In my earlier days as a customer success manager, I remember getting this irate email from a customer. I don’t remember which customer and I don’t remember exactly what they said but I do remember wanting to find the marketer from my company that sent them the email and giving them a peace of my mind. How dare they send an email to MY customer telling them that they are not “compliant” with their contract and would have to pay more for our product. I just spoke to that same customer the other day and we had worked out a success plan that would put them on a path to renew. Thanks to the joy of marketing automation, the email sent to MY customer appeared as though I sent it. Thanks marketing. That’s just what I needed. We’re now screwed. The battle lines between customer success and marketing have been drawn.
Who Can Communicate to the Customer? Marketing vs. Customer Success
As someone who worked for a marketing automation vendor, I focused mostly on sales and marketing alignment issues. This was the big challenge that my customers faced. Marketing automation was meant to facilitate a better relationship between these two arch rivals. That’s really all I cared about – how to help my customers. Right under my nose, there was another inter-departmental fight that was happening. My guns were already blazing but I didn’t realize I was shooting myself in the foot.
This battle is something relatively new to B2B organizations as the customer success department is a more recent development and these two groups typically had separate goals. Times have changed. Many marketing organizations are charged with marketing through the entire customer lifecycle and that’s when these two groups started to bump heads regularly. This is especially true in subscription based SaaS models.
Marketing started to dip its toe in the post-sale customer experience more regularly. Many marketing departments are now responsible for ensuring that customers renew and for discovering upsell and cross-sell opportunities. This is an area that customer success needed help. Customer success doesn’t have the budget to hire people to create regular customer updates like newsletters and to manage user forums. Customer success does have a difficult time keeping in touch with all of their clients and exposing upsell opportunities. Customer success gets annoyed when the sales team keeps asking them for references – they don’t have time for this. Customer success can organize user groups but they still need help from marketing to manage the invite and registration process. They need help if they want the event to have more than a few donuts and coffee for attendees. The customer success team needs the marketing team but are these two groups ready to work with each other?
You Don’t Own the Customer: We All Do!
Stop being in denial about who owns the customer! It’s not YOUR customer. You, as a customer success manager, don’t fully own this relationship. You, as a marketer, don’t have a G-d given right to send any emails you want to customers. This has to stop! The first step is recognizing there is a problem and that the current approach is hurting your reputation with your customers. Once you recognize this, you can then work together to create an amazing customer experience that your customers will love. Let’s do this!
Congrats on moving past the denial stage. Stay tuned for my next post which will include tips on how to align marketing and customer success in the modern B2B organization.
What are your suggestions on how to improve this relationship? Should customer success form its own operations group or hire its own customer marketer? Do you agree that there are alignment issues?