Customer Service or Customer Success?

Whilst Customer Service is a worthy component of a business, it does rather reinforce the hierarchical silo approach, requiring knowledge of products and services to be duplicated by a separate support function.

In the absence of that knowledge the call handler role is reduced to an intermediary, who has to identify the right resolver group.

How many times has your query or request for assistance been lost or, on chasing, you’ve been told that your ticket is within SLA?

In a customer-centric organisation there is no hand-off from one team to another.  

The team which created the product or service is also responsible for its support. That accountability incentivises an increase in the level of quality and relevance of what they build, so that minimal time is needed to fix faults, and they can concentrate on value-adding increments.

The Pivot to Customer Success

Teams focused on Customer Success have a long-term perspective. They focus on lifetime value. They look at the customer journey and identify sub-optimal paths, adoption concerns and other bottlenecks that prevent customers meeting their objectives, sub-conscious or mandated.

Service organisations are usually incentivised to resolve operational or technical concerns as soon as possible, and to prevent recurring contact.

Service organisations drive customer satisfaction to prevent churn, whereas a success mindset focuses effort on growth as well as retaining customers.

Traditional service desks can provide insight into where the pain points are for a customer. But an organisation which pivots to be customer-centric, will, if done well, have an integrated cross-functional perspective that allows a holistic appraisal of the customer’s needs, an immediate response capability to solve customer concerns and the empowered, self-directing ability to act to help the customer achieve their goals.

Success is like Service but pivoted 90 degrees to be cross-functional, value-chain aligned, and with added immediacy and relevance.

Customer Service and corporate toil

Your company's service functions provide a valued contribution to company success. Some teams are operational service teams, facilitating product revenue. Others are support functions; they answer customer questions or provide outcomes to standard requests. They reduce frustration and increase customer satisfaction. They prevent customer churn.

The thing is, these latter teams exist because of inefficiencies in the corporate ways of working. Much of the work they do, although performed willingly and well, amounts to corporate toil. The Service Desks are tasked with sorting out a myriad of problems, and whilst each ticket can yield a personal success, when raised up to 'company purpose' level, none of this activity yields an appreciable change in outcome or contributes to revenue growth.

Toil sucks the life out of people. Service Analysts have a breadth and depth of knowledge, but they have to solve the same matters over and over. Their managers analyse the work they do and send a request over the functional boundary for someone, please, to investigate the root cause and make a change.

But it rarely happens, and the service team staff turnover percentage rises yet again.

How to migrate from Customer Service to Customer Success

People from Service teams know the products, the business stakeholders, and are, in many cases, the de-facto customer interface.

For a legacy organisation, it's too much of a 'big bang' to pivot straight to a cross-functional model, so an intermediate step is needed.

This can be done by aligning the existing Service teams, whilst still in their silos, to legacy product groups, and giving them explicit authority to make the changes they need to resolve the problems that create their toil. This is a big deal, and needs a big message to enforce it.

For example, a password reset could become a self-service activity. Or a process to add a new product variation to a partner could be re-architected or automated.

At this early stage, Service teams still have the challenge of supporting the same imperfect world as before, as well as their new responsibilities. The Exec will need to provide support, or they will be forced to default back to firefighting.

The great value of this approach is that as the company focuses on renewing its channels to market, service individuals' knowledge can contribute to the creation of new systems and operating models that not only generate revenue, but can retire the legacy ways of working they were stuck supporting.