Everyone claims they 'we put customers first.’ It’s one of those feel-good mission statements no one can disagree with. But putting it into practice is easier said than done. As the Vice President of Customer Success, I come to work every day thinking about how a company like Noname Security can become even more customer-centric and what that looks like. Our founders have a customer-first mentality which we instill in all our employees, and my role is to turn our conviction into scalable and effective customer engagements.
Below are a few "Putting customers first" principles I use to guide all our interactions and maintain our customer-first culture.
Know your customers
Are we clear about who our customers are? Remember, even within a B2B customer journey, there is no such tangible entity as a “B” (or business) that makes a decision to purchase your product. There is an individual or a group of individuals, who have evaluated your solution, determined that it is the best fit for the needs of their organization, and have made a purchase decision. The economic buyer often might not be the sole end-user, or the end-user may not be the only beneficiary. There are typically multiple customer stakeholders, each with varying needs and roles. You can’t be customer-first without first knowing who your customers are.
Manage the journey
You may think it's simple to learn how to use your product or service. It's easy to forget that you work with your products every single day and what's fundamental for you may not be as straightforward for others. Remember, you're an expert, but someone new to your solution may not pick things up as quickly.
This is where defining a customer journey and actively managing it is critical. Rather than expecting customers to figure out your products and services on their own, your CS team should proactively guide your customers through the best way to adopt your products. This saves customers valuable time during the early stages of the customer journey, preventing them from experiencing common roadblocks that most new users encounter. And this is the only way to build long-term relationships and a successful subscription business.
Establish an open line of communication
In customer success, communication is the glue between your customer and your business. You need to find any and all opportunities to connect with and listen to your customers and see how they are experiencing your solution. Are customers achieving their desired outcomes by leveraging your offering? Is the customer experience as they expect it to be? These are important for a customer-first organization to know and manage. Also, customers’ needs can evolve due to changes in market conditions, growing requirements, even competitor moves that reframe what they expect from you. Keep track of this through daily interactions and formal mechanisms, including surveys, customer advisory boards, and even support calls so you can continue to adapt.
Aim to satisfy but don’t just be a “yes” person
Just because you’re putting customers first doesn’t mean the customer is always right, and knows exactly what they want. It’s common to fall into the trap of overcompensating, giving customers what they asked for rather than what they really need. Customers are not looking for a bunch of yes people. They expect you to be a domain expert with a strong grasp of the personas and usage patterns. And as a product expert, you should understand your solution better than anyone else. Customers are best served when you have a clear point of view of how to balance the benefits, effort, time, cost, etc., to deliver value that will be optimal for them.
Align the entire organization
A vital part of becoming a customer-first company is alignment across the entire organization. Are all functions in the business focused on the customer? From engineering to marketing, billing to tech support, each must be laser-focused on customer experience and customer success. Otherwise, you create dissonance, which drags the entire value proposition down. But how can you get everyone aligned? It has to start at the top. The founders and executive management team must embody the customer-first mantra. Then they must empower everyone to make decisions with the customer in mind, whether that involves investments, hiring, development, or partnerships.
Put your money where your mouth is
Putting customers first is an investment: literally putting money behind the intent to make it happen. That takes many forms, from the structure of deals to creating a customer advisory board to leveraging every interaction to learn, and even building out a customer success team. That team is an investment in the customer’s outcomes and experiences. It is not selling or developing features but ensuring the company delivers against its commitment to the customer. I’m a little biased, but at Noname Security, we are fortunate to have a stellar CS team, which reflects the high priority we place on our customer-centricity.
Make it ubiquitous
It’s critical to embed customer-first commitment into the company’s values, so it becomes part of the customer-centric culture. At Noname Security, we have taken this step so everyone understands that this is not a tactical or short-term expectation, but a foundational one. We hire with our values in mind and talk about what it means to put customers first. We share and celebrate examples. We bring this aspiration to life. It’s not just flashed in front of people as they onboard. We want our team to be thinking about customers, and baking that expectation into our values helps ensure that.
Creating a customer-first company involves some hard choices. Sometimes short-term imperatives can conflict with longer-term goals, resources are finite, and relationships can be complicated. But if you have a north star of putting customers first - ensuring outside-in expectations are correct and that internally you’re aligned and framing every decision with that destination in mind, this builds the foundation for hyper-growth.