Paul Estes is the bestselling author of Gig Mindset and an advocate for the gig and creator economies who believes in opportunities for all.
We live in a world that is shifting to be more focused on outcomes, and less on the tools used to achieve them. And the explosive growth of the gig economy, valued at nearly $5 trillion based on data from 2019, shows that we are shifting to outcomes on demand.
Remember a time when having “proficient in Excel” on your resume was a thing? Now you would emphasize the skills, outcomes and impact you could bring to a company.
People will change the tools they use many times in a career. Being proficient in some tool doesn’t matter. Being proficient in meaningful outcomes does. Countless new tools are being built every day, but what can you deliver with them? How do you use Word to create value, whether you’re writing award-winning articles or outlining new product specs?
A Better Approach for Better Outcomes
Companies must evolve their approach to prioritize outcomes over features. SaaS companies are notorious for launching an exhaustive list of features, accompanied by detailed educational and self-help content on how to use those features. Yet around 80% of product features are “rarely or never used.”
The explosion of features makes outcomes harder to achieve and puts pressure on customers to become experts in everything. But customers don’t have time to learn how to use five different features overnight. They just want to get to their desired outcome.
‘We Can Control Our Own Destiny’: John Zimmer Shares Lyft’s Vision For The Company’s Future And $1 Trillion Market Opportunity
Four New Microsoft Surface Computers Plus A Folding Phone—And Other Small Business Tech News
The LSE Alumni Turning Their University Into A Startup Powerhouse
Customer success is a relatively new domain. SaaS companies initially invested in CS initiatives to drive engagement and combat churn, but rising competition and customer expectations are pushing providers to offer services that drive successful outcomes for customers. Companies are investing in a wide variety of customer enablement services. According to a survey conducted by SaaS Capital, SaaS companies spend between 10% to 15% of their annual recurring revenues (ARR) on customer support and success. But only one-third of customers are satisfied with the current level of services they are receiving, as shown in data from a 2020 Deloitte report. Although 90% of customers discussed their business goals with technology providers, almost 50% said purchased solutions only partially delivered their desired outcomes.
When it comes to customer success, the toolbox is no longer important; it’s the handyman that counts. If you want to lead in CS, start listening to what your customers want instead of broadcasting about your product’s features — and then connect them with humans who can help. Here are three strategies for rethinking the way you approach customer success.
The most important thing you can do to improve any relationship is actively listening, and this is certainly true for the relationship you have with your customers. Lean into the communities that have formed around your product and your customers’ intended outcomes. Do you really understand what they are trying to accomplish? What are their “jobs to be done”? What are their needs, desires, gripes, stumbling blocks?
Companies broadcast but often do not have systems to listen authentically. If you haven’t yet established an effective method of digital listening, make it a priority. Look to companies that are building digital listening into their experiences. Brands like Amazon Echo and Stitch Fix excel at listening to deliver personalized experiences and deliver desired outcomes for their customers.
2. Get on board with the gig economy.
Customer success doesn’t scale internally. You simply won’t have the budget to hire enough people to support the CS of the future. You’ll end up cherry-picking a couple of top accounts, working on their objectives and trying to find ways to measure results to justify the spend.
The alternative is far more scalable and sustainable. There is a huge population of creators in the gig economy who are monetizing their skills to help people with specific goals. Recent research from Mastercard shows that freelancers account for a larger portion of the global workforce than ever before. A significant percentage of this freelance population is made up of gig workers who are connected to customers via digital platforms. And in a 2021 Monster survey, 92% of respondents said that, because of the pandemic, they think now is a good time to look into gig work.
Smart brands recognize the importance of this trend and are investing in providing outcomes on demand for their customers. Leaders in industries such as home design (Pottery Barn), accounting (QuickBooks), legal help (LegalZoom) and notary services (Notarize), are integrating experts in their product experiences to reduce friction and help customers achieve specific outcomes. The experts make these experiences meaningful and effective, and the features take a back seat.
3. Connect your customers with your community.
Look beyond conventional CS metrics, like NPS, new account sales and up-sell and cross-sell revenue, that are really just sales drivers. Start exploring ways to augment your customer success with your community and partner ecosystems. First, ask this simple question: How can we help?
What do your customers want to accomplish, and what expertise does your community offer? Match experts from your community to customers’ outcomes, whether they need help legally forming an LLC, preparing their books for tax season or getting documents notarized remotely.
Customer success is a service that will continue to be focused on outcomes, not features or tools. If you actively listen to your customers, identify their needs and connect them with on-demand experts in your community, you will keep finding new opportunities to serve your customers and outshine your competitors.