Every company knows what their products or services are, and most have an idea of how they differentiate themselves through a unique process or value proposition. But the majority of companies stop there. They don’t dig deeper into why they do what they do. Why their company exists, what their overarching purpose is, and what issue or cause drives their decisions.
Inspirational companies have a clear and compelling why. In his book Start with Why Simon Sinek makes the argument that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Articulating why allows a company to move away from attempting to stand out through short- term appeals like promotions, aspirational messaging, or feature matching. It builds loyalty within the company and outside, and increases the likelihood that employees and customers will stick out rough patches. According to Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, research has found that the best companies in terms of long-term financial performance are ones that are able to combine profits, passion and purpose.
An organization’s why trickles down into interactions with current and prospective customers at every level. Marketing materials explain why someone should buy your product or service, Sales demonstrates why it’s worth the cost, Finance breaks down why their bill is $X. Customer Success is no exception, and in fact, might be tasked with addressing the most impactful whys. Why should we move forward with your recommended changes? Why allocate engineering time to implement your product? Why is scheduling a QBR worth my time?
Customer Success must articulate why to their customers. Most CSMs are able to express their company’s vision, but they also need to identify their customer’s why. Speaking a common language around shared goals drives stronger relationships and increases the likelihood of success. Having this context also allows CSMs to navigate customers towards actions that are in sync with each company’s mission. The need to understand and express why is bidirectional between Customer Success and customer.
When a company is focused on its vision all employees are empowered by why and make decisions within the context of this vision. While on the Accounts team at Intercom this manifested itself in a few different ways, one of which was that our Accounts and Support teams would not provide advice to help our customers hack our API to send transactional emails. This sounds counter intuitive- why wouldn’t you want to help your customers get more value out of your products? Transactional emails have a time and place, but our team took a stance early on that these types of messages did not line up with our mission to make internet business personal. Sure, some customers were disappointed that we didn’t offer this functionality, but we were also mindful of the fact that these customers might not be the right fit for us in the long term (Chargify has a great piece on the cost of supporting the wrong type of customers here). I was surprised to find that the vast majority of customers accepted and appreciated our honesty and focus, and we even built additional trust. It let them know where we would stand on future feature development and what they could expect from us in the future. Unsurprisingly these same customers were much more likely to have a why that was in line with our own.