Regional, Cultural and Social Differences in Customer Success

Working in the tech industry can be exciting. Sharing in the creative process that is developing innovative solutions, building exciting products, and providing contributive solutions to the mass is a privilege. In this process, I always like to remind myself that we are humans, building something for humans, and a human perspective should come into play. For me this creative process means involving some non-techy research and questioning ourselves on how we operate and what shapes us. The psychological, social, and cultural aspect of technology plays a major role in how we do things.

Could it be that US-based Customer Success teams and companies are more revenue, scale, and growth-driven, whereas EU-based ones are more relationship and retention-driven? Are there regional-oriented Customer Success strategies? Is what drives us biased by locale? Is there a regionally informed, culture-driven subconscious informing our decision making? Does it affect the Customer Success strategies, building Customer Success teams, and collective end goal? If we talk about investors, investment funds, etc, the answer is obvious regardless of location. These questions apply to not only those who built the company, but also those working within.

Customer Success is multi-faceted, very sensitive, and requires many subtleties, including empathy, patience, and analytical intelligence. It’s the most human-centric role in the company. While the world is becoming increasingly automated, we need to put technology aside, provoke our philosophies, and ask some human-related questions such as those above.

History and patterns of social behavior concerning the geographical origins of the founders, team members, or current market locations of users, have a direct effect on how companies shape their Customer Success strategies and goals. Some examples of the difference between the regions, when it comes to revenue, income, and consumption are:

  1. American marketing strategies have also giving rise to nationwide phenomena like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which, as potent as they are in the US, hardly have any equivalent in European countries (except on Amazon).
  2. Schools and universities are free in most European countries. Europeans see access to university as a right, while American families often have to save for years for their children to attend one.
  3. Almost all Europeans have cars with manual gears, while Americans have a marked preference for automatic ones. European cars are also very different in style than their American counterparts. American cars tend to be more massive and squarer because size matters in the States.

Due to their great ethnic and religious diversity, Americans have developed a more acute sense of political correctness in an attempt to attenuate friction between the various groups. Europeans still associate vary greatly with their place of birth with their ethnicity, language, and culture. This has an impact on how relationships are built. 

Your product market fit decisions are directly connected to a specific decision-making process, which is good, but people are people everywhere, expecting the same Customer Success outcome: value, rapport building, trust, and transparency. Cultural and regional differences will thus naturally inform your Customer Success strategy, and it’s time we acknowledge that. A universal set of principles and guidelines are required.

The time has come for us to measure success differently. Instead account growth, and sales qualified leads what if we focused on the customer’s feelings and approach with new metrics instead of financial gain only. “BGP” can be the new focus – Business Goals Proximity. Instead of revenue calculate how close you bring the customer to his business goal. Not CES, but CSE -Customer Success Essence — how aligned are you with the essence of Customer Success, regardless of whether you are in the US, EU, or the moon? Don’t be afraid to ask your customers how do they think you treat them, how do they feel about your Customer Success mindset. Use a new metric; “CDS” – Company Drive Score. Ask them “From your experience using our service, what do you think drives us? A. Revenue, B. Value of users.

These differences in Customer Success teams can cause a statement like “We need to push this new feature!” sound better than the more accurate one which is “We need to reinforce that our product provides the value we promised to deliver!”. Revenue-oriented thinking may cause forced upsells, unnecessary sales-tone approaches by your Customer Success team, and eventually jeopardize product adoption and increase churn, which you will then spend money, time, and energy to mitigate, without even realizing why it happened in the first place.

Product-lead growth is not user-lead growth, but user-lead growth is something that applies all the same way. Value most likely generates revenue, but revenue most likely won’t scale without value. This is true if you are in LA, Berlin, or Tel-Aviv. The internal mindset of your Customer Success team will also be the external one, and users can feel it. Create a user experience you yourself would enjoy. Fulfillment is the key. If you follow this world view, you would find it easier to fulfill the drive for growth, and revenue will come.

You may be targeting a specific segment, or region, which is ok. Your users may all come from one single continent, which is also ok. But there’s a difference between your product-to-market view, then your customer-success-to-everyone principles. Don’t think that if you target a specific area of the world, or because you are based in a specific region, your customer success should align with it or its social norms. Instead your Customer Success strategies should align with universal principles such as experience and value which will then organically lead to commercial success.

Revenue is important, it’s your lifeblood, but the more you mention the word revenue alongside Customer Success, the less focus you have and the real purpose behind Customer Success. The more you think of your Customer Success team as an extension of sales, the less value your customers will experience. The more CSMs will force themselves to look for expansion opportunities, the fewer relationships they will build. These things should happen – upsells, cross-sells, renewals – these are all essential things for the scalability of your company and healthy retention, but they shouldn’t be the root cause for the reason you have a Customer Success team.

So, where do we go from here? It’s time the Customer Success Industry becomes a community. Partner with other founders and CS leaders to discuss these ideas and see what you are doing differently and if it has to do with where you are from, where your team is from or where your company founders are based. Encourage your teams and their members to do the same via Linkedin or meetups. An open global discussion is essential to avoid regionally-silo’d CS teams which are regionally thought-lead.

As we come to gather as a community it’ll be increasingly important to train founders on various Customer Success strategies early in a company’s lifecycles.  This can be done through Customer Success workshops in accelerators and mentorship programs. Through these interactions and global community building efforts we can ensure we’re building more customer centric businesses by adopting human centric practices within our Customer Success teams.  

Tom Batito has more than 7 years of experience in Customer Success Management, User-Behavior Analysis, and constantly researching & examining the correlation between human nature, technology, and innovation. With a knowledge background in Psychology, Business, and Tech, Tom has worked through complex & non-complex data & SaaS environments, B2B/B2C, with users of all sizes, industries & time zones, maintaining risk management, high engagement & growth.

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