6 Keys to Cultivating a Customer Success Mindset in Your Organization

Pop quiz: Is Customer Success a) a department dedicated to ensuring customers achieve their desired outcomes through effective product usage, b) a core element of organizational culture that forward-thinking organizations embrace companywide, or c) all of the above?

If you know your stuff — and we're pretty sure you do — you've likely cracked this one already. 

In today's competitive market, the Customer Success team is pivotal, focusing on post-sales engagement including retention, expansion, and maximizing the customer's benefit from their investment.

Meanwhile, progressive organizations are shifting towards an integrated approach that makes customer value a focus in every department.

The Customer Success mindset is a core element of organizational culture that transcends traditional departmental boundaries. This cultural shift emphasizes that every employee plays a vital role in the success of the customer. 

Here’s how to adopt it at your organization. 

The Customer Success Mindset: An Organizational Imperative

First, what is the Customer Success mindset, really? 

The Customer Success mindset is a strategic approach that places the customer's ongoing satisfaction and success at the heart of all business operations

At its core, it’s about understanding the customer's needs, challenges, and goals. It’s also about adopting the mindset that success is an organizational outcome and Customer Success isn’t just the responsibility of the CS team. 

Once you know that, you can align your entire organization's efforts to support these objectives which ultimately results in a fruitful, long-term relationship

After all, it’s everyone’s duty to keep the customer satisfied and to strengthen the relationship over time. 

For example, the product team should be building things that deliver more customer value. And the marketing team should be creating things that make customers more educated and confident.

We’ve all received that message that every person on the team is responsible for attracting new customers. But the transformative shift to the Customer Success mindset means accepting that we’re also responsible for retaining the customers we’ve attracted.

6 Keys to Cultivating a Customer Success Mindset, Company Wide

Cultivating a Customer Success mindset across your entire company is crucial for long-term growth and satisfaction. In this section, we'll delve into seven key strategies that can help instill this mindset at every level of your organization. You'll discover how to secure leadership support, encourage cross-departmental cooperation, and ensure that every employee is aligned with the goal of enhancing customer experiences. 

1. Get Your Leaders’ Hands Dirty 

Leaders should schedule regular intervals—whether monthly or quarterly—to directly engage with customers. This could take the form of joining customer support calls, participating in customer onboarding sessions, or attending client meetings. The key is for leaders to be actively involved, not just as observers but as participants.

This direct involvement serves multiple purposes. First, it demonstrates to the entire team that understanding and meeting customer needs is a priority at every level of the organization. 

Second, it provides leaders with firsthand insight into customer expectations, experiences, and potential pain points. 

These insights can be invaluable in strategic decision-making and in guiding the company towards more effective customer-centric practices.

Another way leaders can foster a company-wide Customer Success mindset? 

Make it a standard practice to include a Customer Success story or detailed customer feedback as a standing agenda item in all major strategic meetings. Leaders should encourage teams to share these stories and use them to highlight lessons learned or opportunities for improvement.

Regularly discussing customer experiences in strategic contexts ensures that customer-centric thinking permeates decision-making processes

It also keeps the focus on the end goal of enhancing customer satisfaction and success, reminding everyone of the real-world implications of their work. 

By celebrating successes and constructively addressing feedback, leaders can foster a culture of continuous improvement centered on customer needs.

Related: “Customer time comes first. We can’t do our jobs without speaking to customers.” Listen to Vitally Head of Product Management Christine Itwaru discuss the importance of customer communication on episode 4 of Success/ful.

2. Redirect Interdepartmental Collaboration Towards Expansion

Fostering collaboration between the Customer Success team and other departments ensures a unified approach to delivering customer value

Together, all departments should focus on expansion rather than churn. Not only will this drive proactive growth but it will also improve value delivery and net retention results.

To pull this off on a practical level, managers and team leads will need to redirect interdepartmental collaboration so that it focuses on delivering results for your customers. The end goal is to drive expansion revenue and mitigate churn while involving every division.

Success benchmarks for shared projects should revolve around the following core tenants:

  • Delivering consistent customer results. This involves setting clear, measurable objectives that directly relate to customer satisfaction and success. Regularly track and analyze these outcomes to ensure consistency in the results delivered to customers, which will help maintain their trust and loyalty.
  • Driving change management. Focus on effectively managing transitions and transformations within the organization that impact customer experiences. Develop clear communication strategies, training programs, and support systems to help employees adapt.
  • Showcasing value realization. This requires making the benefits and outcomes of your services or products transparent and evident to customers. Implement systems to regularly measure and report the value delivered to customers through case studies, performance metrics, and direct feedback. Highlighting these successes not only reinforces the value proposition of your offerings but also strengthens customer relationships by showing tangible returns on their investment.

3. Training for a Unified Vision

Comprehensive training programs that include Customer Success principles for all employees, not just the CS team, is crucial. By focusing on the following specific and action-oriented steps, an organization can effectively promote a culture where Customer Success is a key responsibility of every employee.

