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The Future of Work for Customer Success

If there is anything the global pandemic has shown us, it is that there is a massive opportunity for organizations to re-think the modern workplace. Many have been doing just that in an attempt to stay afloat during uncertain times.

Those that have been able to successfully make the shift to operating a remote and oftentimes geographically distributed workforce will survive and even prosper. We have already seen what has happened to organizations that have not.

At the start of the pandemic, I spoke with leaders of many companies who were very effective at the practicalities of standing up a DigitalHQ overnight. Empowering employees with personal laptops, enabling remote network access, doubling their licenses for Zoom, Slack, and other collaboration tools.

Organizations were experimental, and hit or miss at salvaging company culture. Virtual team happy hours, daily stand ups, and community interest groups were all the rage for a period of time. Inevitably, people vacillated between the delight of becoming intimately acquainted with their couch, to irritable, frustrated, and bored with the seemingly never-ending reality of being plastered to a screen with a dog or child underneath. It turns out that human connection matters.

It matters for a lot of reasons. The ability to build meaningful connections with our colleagues, to co-create and innovate, and to serve our customers with dedication and compassion. The workplace as we know it (or knew it), will probably never be as it was. As the workplace evolves, humans too, will inevitably adapt. And thus, let us reimagine a new workspace of the future.

There are many fantasies that I can muster about a modern workplace. Offices turned to smaller collaboration hubs where teams convene quarterly to ideate and bond, archaic and inefficient processes and ways of working optimized through collaboration software, and eventually collaborative virtual spaces powered by virtual reality (thanks, Google Magic Leap). The list goes on, innovation is most certainly in the works as I write this article.

Apart from cutting-edge technology, as a Customer Success professional, what fascinates me is how these changes to the workplace will impact our industry. In particular, our ability to deliver customer value, and grow in our careers to shape the industry we know and love.

Delivering customer value

It must have been a joy to visit customers at their offices on a frequent basis. I entered the field just about a year ago, so I missed that boat. However, having been in a customer-facing role prior I recognize the importance of in-person interaction — to build meaningful relationships with leaders who bought and champion your technology, to understand their priorities, challenges, and motivations, and get to the crux of their business challenges so you can help to solve them.

Executive Business Reviews (EBRs) are where the magic happens, and mindshare is a scarce commodity these days. I’ve delivered several EBRs over Zoom, it has been surprisingly pretty effective at bringing us together. But I’d be remiss if I failed to acknowledge that the organic brainstorm which used to take place between four walls, and the resulting train of thought divulged from a leader’s subconscious that is so vital to inform your account strategy, is anticlimactic and lacking over video. It must be something about the awkward lighting.

I’ve heard of wonderful success stories from my peers who have invested a tremendous amount of energy to architect a virtual experience that feels personal and intimate. It requires a lot of advanced planning and the right buy-in and enthusiasm from both sides. But it can and it has been done, and I continue to be inspired by Customer Success professionals who rise to the challenge.

As we adjust to a new normal where teams are spread across the country and the globe as office space consolidates, and our customers look for ways to keep their employees engaged, hit their revenue targets, and optimize their operations, how can we show up for our customers with grace and dedication to our craft?

We will need to consider ways to build productive and valued relationships with decision-makers across every stage of a customer’s journey with our product, invest deeply and continuously to understand their business as it evolves, and go the extra mile to make them feel appreciated, heard, and understood. We value you and your business, has never been more important than it is today.

Growing our careers

What brought me into this field is the joy and gratification I get to feel every day by making my customers more successful in their careers. To me, Customer Success is about not only partnering with your customer so they can use your product better, but also to support them along their career journey. Technology is a means to an end, after all.

It’s the people who use your product every day to get their jobs done and be productive, thoughtful, and valued members of their teams that really matter. Making a difference in their lives as they tackle the challenges and opportunities that they encounter at work and in the world is what I wake up for every day.

As companies move to a new model and experiment with hybrid ways of working, it’s inevitable that we will lose some of the human element that makes most of us in this field feel engaged and invigorated. Fielding repeat interactions and watercooler chat that provoke new ideas and opportunities to co-collaborate so that we can learn from each other’s experiences can be challenging while remote. But we have persevered, and the resilience I have witnessed in the face of global chaos and adversity is truly awe-inspiring.

Technology has worked wonders to recreate an organic collaborative experience, and connect us to peers we might not have thought to engage in the office. Thriving virtual communities of Customer Success professionals and enthusiasts have sprung up virtually overnight. I have had the pleasure of engaging and learning from many people I might not have been motivated to meet online otherwise.

Looking to the future

The question I find myself asking is what ways can we ensure our industry and the people who make it so special thrive in the modern workspace? We should feel empowered to influence organizations to invest in creating immersive and collaborative experiences that bring cross-functional teams together to learn often.

We should leverage technology in the absence of in-person engagement to bring our colleagues with us along our journeys with customers. These experiences are so important for us to pioneer and champion innovation of our products, create even more value for our customers, and learn from each other to mature the industry as a whole.

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