When did customer success become a department, a division, a role, at vendors of business software for the enterprise? It was when their leaders first feared that customers’ dissatisfaction with, or ambivalence over, the product would begin to affect the bottom line in uncomfortable ways. When and where was this? According to The Customer Success Association, it was in 1996 at Vantive, a company that produced software for customer relationship management.
This surprised me. My guess was a cloud company as the first. But the rationale at that CRM company, Vantive, was similar. And, once it becomes relatively easy for customers to discard with one vendor’s product in favor of another product to address the same need, vendors are more apt to sense the urgency to adopt the goal of making sure their customers stay. So, yes, we can thank the cloud for the (albeit, painfully slow) proliferation of modern practices in customer success. (Fun fact: follow that Wikipedia link for Vantive. You’ll learn that Vantiv merged with PeopleSoft in 1999. The six degrees of Oracle strikes again.)
The discipline of customer success can be chaotic and reactive or deliberate and proactive. For all its lack of structure, the former can bring about a desired outcome, and it’s an oft-repeated story line: At the very least, a vendor eludes the needless outcome of a lost client. In the best reactive scenarios, vendors turn bad situations into positives. We have seen a vendor become the technological fuel aiding HR transformation at a customer that ended up living happily ever after — after deciding not to leave. This is no exaggeration.
But not everyone lives happily ever after in these situations. When they don’t, vendors of technology for HCM bear much responsibility for the consequences. This is why modern customer success is proactive, and it’s why 3Sixty Insights founder and CEO Nick Biron and I often discuss the phenomenon of customer success in enterprise software. We decided to co-write a research note delving into these challenges and describing what proactive, effective, modern customer success can look like. Download the PDF here (it’s free): 3Sixty Insights – How the Cloud Has Changed the Game for Customer Success