Customer Success Culture Clash: Five Lessons Learned

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Dave Kocher has been leading the Customer Success (CS) journey at GE Digital for a long time. How long? When he stated that Google Plus was seen as relevant.

In this pioneering work, Dave has experienced firsthand the challenges and headwinds associated with bringing in a new customer motion to a traditional business. Dave’s human-first leadership approach focuses on the people side of change management. As a Member of the Outcome Selling Advisory Ecosystem, Dave shares five learning lessons with the CS community. Feel free to check out Dave here discuss this important topic. We would love to hear from the community. Which lessons resonate the most? What would you add?


Customer Success Culture Clash

It isn’t hard to find information about the benefits of creating a Customer Success (CS) organization or enabling a new team of Customer Success Managers. The process and technology steps that must be taken when creating such teams are regularly shared. But, what about the people side of this massive change?

Those of you who’ve launched a new CS team or are actively engaged in the good work of starting a new CS team can sympathize with the tremendous effort required to overcome the internal culture clash created by adding new people, with new responsibilities. I think this is especially true for organizations not “born in the cloud” that are pursuing this new customer motion.

Before going too far, I want to set the right expectation. You won’t get the answer on how to resolve and eradicate culture clashes by reading further. Five years into our CS journey and I haven’t fully cracked the code. There are few weeks where friction doesn’t arise. What I do hope to share are learnings I’ve made along the way that positively bend your change curve.

1) Communicate, communicate, communicate.

More importantly, prepare your team with the script and value proposition for different stakeholders. Make sure they know how to articulate the swim lane they’re in, how it benefits your customers, and why it’s of value to the organization. As a leader, you can’t be everywhere, but your team can amplify the message.

2) Be open to feedback from internal teams and customers + count on friction.

There’s no specific recipe for making this change and you’re bound to burn a few batches before you get it right. Learn from the mistakes and receive the feedback as a gift. If you’re uncomfortable with conflict this is going to be hard. It’s inevitable that conflicts will arise and how you respond will set the tone for your team and the organization.

3) Shed light on customer-first issues.

Identify the right operating mechanism for your organization to highlight and transparently share the issues and successes felt by customers. We use a weekly summary highlighting updates on critical accounts both positive and negative with help needed.

4) Define the values/behaviors you expect from the team.

Here’s what we chose:

  • We’re advocates for customers
  • We seek creative resolution to challenges
  • We keep commitments
  • We instigate collaboration
  • We’re passionate and positive
  • We’re champions of transparency and candor

5) Prepare to communicate again.

There will be turnover in key stakeholders, internally and externally, that require you to reeducate. Don’t presume you can skip this step as you may not be aligned with the message that fills the void.