Welcome to our blog series CSM from the Trenches, a community for frontline Customer Success Managers (CSMs) that discusses trends, best practices, and advice for the frontline.
Being on the CSM frontline allows us to directly influence the success of our clients. I love that; as our clients are successful, we’re successful. Each day we learn from the trenches what it takes to make clients happy and successful.
Let’s move forward with this week’s blog post!
An Adoption Change Management Customer Success Story
Change management processes and strategies are key to drive the type of software adoption with our clients that leads them to positive outcomes and ultimately customer success. Let me start with a change management story about a challenge my family was facing.
Challenges Create Business Objectives
Like most families, mine has a group text thread for us to share personal updates, pictures, and other information; however, ours comes with a particularly annoying pain point. Due to some sort of bug or issue, whenever my dad responds to the group message a separate thread is created for those with an iPhone that automatically excludes one of my sister’s numbers.
My dad has spent several hours on multiple occasions with Apple and Verizon support to troubleshoot, but with no luck. Each company—despite their best efforts to help—ultimately apologized for the inconvenience and suggested we work with the other party involved (Apple told us to go to Verizon, Verizon told us to go to Apple).
Long-story short: my family had a problem that needed to be solved. We’d grown tired of having to constantly delete the bugged thread that was automatically being created and didn’t include one of my sisters.
Our objective was to be able to message each other without having a separate thread started that excluded some of our family members.
To have successful software adoption and really make a challenge, it’s obviously important to ensure you know the key business objectives and goals of your customers. That is simple, but many people start trying to drive adoption without knowing the key business objectives.
Back to my story.
Objectives Create Opportunities to Solve Problems
Around that same time, a co-worker was telling me how he and his wife used Slack to communicate with each other. My only experience with Slack was tied directly to my work at ClientSuccess, so I was a little surprised to hear people used it outside that setting. My co-worker easily sold me on the idea by explaining how the ability to create channels made it easy to sort through various categories. For example, they’d created a #bucketlist channel for vacations, activities, and other dreams they wanted to do. Best part was all their communication was well-organized and no one was excluded.
My family’s objective to be able to be able to message each other without having some family members excluded presented an opportunity to solve the problem we were having.
Key Sponsors Need to Be Bought In to Drive Adoption, Right?
I worked with my parents (the executive sponsors of the relationship) on why Slack would be a great fit for our family and quickly “closed the deal”. Before setting up our family workspace, I explained to each of my siblings and sister-in-laws why we were making the switch to Slack. While some were initially more bought-in than others, everyone was willing to give it a 30-day trial.
Achieving Objectives, While Important, Is Only Part of the Story
I onboarded my family to Slack over the course of the next few weeks, taking on most of the responsibility to make us successful using the new tool; in a very real sense, I was their assigned customer success manager.
As their “success manager”, I knew very clearly what our objective was: to be able to message each other without having some of the family excluded. So I went to work. I created our workspace, invited each member to join, configured the workspace, provided training, answered questions and did my best to drive user-adoption. One-by-one, my family members slowly joined.
We ultimately achieved our objective – our new Slack workspace provided a means to message each other where all family members could be included. As an added benefit, organized channels allowed family members to follow the topics they wanted. Slack was an ideal solution.
Or so I thought.
User Adoption Might Be Equally as Important as Achieving Objectives
Despite having worked through onboarding to excite my family members (the end users) about Slack and its capabilities, user adoption struggled. One family member never even created an account to join the trial and a majority of the others hardly gave it a half-effort (at best).
In a business review of sorts, I met with my parents (the executive sponsors) to discuss our usage of Slack. They were happy we had achieved our objective by implementing the tool, but they were concerned that not all of our family was adopting. Afterwards, I turned to my siblings to try to understand their perspective and why they were struggling.
It was immediately clear why adoption was at risk: the use of a separate app was “inconvenient” and while the new features were nice, it was “too different and more complicated” than what they were used to through text messaging.
Our 30-day trial was soon over and the end users had spoken. We were going to switch back to our group text messaging where we’d still experience the separate thread bug, which was our objective to resolve in the first place.
My family was unwilling to change certain behaviors in order to achieve a greater objective, and they didn’t even give the opportunity a full chance.
Customer “Success” Requires Partnership, Change Management
While my family situation wasn’t a high-stakes relationship, it does illustrate two key customer success principles:
- User adoption is equally as important to achieving objectives
- Achieving an objective often requires behavioral change.
Key Learning of User Adoption
Greg Daines—known as the “churn whisperer”—has said “if a customer follows the same behaviors, they’ll often achieve the same results they always have”. Of course each company and CSM must do their part to provide the best user experience possible. But end users must also be willing to change certain behaviors for any partnership to be successful. A partnership, after all, requires cooperation.
We need to be equally diligent in helping both our executive sponsors achieve their objectives and driving user adoption through change management.
Though partnerships do require some degree of cooperation from our clients, CSMs need to help end users understand why they’re being asked to change certain behaviors and how they should apply best practices in order to achieve greater objectives.
Here are other customer success resources:
Customer Success eBooks:
Other CSM from the Trenches Posts:
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