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How to Manage a Customer Success Transformation

How to Manage a Customer Success Transformation

In my last article, “How to Trigger Customer Success Transformation,” I described how to spark the enterprise-wide change needed to embrace subscription-based business models and adopt Customer Success practices. Raising awareness by telling stories, and better yet, having customers tell their own stories, emotionally engages senior leaders. Then, following up with a strong business case prompts them to act.

But once the top-down urgency is there, how do you manage it? That’s what this article is about.

Internal Change 

Customer Success can’t operate in a silo. To ensure customers adopt and use their new subscription technologies/services, Customer Success Managers (CSMs) must facilitate the post-sales experience. This ensures that your customers can achieve the promised value. That means CSMs must work alongside Sales, Professional Services, Customer Support, Product, and even Finance and Accounting to ensure a smooth and rewarding experience.

But this involves many employees changing the way things are currently done, and they naturally resist it. Why?

  • People are much more sensitive to perceived losses from the change than gains that come from it, causing their natural defense mechanisms to trigger.
  • Employees form work habits over time, and entrenched habits are tough to alter.
  • “Openness to new experiences” is a personality trait that varies by individual, and people at different ends of the spectrum will react differently to change.

Practicing change management in parallel with operational initiatives to deploy new processes and technologies increases the odds of success by a factor of 6, according to Prosci:

What is change management?

Change management is an enabling framework and set of practices for managing the people side of change. It mobilizes people to embrace and adopt transformation.


How Does Change Management Work?

A Change Manager works alongside a project manager to develop and execute sponsor, communications, people manager, and training plans. With help from the Change Manager, the Executive Sponsor participates in the initiative, communicates broadly, and works behind the scenes to build coalitions. These coalitions will pave the way for progress. For example, a new Customer Success motion often requires new processes and working relationships with the Sales team, so the Executive Sponsor must elicit the support of the sales rank and file to go along.

In addition to coaching the Executive Sponsor, the Change Manager helps communicate the change through multiple media, including:

  • Company-wide town halls
  • Emails
  • Social forums
  • Newsletters
  • Videos

They also help Supervisors in each affected group lead the change, helping individual contributors deal with the transition. And the Change Manager ensures affected employees are adequately trained, and their behaviors are sufficiently reinforced so new habits can form over time.

Why Change Management Works:

Effective frameworks like the one used by Prosci recognize and support the natural, human process of change. Techniques build individual awareness and desire for change. They then provide necessary training, enablement, and reinforcement to make the desired future state a reality.


External Change

The CSM’s job is also to help customers embrace and adopt change in their organizations. Customers buy new technology and services with the intent to improve their business performance. And that means leaders purchasing solutions must overcome internal resistance to change if they wish to maximize their results. Most customers, however, don’t think much about change management, so it’s up to CSMs to show them the way. 

Customer Success Planning

One of the most critical steps in the customer journey is Customer Success Planning. In high-performing companies, salespeople introduce CSMs to senior-level decision-makers at their accounts before the transaction closes. There are typically three steps to a successful planning phase.

  1. CSMs describe their role to ensure success and satisfaction every step of the way.
  2. Then, they clarify how the decision-maker defines and measures success, ensuring mechanisms will be in place to track progress in achieving desired outcomes. The CSM then states the key success factors, a crucial set of actions that make all the difference after the purchase.
  3. Finally, and most importantly, they obtain the executive’s commitment to participate in making the transformation (and themselves) successful down the road.

Effective change management is often a critical success factor. Besides delivering the “table stakes” of user training, CSMs must help high-level executives at their accounts lead the change within their organization. By describing the process, the executive’s role in engaging, building coalitions, and frequently communicating throughout, CSMs can become a valuable resource to them. If the CSM also provides a toolkit for making transitions more manageable, such as “copy and paste” communications templates at key milestones in the deployment project plan, maximizing value is assured.

Walk the Path to Change

For most large companies, responding to market demands for more flexible, pay-as-you-go subscription models is a difficult task. They must reinvent the way they do business, and change is always hard. But the smoothest Customer Success transformations are those that start with effective change management. Firms who differentiate themselves in the new subscription economy do so with CSMs facilitating their customers’ transformations. Learning more about change and how to manage it more internally and externally is a critical first step.

About the Author:

Recognized as a Top 25 Customer Success Influencer, Ed Powers is a consultant known for helping teams make breakthroughs in customer loyalty by addressing why customers leave—and why they stay. His unique approach combines neuroscience with data analytics and enterprise-wide improvement to deliver dramatic results. Connect with Ed on LinkedIn or visit his Service Excellence Partners website for more information.

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