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Is Your Business Barreling Down the Highway Using Only a Rear View Mirror?

May 9, 2016 - 5 Comments

When it comes to Customer Success, it’s common to focus on “rear view mirror” measurements such as revenue, renewal rates, etc. But even more critical is the “windshield” view—your forward-looking metrics, consisting of customer health scores, enhanced value exchange, engagement indexes and more.


Where many businesses fall short with Customer Success is their one-dimensional focus on rear view metrics. They let renewal or annuity revenue serve as their ultimate post-sale goal, and they forget that the privilege of receiving this high-value revenue is earned when all the right things are done for their customers leading up to that point in time.


Click here for more customer success resources and best-practices in post-sale customer engagement


The truth is, forward-looking metrics should be an indicator of what will happen when you are presented with an opportunity for a renewal or an annuity. Post-sale renewal transactions should be a non-event—a non-issue—because you’ve earned the right to them. You’ve exchanged tremendous value and the customer achieved and exceeded their outcomes, making it an easy decision to continue to do business with you.


The Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) calls this concept “Outcome Engineering”. It involves listening intently and actively to customers, and being incredibly responsive to their needs.


One Goal: Delivering Business Outcomes


TSIA says Outcome Engineering has emerged in response to the growing demand for technology providers to deliver measurable business outcomes, not just “whiz-bang technical capabilities.” Their research shows that this approach unlocks margin potential -encouraging customers to put new budget dollars on the table while allowing the supply chain to compete more effectively on value instead of price.


What kind of business outcomes are our customers looking for? Growth, profits, success and more. They each have their own business goals and definitions of success. That’s why it’s important to have a discovery process up front—to gain an understanding of their vision, and to take it further by helping them imagine what’s possible above and beyond that vision. Often, the goals they set up front are table stakes for what we need to achieve to get the maximum possible value exchange and to truly allow technology to transform their business, not just improve it.


It Takes an Entire Company


Outcome Engineering and the importance of delivering on the promise of technology are foundational to Cisco’s efforts on a global scale. These concepts are a guiding force behind our work for the simple reason that we want our customers to excel through use of our products and services so that their faith and trust in the value that we deliver grows.


We’ve found that the only way to earn this level of trust is through a “whole company” effort. From product development to marketing, sales, operations, service and support, Customer Success spans the organization and doesn’t fit into any single function or discipline.


Yes, we can build telemetry into products so that we can help customers understand how to use them, and we can implement digital platforms to have an ongoing dialogue with customers throughout their journey with us. But neither of these efforts can stand alone to drive comprehensive Customer Success— because a single weak link, anywhere within the organization, can lead to failure.


The entire business must rally behind the cause. Together with our partners, all of us at Cisco believe that our future, and our collective success (or failure), rides on the willingness of everyone pitching in and doing their part.


The Silver Bullet: Data


As digital disruption happens all around us, those of us with survival instincts are searching for the silver bullet—the best way to compete more effectively as customers demand more value along with real-time results and a personalized experience. The way Gartner explains it is that by 2016, 89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, versus 36% four years ago.


A customer-centric approach is indeed the way of the future. And to understand customer needs, we know that emphasis must be placed on data analytics and partner insights. To address the need for real-time results and value, scalable automation and simplified, streamlined operations are required.


Cisco is ahead of the curve in adopting all of these pillars as part of our company-wide Customer Success strategy. We are asking our partners to actively engage with us as we rely upon these pillars to transform together for the changing digital economy.


It all starts with measuring and monitoring customer health. As you do so, be sure to look both forward and backward with your metrics. This 360-degree perspective will allow us to go “all in” together to ensure the solutions we deliver produce the outcomes that our customers expect—and deserve.


For more of my perspectives on this topic, take a look at my post on the APJC Network.

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  1. When the natural tendency for customers is towards churn, and the expectation is for the vendor/partner to make them wildly successful, we must be relentless in our pursuit to deliver. Customer success trumps all. Great article Scott - thank you.

  2. Great blog Scott. I can see Cisco transforming into an "outcome engineering" based trusted advisor enabling customers to achieve their business outcomes. I am confident that GVSCS would lead the efforts under your leadership.

  3. Great article Scott. Thanks for sharing. It's great to have you in your new role leading GVSCS. I'm looking forward to partnering with you as we rally together to execute on your vision here.

  4. Thank you Scott for sharing your insight into Customer Success, the article really resonated with myself being a Customer Success Manager in EMEAR. There were many key points I could reference in the article but for me if I was to pick just one it would "Customer Success spans the organization and doesn’t fit into any single function or discipline." It really does take the whole company to pull together to understand what the customer's business outcomes are and for us to be a trusted advisor to helping them achieve their goals.

  5. Greta article Scott! As a certified Net Promoter Score Cisco employee, I attended the recent Unite conference and the key themes are exactly this: digitisation through insight into the customer journey to help is everybody's job (only 3% of avg employees 'feel' they are customer facing and actually making a difference - schocking!)! Let's accelerate Cisco and our customers forward!