  • Role-specific Customer Success scenarios. Develop training modules tailored to different roles within the company that illustrate direct and indirect impacts on Customer Success. For example, IT staff could be shown how system uptime affects customer satisfaction, while accounting might explore the impact of billing accuracy on customer trust.
  • Customer journey immersion. Organize immersive experiences where employees from non-customer-facing departments spend time observing or interacting with the Customer Success team. This could include listening in on customer support calls or attending customer onboarding sessions to better understand the customer experience firsthand.
  • Cross-functional shadowing programs. Establish a shadowing program that allows employees to spend time in other departments. This can lead to a better understanding of how each department contributes to overall Customer Success and fosters a sense of unity and shared purpose.
  • Customer feedback loop integration. Integrate customer feedback directly into daily operations. Ensure that feedback isn't just collected and reviewed by the Customer Success team, but is also summarized and shared across all departments regularly. Encourage teams to brainstorm specific ways to address feedback related to their department’s functions.
  • Customer success metrics in performance reviews. Incorporate Customer Success metrics into the performance reviews of all employees, not just those in customer-facing roles. This could include metrics like customer satisfaction scores, net promoter scores, or customer retention rates, tailored to how each role influences those metrics.
  • Advanced problem-solving workshops. Offer workshops that teach advanced problem-solving techniques, focusing on real customer issues. These workshops can help employees understand the complexities of customer needs and expectations, equipping them with the skills to think critically and creatively about solutions.
  • Incentivize innovation in Customer Experience. Create a rewards program that recognizes and incentivizes innovation in enhancing the customer experience. This could involve recognizing individuals or teams who come up with and implement new ideas that significantly improve customer satisfaction.
  • Create customer immersion programs. Advocate for initiatives that allow employees from all departments to experience the product or service from the customer's perspective. Implement programs such as “Use Your Own Product Days” and customer role play sessions where employees get to step into their customers’ shoes. This firsthand experience helps them better understand customer challenges and needs, leading to more empathetic service and innovative solutions. 

4. Internal Customer Success Advocates

Appoint Customer Success champions across different departments to disseminate customer-centric values and practices. This can be as simple as identifying and selecting individuals from various departments who exhibit strong empathy, communication skills, and a passion for customer nurturing. These individuals should also be influential within their teams as well as capable of motivating others.

Provide these champions with specialized training that covers advanced Customer Success strategies, conflict resolution, and communication skills.

Pro tip: No matter how experienced your advocates may be, this training should also include sessions on interpreting customer data and feedback effectively just to get everyone on the same page and using the same lingo. 

Once you get the ball rolling, establish regular check-in meetings to see how things are going. The goal of the meetings is to gather feedback and brainstorm solutions as needed. 

To make the most out of this initiative, it’s important to involve your CS advocates in departmental strategic planning sessions. This will ensure that Customer Success objectives are integrated into broader business goals and initiatives.

5. Cross-Functional Customer Success Workshops

Conduct workshops where employees from various departments can share insights and learn from Customer Success stories and challenges. To do this effectively, you’ll need to structure workshops around real life examples of Customer Success challenges so participants can learn how to practically apply what they’ve learned when faced with similar scenarios. 

If you want to go the extra mile, you can bring in a diverse array of departments (we’re looking at you Finance and Product) to foster new perspectives. They can give fresh, unbiased insight into group problem-solving activities related to Customer Success. 

Or, bring in experienced facilitators who are skilled in Customer Success strategies to lead these workshops. These facilitators can be external experts or trained internal staff who have a deep understanding of cross-departmental impacts on customer experiences.

Finally, establish a follow-up mechanism to support the implementation of learned practices. This could include setting up small, cross-functional teams to pilot ideas that emerged from the workshops. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you continue the discussions fostered in your original workshop to keep building on that momentum! 

6. Recognition 

"One way to build the right culture is to reinforce the behavior that you want to see,” Ryan Seams, Head of Customer Success at AssemblyAI, told us on episode 1 of our podcast Success/ful

“So for the people who are going above and beyond for customers, make them the shining stars, give them the golden nugget, give them the award of the month.” 

Not sure how? Ryan says, “Go ahead and write a message to everybody else that's like, 'Hey, this person did this great thing, look at them!' You have to reinforce that positive behavior."

The key, Ryan explains, is to build that muscle over time. “If you do something to help a customer, but you don’t go and say anything or teach anyone else or share it with anyone else, you’re actually just not doing your job.”

Mastering the Customer Success Mindset

As we've explored, embedding a Customer Success mindset throughout an organization is critical. Every employee, regardless of their role, has a part to play in contributing to the overall success and satisfaction of our customers.

When every member of the organization understands and acts upon the principles of Customer Success, the impact is profound — leading to increased customer loyalty, enhanced satisfaction, and ultimately, a stronger, more resilient business.

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