As competition among top cloud vendors intensifies, customer success is rapidly emerging as a strategic differentiator far more important than snazzy technology.
It seems dazzlingly obvious: we all want our customers to be successful, right? But the enterprise-tech industry hasn’t always earned a sterling reputation for delivering that type of outcome: complex products, difficult integrations, multiple versions, painful upgrades, promises exceeding reality, and the need for armies of technical experts to keep it all fed and watered and, generally, up and running.
Cloud computing is changing the expectations of customers and the requirements for cloud vendors—and as the cloud continues to move rapidly into the mainstream of global business, a new board-level agenda item has exploded onto the scene: customer success.
Don’t confuse this with customer satisfaction, which is nice, or customer loyalty, which is wonderful—customer success is an entirely different beast, and any cloud vendor that doesn’t prize customer success as a core and top-priority imperative will fail.
If it’s a small cloud vendor that can’t deliver customer success, it will die quickly. If it’s a big cloud vendor that can’t deliver customer success, it will die slowly. But regardless of the timeframe, the end result is the same: the ultimate collapse.
Here’s why: in the old days, tech vendors made the stuff, worked out a deal with a customer, received a check and stuffed it in the bank, and then dropped the stuff off the customer’s loading dock and said, “Thanks, and if there’s any problem, don’t call us—it’s your property now, and any problems are your problems. Good luck.”
Customers were boxed in: they could rant and rave at the vendors who did business that way, but the cost of switching to a different vendor—and most alternatives would operate pretty much exactly the same way—was so high and so painful and so time-consuming that most customers would stick with the incumbent out of necessity rather than by choice. After all, purchases are permanent.
But the cloud flips that inevitability upside-down precisely because of the impermanence of the relationship: the customer rents the service (let’s say a SaaS application) for 3 years, and if that customer’s experience during that 3-year run isn’t a good one, then it’s relatively easy these days to switch to another vendor.