Culture Success is the New Customer Success

April 23, 2018

In today’s economy, it’s no longer contested that Customer Success is of paramount importance to the longevity and success of any business that a.) has a subscription model b.) relies on referrals or c.) cares about providing value. I should hope at least one of those applies to every business.


But that wasn’t always the case. When I began my tenure in the Customer Success world 4 years ago at Gainsight, Customer Success was where I think Culture Success is today: some of us see it as imperative, others think of it as still kind of a buzz word, most people acknowledge it’s important but don’t do enough to be proactive. We are seeing great strides in businesses treating their employees as holistic people, but we still see companies sacrifice the wellbeing of its employees for the wellbeing of its customers or shareholders.


That is a mistake, and it will lead to your failure.


Here are some key principles I learned about the imperative nature of Customer Success that absolutely apply to Culture Success as well:


1.) If your customers aren’t satisfied, they’ll go away and you’ll go bankrupt. No business can survive without its customers. Just like you sell a vision and a promise of value to your customers, you sell it to your employees too, every day. And if you don’t live up to that, and they feel like they could do and feel better elsewhere, then that is absolutely an option for them. So give them a reason to stay that’s not something they could get just anywhere else: a positive environment that motivates, rewards, and uplifts them.


2.) Sell to the right customer. Selling to the wrong customer can cost you a lot of time, money, and frustration trying to fit a need that just doesn’t match what you’re offering. Just so, the wrong employee can cost you bad vibes, bad work, and bad reputation, and the damage control that goes along with that is painful. So have a set of criteria that helps your hiring managers define what the right teammate does look like, just like you have a set of customer criteria for your sales people. Then screen candidates, screen their references, and screen their attitudes about key values. You might still be wrong sometimes, but the point is about getting away from the method of “fill that [quota]/[hiring] gap with whoever bites”. There’s also a bright side to selling/hiring the right customer/employee - the right ones will teach you a lot and help you improve your product because they fit your vision and are inspired to help.


3.) Happy customers are the best salespeople. An advocate customer can get you into better deals and more of them than you would’ve captured just via your lead generating organization. This is similar to employees - great talent have great networks, and when you’re hiring, having amazing people urging their amazing connections to consider the opportunity is a powerful source of top talent. Mobilize the power of referrals by delighting your employees relentlessly.


Culture Success and Customer Success are analogous, and they’re also complementary. Happy employees will drive happy customers, which drives a happy business. So start nurturing the root cause of where all your success comes from: your people.



~Serra Hetzel, Head of Culture Consulting