Help customers become the heroes of their own storiesby
Sue Nabeth Moore argues that software can only take a business so far, and that in order to truly succeed, businesses need to empower their customers to be accountable for their own success.
With the massive surge of software investment, it is not surprising that companies are often overwhelmed with their software adoption efforts.
According to Statistics, the average number of Software as a Service (SaaS) applications used by worldwide organisations has exploded from 5 in 2015 to 110 in 2021.
There are also huge ongoing initiatives to make software more intuitive and user-friendly, including: design with agile methodologies, improved UX, offering more plug-and-play, embedding more product led growth (PLG) approaches, and placing the end-user at the centre of the product development strategy.
Fleshware v Software
However, despite the improvement and sophistication of software currently available, this technology can not generate business impact all by itself.
Software adoption is not just about using a new tool but about how the associated business environment is also impacted.
These business contexts are always made up of very human drivers: company culture, organisation, regulations, procedures, processes, politics, data governance, routines, and behaviours.
These well anchored human elements are usually the most challenging aspects to comprehend when driving the adoption of new software.
The new tool is, after all, usually relatively easy to learn. The hard part is how to incorporate this tool knowledge sustainably into the ‘business as usual’ context and the associated human elements.
This is why these human elements and change management have always been critical to ensure the successful deployment of software.
According to Standish Group’s annual CHAOS report, 66% of technology projects (based on the analysis of 50,000 projects globally) end in partial or total failure. This illustrates that despite the efforts over the last years to improve software development and its adoption, the real challenges still lie in the fleshware and not the software.
In customer success (CS), while customer success managers (CSMs) share expertise around the tool and the domain with their customers, they may not directly intervene with all of the above-mentioned human elements on site.
It is important to note that CSMs usually have up to several hundred customers to partner – depending on the segments – and change management is not their direct responsibility.
Customers themselves are the ones responsible for driving their own change and celebrating its success. While not directly driving change on site, vendors may however, provide guidelines to help their customers anticipate, drive, sustain, and celebrate success.
Having evolved my career from a change management to a customer success consultant, I’m pleased to share the following methodology which helps vendors to guide their customers to become the heroes of their own success.
Activity measurement and performance measurement
This methodology is easy to remember and is called AM/PM: an acronym for Activity Measurement and Performance Measurement, which aims to make a measurable correlation between activities and performance.
Activities include the measurement of human-impacting activities around organisation, processes, routines, behaviours and tool adoption.
By themselves, these activities are not an indicator of success; they act as a means by which we can assess business performance. In this instance, performance includes the measurement of subsequent business results as defined and evolved in the objectives of the customer success plan.
AM/PM in a B2C scenario
An easy example of the A.M./P.M. methodology in a B2C context is using the analogy of a fitness coach. For someone wishing to lose 10 kilos in 6 months (success objective and timeline), they could be encouraged by their fitness coach (CSM) to do and measure the following examples of activities:
- Jog 6 km every day before breakfast.
- Do 30 minutes of gym workout using 4 apparatus every day after the jog.
- Drink 2 glasses of lemon water per day before breakfast and dinner.
- Consume 2,000 calories maximum per day.
- Sleep at least 8 hours per day.
- Stop eating snacks between meals.
All of the above activities can be measured and communicated by the person wishing to lose weight. That person losing weight and the fitness coach can mutually follow and adjust how the above activities contribute to progressing towards the objective of losing the 10 kilos.
In the B2B world, the reason for investment in software is always about increasing revenues or being more cost-effective or productive.
A vendor’s role is to encourage the customer to define precisely what success looks like.
The vendor’s role is to help the customer define precisely what that success looks like to help them progress from their current position to the future successful state. This is where vendors can be effective, by actively listening to what customers are saying about their successful performance.
This often means helping customers to translate vague goals and feedback verbatim into meaningful and tangible performance metrics. For more insights into performance and equivalent metrics, see this award winning blog by Success Chain’s Jason Whitehead.
AM/PM in a B2B situation
To give a B2B example of the AM/PM methodology, let’s use the example of lead generation software. The customer stakeholder in ecommerce B2B has the success target to increase their lead conversion rate from 2.2% to 3.2% by the end of Q4. To reach this success target, examples of recommended and non-exhaustive activity measurements could be:
- Have a dedicated person working full time instead of 4 days per week on lead generation (organisation).
- Increase the number of identified new contacts per week by min 25% (process + tool usage).
- Target +15% of profiles with X characteristics (process + tool usage).
- Increase social media outreach by +20% more campaigns each month (process + tool usage).
- Decrease number of bounced emails (process + tool usage).
- Stop cold calling (process, behaviour).
- Stop using the 10-year-old shared legacy Excel file for lead generation (behaviour).
The above are just examples, and in best practice it is customary to map out AM/PM correlation patterns based on stakeholder/user personas and/or jobs to be done.
This AM/PM correlation is enriched over time thanks to increased data insights from usage, user adoption, and other human activity data communicated by customers (e.g. organisation, processes, routines, behaviour), as well as insights about any related blockers.
Over time, the AM/PM approach becomes a kind of GPS for guiding customers on activities and keeping them on track.
Over time, the AM/PM approach is ideally mapped out for each segment, customer profile, stakeholder, and/or user persona – and becomes a kind of GPS for guiding customers on activities to keep them on track (diverting where necessary) and arriving at their defined destination: successful performance and ROI.
Like in all journeys, the GPS adapts the itinerary according to changing environmental conditions: roadblocks and diversions (emerging blockers and solutions), accident ahead (predictive risks), bad weather (internal threats such as a sponsor leaving or reorganisation), ‘at the next junction, turn right’ (what is the next step), ‘you have arrived at your destination’ (celebrate mutual success with your customer).
Advantages of the AM/PM method
This AM/PM approach provides several advantages:
- Helps drive home to customers that success is achieved through commitment to changing the ways of doing things, like in the above examples.
- Customers have a better understanding that success is not just about tool knowledge. Instead, they understand that the new tool can impact organisation, processes, interaction with other tools, data governance, routines, methods, and behaviours.
- When customers are guided around the human activities and behaviours previously discussed (and not just activities and behaviours around tool adoption), customers become accountable for driving their own internal change and consequent success. Customers usually also become transparent in their communication of any blockers and success related to these human activities.
- When vendors map and enrich patterns of correlation between activity and performance metrics (aka A.M./P.M.), vendors reinforce their expert advisor role in the business domain and operations in which their customers are evolving.
- When vendors onboard new customers, the vendor may proactively propose the ideal A.M./P.M. itinerary to the customer based on the vendor’s increased knowledge and the typical success patterns of previous customers with similar profiles and needs. The vendor and customer may mutually define, follow and adjust – where necessary – the ‘à la carte’ AM/PM metrics as time progresses.
To conclude, this AM/PM approach puts the customer in the limelight of the centre stage, making them the heroes of the story, accountable for driving their own successful destiny.
The vendor, on the other hand, is the expert prompter and guide in the discretion of the stage wings. Whether in or out of the limelight, customer-vendor mutual success is dependent on each other.
If the customer is not successful, nor will be the vendor; if the vendor is not successful, nor will be the customer. And without both, the resulting promise and performance will simply not be delivered.
Voted 2021's Top Customer Success Influencer by Engati and a Top 100 Customer Success Strategist by Success Coaching. My work incorporates:
- Capitalizing on business constraints to boost customer success with the "Boomerang" and OPT-IN² frameworks.
- Creating and helping Customer Success organizations through consulting, coaching,...