The customer success industry is still maturing, yet the profession is one of the fastest-growing in the world. There are tons of books and blogs written by success professionals sharing their experiences and strategies, but how do customer success leaders know what will work for their specific situation? Whose advice is the expertise they can trust?

Wayne McCulloch has more than twenty years of experience in the software industry—years spent in training, adoption, and customer experience, the building blocks for customer success. Now he’s sharing what he knows as a chief customer officer leading global success functions.

In The Seven Pillars of Customer Success, Wayne provides an adaptable framework for building a strong customer success organization. I recently caught up with Wayne to learn more about his journey writing this book and his favorite ideas he shares with readers.

Published with permission from the author.

What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?

Like thousands before me, I pivoted my career into the world of customer success, and I found it extremely difficult to understand how to build an impactful customer success organization. There are so many amazing thought leaders that often share tips and tricks of how to execute many of the deliverables a customer success manager would need to do as part of their job, but there was almost nothing about how to build a customer success organization.

There is no industry standard or framework about how to build an impactful client focused organization, let alone one that can accommodate the differences like small or large companies, public versus private, etc. So I built it… over three years, hundreds of conversations, reading thousands of blogs and articles, and finally experiencing things as a chief customer officer and/or head of customer success teams at multiple companies.

What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?

Here are a couple for people who may not be so familiar with the content. The first is that customer success is like the Australian outback—it’s wild, untamed, and unmapped. My grandparents taught me the tools to survive in the Australian bush. They taught me how to read a map and use a compass. They taught me how to conserve energy and resources and how to use a pocketknife. I even spent three weeks in the bush with nothing but a backpack, a small amount of food, and a bivvy (yep, that’s Australian slang right there).

My grandparents knew I needed those skills and those tools to survive in the bush, should I get lost. They knew, from experience, I couldn’t do it on my own. Customer success is no different. To build an excellent customer success organization, to really survive in the world of customer success, there are a series of tools you will need to scale your best practices in a repeatable way. The Customer Success Toolbox has ten tools to add to your arsenal—weapons you have at your disposal in the battle to survive (and thrive) in the customer success outback:

  1. Moments of Truth
  2. Playbooks
  3. Customer Health
  4. Customer Risk Framework
  5. Customer Success Plans
  6. Segmentation
  7. Voice of the Customer
  8. QBRs and EBRs
  9. Customer Delight
  10. Metrics

The second idea involves a classic problem with a delightfully simple solution. In every company, I have seen confusion over who owns the customer. Sales says, “I closed that account; that’s mine. You need to talk to me every time you talk to them.” And the services team responds, “We’re deploying this software right now, so you need to butt out and let us handle the customer.” And when something goes wrong, who gets yelled at?

I’ll point you to this quote from Scott Hudgins, the Chief Commercial Officer at Walt Disney World Resort: “No one owns the customer, but someone always owns the moment.” When everyone understands and focuses on owning the moment, rather than the customer, these discrepancies magically disappear. Hudgins is spot-on, and it’s obvious Disney is pretty good at this. Their customer experience is unrivaled because they’re clear on who owns the moment.

In SaaS and cloud companies, we need to define who owns the moment and to do everything they can to make the experience, these moments of truth, great for the customer.

Published with permission from the author.

What’s a story of how you’ve applied this lesson in your own life? What has this lesson done for you?

Actually I’d like to turn this on it’s head a little. As implied above, I grew up on a farm with my grandparents, and they had the foresight to arm me with a set of tools to allow me to navigate difficult situations (like being lost in the outback). I take the skills with me into my adulthood in everything I do (like when I backpacked around the world for a year after college).

It was early in my customer success career that I realized that we need to do the same thing for our customers. We need to give our customer success teams the tools to be able to navigate whatever situation comes up. We can’t prepare for everything (can anyone say pandemic), but we can give our team the tools to enable them to respond in a way that helps our customers succeed! So, in a way, my life is built into the framework I designed in the book, which I hope impacts many people’s lives (and careers) in the future!