Dreamforce 2014 and Customer SuccessNow that the dust has settled on Dreamforce 2014, it’s time to reflect on some of the highlights from last week’s sessions.

This Dreamforce was especially compelling as “Customer Success” was front and center. Marc Benioff shared an incredible vision around how companies can harness the huge volume of customer data to deliver the best customer experience possible. Dreamforce certainly helped drive even greater awareness and placed Customer Success on the map, but as we head back to managing our customers, what does this really mean for Customer Success? How can Customer Success Managers and Leaders incorporate the Dreamforce vision to the work at hand right now?

After speaking with numerous Customer Success Managers, leaders and SaaS executives at Dreamforce 2014, here are a few takeaways as well as things you can do right now to move Customer Success forward at your company.

Customer Success: The Profession

I was honored to speak at the Women in Tech panel to kick off Dreamforce 14. It was a fantastic opportunity to discuss how women are growing their footprint in technology with other inspiring leaders. The theme for this year’s event was how to cultivate one’s personal brand and leadership style.

One of the main points I highlighted pertains to Customer Success professionals of all genders: we must to do a better job of developing and amplifying our personal brands. In Customer Success, we are typically not the ones on stage and in the spotlight. We’re usually behind the curtain busy getting our customers on stage. And yet making a more deliberate effort to share our voice as strategic leaders couldn’t be more important.

It may seem tough to carve out the time to develop your personal brand but this can have a major impact on your personal career goals, the value you bring to your company, and ultimately the success of your customers. Sharing valuable insights and thought leadership is expected of modern CEOs, CMOs and other parts of the eStaff. Customer Success leaders shouldn’t be excluded from that.

At the very least, we need to ensure we have an updated LinkedIn profile. We can also boost our personal brand by participating in networking events, sharing curated content through social networks on a regular pace, and creating our own thought-leadership stories. It can be as simple as sharing tweets about our industry or more involved like contributing to industry blog posts or leveraging the LinkedIn publishing platform. Remember, we as Customer Success Managers and Leaders have the best source of content around: the voice of the customer. Tap into that powerful voice to help guide the way.

Dreamforce 2014Technology and Tools to Empower Customer Success

The volume of data Customer Success Managers must harness is massive. Whether it is individual usage data, community participation, surveys, customer sentiment or even the tickets filed with support, it simply isn’t possible to manage all this information across more just a few customers without the help of technology. During the 4 in 40: SMB Customers session, investing in Customer Success and empowering teams with one view of customer data was central to our panel discussion. Multiple startups, SMBs and operators in large businesses talked about the urgent need to add an operationalized layer for their post-sales Success organizations in order to maintain customers for life.

It was also great to engage in a discussion around how companies can not only manage the tsunami of customer data, but also make sense of it so that Customer Success can take action on this information. Establishing One View of the Customer is only the first step. We also discussed the importance of an Early Warning System and an accurate Health Score are keys for building the foundation of a world-class Customer Success organization.

In order to move towards Marc’s vision of a connected customer experience, organizations must first invest in building the right foundation. Being able to parse through the volumes of data that live within and outside of Salesforce.com and present that information to the right people in actionable ways will be competitive differentiator. It will make the difference between a proactive and personalized customer experience versus one that is reactive, impersonal, and disjointed.

Customer Success: The Future

Thanks to Dreamforce 14 there’s an even bigger buzz around “Customer Success.” But it is up to us as managers and leaders to truly drive our profession forward and build ensure Customer Success is viewed as a strategic role and department in our respective companies that has its rightful seat at the table.

While Customer Success is still an evolving discipline, it is clear that it’s outgrown its roots of being an offshoot of Services and Support. Customer Success is not a Support re-brand. In a number of organizations, Customer Success is owning revenue, in charge of advocacy programs, and having a strong impact on the full lifecycle marketing.

Who is going to ensure the business outcomes are achieved? It’s not Sales … it’s Customer Success. Who is going to manage the business data and intelligence that allows organizations to understand where they are in the current relationship (the land) and identify opportunities to expand? It’s not Services … it’s Customer Success. Who is going to advocate for product gaps to be closed or feature ideas to be developed that will drive even greater business value or even open up opportunities to expand. It’s not Support … it’s Customer Success. Who will nurture a customer relationship so that they will become one of your army of advocates. It’s not Marketing … it’s Customer Success.

It’s up to us to take the momentum from Dreamforce and drive Customer Success -the department – to become the modern post-sales organization.