We’ve all had those moments. You’re at a party, or at a barbecue, or having dinner with friends and friends of friends, and you’re making small talk with someone, most likely the person closest to you. Inevitably, the other person asks, “What do you do?” When I answer, “I’m a Client Success Manager”, there is usually a brief pause as the other person processes what that may mean.
"Oh, you're in customer service."
"Well, no. Client Success."
"Is that like customer support?"
"It's actually quite different. My job is to understand how our clients define their success and then work with them to achieve that success by aligning our products and services to their needs."
"Ahh, you're a salesman. You sell them things."
"I may sell them products and services, yes, but only if it’s what they need to help them achieve their goals. It’s their success that determines my success, and that doesn’t always involve selling something."
At this point, and especially if my new friend’s eyes are starting to glaze over, I turn the conversation around and ask them what THEY do. This is just small talk, after all.
Although the above scene is really an amalgam of multiple conversations, it does underscore the difficulties of defining Client Success. First of all, why use the word “client” instead of “customer”?
Customer vs. Client
The difference is subtle, but important. A customer is someone who comes to you to buy a product (e.g., groceries, clothes, an automobile, etc.). It is transactional in nature. The transaction is typically done once and both parties move on, although the customer may return (perhaps frequently) to complete another transaction. Frequent-buyer and customer-incentive programs are used to encourage multiple or on-going transactions.
A client, the other hand, is a person or company with whom you form a relationship. Your expectations of your tax accountant, your financial planner, your dentist, or your primary care physician are very different and more complex than the expectations of the cashier at your local Qwik Mart. And the relationships you have with them are typically longer and work best the more you know each other.
However, deep layers of trust only slowly take root and grows when a vendor consistently delivers value over time. This, in turn, produces client loyalty and contributes to client success.
Which brings me back to the barbecue and the other difficulty in explaining Client Success to my friend.
What is Success?
Sounds pretty easy to understand, doesn’t it? Everyone knows what success is - it’s when you are winning. Not losing. Robb Stark, from Game of Thrones, never lost a battle in the TV series. He must have been a success, right? Well, maybe not …
To my mind, success is a comparison. To be considered successful, you need to know the criteria against which success is determined. If Robb Stark’s criteria was to win every battle in which he commanded, then yes, he was successful. If his sole criterion was to win the war, then no, he was not successful (and, in fact, ** spoiler alert** he was killed).
To judge your success, then, means that you and a client must proactively establish the criteria against which success is to be measured. Once these criteria are agreed upon (and are attainable), metrics can be put into place to measure performance against them.
What’s important to keep in mind, though, is that every client has unique success criteria, which can change quarter to quarter, and year to year. Therefore, in addition to setting down how a client judges its own success, it’s also critical to perform periodic reviews. Performance is a moving target and periodic reviews (whether monthly, quarterly, annually, or ad hoc) provide the forum in which assessments can be made and changes implemented.
If done well, success isn’t about retaining clients, it’s about helping clients to thrive.
Why Does Client Success Matter?
Client Success is getting growing attention because the success of your business is inherently intertwined with the success of your clients. If they are thriving, long-term relationships have taken root and it is highly likely that your business will thrive as well.
At iuvo Technologies, we take great pride in maintaining a very lean sales organization. In fact, we have more Client Success Managers than we have sales people. This is done because we focus on the quality of our client relationships and the fulfillment of their success criteria. By understanding their day-to-day needs and organizing ourselves around their strategic direction, we generate on-going referrals which carry us forward.
And give us more opportunities for barbecues …
if you'd like to talk to us more about our approach to client success, please contact us.