If you are a Customer Success professional or just an evangelist of it, you likely get what Customer Success is and how it’s achieved. But, for those of you that are intrigued by Customer Success and don’t yet have a firm grasp on how impactful it can be in your organization, it’s important for you to first understand how the Customer Success Manager fights the good fight.

The more I’m asked, what is Customer Success, how does it work, what can we expect from it, how is it measured, and how do we know it’s working, the more I’m looking for stickier ways to explain it. At its core, Customer Success is small ball. For the non-baseball fan, small ball is when a team does all of the little things right and finds ways to manufacture runs the hard way (as opposed to relying on home runs or big innings). You likely have heard the term, “grinding out a win?” Well, it’s done this way: Walks, bunts, sacrifice flies, squeeze plays, singles, stolen bases, smart base running, and dependable defense. To most casual observers of the game, none of this is sexy. None of it makes crowds gasp. None of it makes people take notice. To a true fan though, well, most appreciate a surgical approach to winning games. After all, it’s those key elements that allow teams to sustain greatness.

The Customer Success (CS) discipline wins games the same way. CS doesn’t make an impact by having big heroic moments. Nope, no game winning grand slams here. Rather, Customer Success Managers make their bacon by getting their uniform dirty. Doing all of the little things right to keep the customer on the path to success. No one is going to high-five a CSM for sending a check-in email, escalating a support issue, or for giving the customer a heads up on a new feature. Truth be told, if the CSM is doing their job, most fellow employees won’t even notice (see here for more on this topic: The Invisible CSM). Come renewal time, the happy, healthy customer will think nothing about quietly signing a renewal that was never in doubt, thanks to the never-ending efforts of the relentless CSM.

Unlike most other functions, Customer Success is not measured as simply as: Action=result. For example, a Sales Rep will drive the sales process and it will conclude with a yes or a no. Action…result. A Software Engineer will write code and publish the code. Action…result. A Project Manager will guide a project to completion. Action…result. Customer Success on the other hand is just not as black and white. For instance, I’ve had many customers over the years that were unresponsive. No matter how hard I tried, they just wouldn’t take my bait. Yet, in many of those cases, the customer eventually said something to the effect of, “I really appreciate your efforts.” Or, “None of my other vendors pay this much attention to me.” Those are wonderful things to hear and the likely result is a renewal, but along the way, there were no accolades to be had. In fact, on the surface, it just looked like I was spinning my wheels and not getting the desired result. However, my persistence made a positive impact with the customers. Again, it’s not sexy, it’s small ball.

One of my favorite evasive customer stories: I was once responsible for a strategic customer we’ll call Acme Design. I reached out to them numerous times. I provided product release information, I passed along tips and tricks, I called, I sent meeting invites, I asked questions about their use cases, etc., etc. Despite all of these attempts, the customer never provided me with a single response. Fast-forward about a year and Acme Design attended one of our customer summits. During a product road map presentation by our executive team, this customer raised his hand and said, “this is great stuff, but before today I was not aware of any of this.” With that comment, and as the sales rep and a few executives turned their eyes to me, I wanted nothing more than to disappear. Well, what I really wanted to do was stand up and remind this customer that I’d tried dozens upon dozens of times to get his attention. Further, I sent him multiple emails that contained many of these same road map items. Clearly he either wasn’t reading them or had a short memory. Fortunately, just as I was being melted by the glare of the execs, he then said, “Dennis has been chasing me for months and I haven’t paid him any attention. Shame on me; look what I’ve been missing.” Just then, the glares turned to gleams and all was right with the world. This customer and I soon became very close and we spoke frequently from then on. I even helped him weather some storms and he eventually signed a sizeable renewal. This was achieved by bunts, aggressive base running, and a sacrifice fly. No home runs. This one was pure grit and determination. It’s really just a day in the life of a CSM.

Now, there certainly are a number of Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that can be tied to Customer Success. Things like renewals, survey results, upgrades, and utilization are all common and meaningful measurements. However, what’s often not understood is how we get there. It’s not always pretty, it’s not always easy, and it’s rarely glamorous. Instead it’s a steady and consistent focus on the many little things that keep the customer on track. None of it high-five worthy, it’s just small ball.