I finished my latest tour of Brazil with a presentation at a Customer Success meetup in São Paulo, organized by Gama Academy and hosted by TOTVS.

Since I wanted to present something new to the crowd — something they hadn’t already heard from me a thousand times — we came up with the idea of presenting the ten biggest mistakes I see companies make when implementing — or transitioning to — Customer Success.

Embedded below is the slide deck I put together for the talk — it’s in Portuguese if you’re so inclined — and below that is the list of the 10 biggest mistakes I see in Customer Success (in English).

(these are in no particular order)

1. Not putting the customer first

This is CUSTOMER Success. If what you’re doing isn’t designed around the customer’s Desired Outcome, I have no idea what you’re doing. You’re doing something, but it’s not Customer Success.

2. Overdelivering / Normalizing the Experience 

The biggest threat to scalability I see is overdelivering for your customers. Segmenting customers around their Appropriate Experience (AX) is what allows you to create an efficiently scalable operation that is designed to ensure the customers achieve their Required Outcome the way they need to achieve it.

3. Success is not defined 

If you aren’t clear what success is for your customers (their Desired Outcome), how can you help them be successful? And if you don’t know what success looks like for your Customer Success initiative, how will you know if it’s contributing to — or taking away from — the business?

4. Focusing only on Required Outcome (and not AX) 

Customer Success is when your customer achieves their Desired Outcome through their interactions with your company, which means Desired Outcome is foundational to Customer Success. And Desired Outcome has two parts — Required Outcome (RO) and Appropriate Experience (AX). If you focus only on the RO, customers will churn even if they get their RO because the AX wasn’t there. Without AX, you’re not doing Customer Success.

5. Confusing Happiness and Success

If you confuse these two things, you may spend time, money, energy, and other resources trying to make “unhappy” customers happy, when if you looked at the data, you may find that they’re your best, most successful customers. And while you were focused on the unhappy customers, those you thought were “happy” churned. Because they weren’t successful. More here.

6. Forgetting we’re working with humans 

For some weird reason, it’s easy to forget that our customers are made up of human beings. Humans have feelings, get distracted, are busy, get pulled in several directions, get our product forced on them by their bosses, have families, get burned out, etc. Do your Customer Success Management playbooks take those things into consideration? If not, they should.

7. Focusing only on Churn Mitigation 

If you only focus on stopping churn, you’ll always be focused on stopping churn. Churn is a symptom of a deeper disease… and that disease is that you’re customers are not achieving their Desired Outcome. I’m sensing a theme here.

8. Not having a Customer Success culture 

Customer Success is an Operating Philosophy… it’s the reason you exist as a company. Or at least it should be if you actually want anything you do in Customer Success Management to actually work. See #10 below for more on how not having Customer Success as the reason your company exists can hurt you.

9. Failing to properly Manage Expectations

If all you did with your customers was properly manage expectations, things would be SO much better. Sales cycles would actually shorten (now they know what to expect post-sale and can start planning), onboarding would be smoother (again, they know what to expect in the first 30, 60, or 90 days), and pretty much everything across their lifecycle will be better. Also a life lesson in there somewhere.

10. Acquiring Bad Fit Customers 

This is one of those little ideas that will challenge the status quo in your business. This is the thing that will prove if you really do have a Customer Success culture or if your executives are all talk. Are you willing to stop signing bad-fit customers? Are you willing to disqualify customers already in the pipeline that do not have Success Potential? If not, why are you investing in Customer Success Management? It’s a waste of money (and other resources) since you’re essentially setting everyone up for failure post-sale… including the customer. Good luck with that.

Again, there are probably a lot more, but those were the most obvious problems I see in companies that are struggling with their Customer Success initiatives. Don’t be like them… avoid these problems and you’ll thrive!


Lincoln Murphy is a world-renowned Growth Consultant, Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker, and one of the earliest evangelists for Customer Success. As the founder of Sixteen Ventures, he’s used Customer Success to drive growth across the entire customer lifecycle for more than 500 companies around the world.

Follow Lincoln on Twitter and Facebook.

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