because a CSM will remain focused on the outcomes, applying their emotions to tasks like problem-solving.
  2. Clear and thoughtful communicator: Context and authenticity make CSMs good communicators. They are also great at listening, receiving feedback, interpretation, and translation. Each opportunity to communicate is viewed as an opportunity to learn.
  3. Effective negotiators: As part of a continuum for building strong relationships, CSMs quickly develop effective negotiating skills with customers (renewal, upsell or cross-sell) and colleagues.  Whereas Sales focuses on one audience, the prospect/customer, CSMs need to plan negotiation strategies for several audiences – product managers, developers, executives and customers – and their respective interests. They are masters at collectively identifying and articulating what people really want, creating learning conversations, designing options and presenting alternatives.
  4. Intellectually curious: CSMs who have a genuine curiosity to gain a better understanding of what their customer’s business does, what problems their industry may be facing and their individual daily challenges will relate to customers on a whole different level. Digging deep into the details opens up opportunities to interact and engage more with customers.

Word to the Wise

This week’s wisdom comes from not one, not two, not three but SIXTEEN industry leaders, each of whom answered the intriguing question “What is the one tip for reducing SaaS churn that you wish someone had told you when you first started?”. There’s so much great advice in this list but here are two of our favorites to get you started:


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