Success and survival

The mission statement is often understated in an organization. It should become the daily mantra. All activities should spring from an apparent overall purpose. Roles and responsibilities should be crystal clear. Of course, career paths never go by the book. 😉

Some careers are self-explanatory such as finance, sales, and marketing. Others such as customer success (CS) need more definition. The customer success function (post-sales) can include on-boarding, customer experience, implementation services, project management, training, inside sales, and dedicated support. It’s the bane of an organization’s existence and also, the hardest to manage if not appropriately structured. My domain is customer success. It’s fun, but not for the faint of heart. A recent survey highlighted the challenges of stress in the workplace. This workplace survey did not cover specific professions like customer success. It’s interesting to see Seattle rank high for work-life balance.


The lack of clear goals contributes to burnout and turnover regardless of location. For example, it’s rare to meet someone with a “customer success” job title who has lasted more than 2 years at a single employer (senior executive or junior employee). Based on anecdotal evidence (i.e., deep ties to the customer success community), the customer success function is still evolving. Customer success is often viewed as an ugly stepchild and the perfect spot to pin blame if there are failures in customer dealings. It needs witness protection, or it gets sacrificed on the front lines. Thereby, high turnover is pervasive when top leadership doesn’t provide the necessary support.

Customer success should be a standalone division reporting to the CEO or COO. Things are well when the turnover is minimal in a customer success division. Things are great when the products actually work, and sales are booming — making the job easier. 👍 However, an overwhelming number of startups and large enterprises haven’t developed strong customer success organizations. Industry leaders in customer success put product gurus in these roles, not just warm bodies who look good and pick up the phone.

I began the Customer Success for Good meetup because I believe customer success should serve a much higher purpose: by on-boarding more stewards of the planet.

There are many industry verticals where customer success has become the lynchpin for impact. Most boardrooms try to evangelize a mission-driven purpose. They need to involve the voices of the customer.

It’s really hard without involving those on the front lines of building customer relationships. Customer success professionals partner and build solutions that solve business problems. The gap between profits and purpose can be filled when the CS mission includes resolving social and environmental issues. Every boardroom needs to align success with social impact.

Like the survey says, the stress won’t go away. However, I believe in leveraging the ‘greater purpose’ mantra with customers to strengthen the mission of customer success. Adherence to the mission statement is a good sign that your organization values its customer success workers and cares for the planet, too.