Subscribed Podcast: Lincoln Murphy on the changing world of Customer Success

Select excerpts from Subscribed Podcast with Lincoln Murphy

Lincoln Murphy is a customer-centric growth expert, consultant, and thought leader. Based in Dallas, Lincoln helps SaaS companies with his “Exponential Growth Framework” which helps companies improve customer retention, turn customers into advocates, drive revenue growth, and scale their business in a customer-centric way.

We talk to Lincoln about the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on subscription businesses, how it’s changing customer success, and how to keep pace with that change.

It’s been a few months since the world was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic. At Zuora, we took a look at our data and published our new study, the Subscription Impact Report, which found subscription businesses to be pretty resilient. Do you find that consistent with what you’re seeing?

Anecdotally, it jives with what I’ve seen which is that some companies are thriving, some are growing, and some have dried up. It’s really cool that you guys have that data and have shared it. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on and it’s not as simple as things are bad or things are good. There’s this whole spectrum and it’s hard to know how everything expands out at a macro level. There’s also something to be said for the type and size of customers that Zuora has.

Subscription companies are focusing on preserving and sustaining customer relationships, on doubling down on those relationships. And lots of considerations are coming up–suspending subscriptions, offering different payment options, etc. What’s your advice?

Doing the right thing for the customer is obviously key. There’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. The example that I’ve been using to illustrate this is my gym, Gold’s Gym. Even before the mandated shut down, they started offering free online workouts to members. So if you didn’t feel comfortable coming into the gym, you could stay home and get the workout. And then once everything closed down, they kept the online workouts but suspended payments. They were proactive in doing that, which I thought was really cool. So I kept using them as a great example of what to do in a customer centric way–offer a value-add essentially to maintain the customer relationship. What they were saying was ‘Don’t cancel your membership, we’re just going to suspend it. So we still have a commercial relationship that we’ll fire back up as soon as the gym is open. But in the meantime, we’re going to give you a way to maintain your fitness.’ They handled it well. When this all ends, I’ll definitely have a very positive view of the way Gold’s gym handled it, and I’d continue to be a member of their gym. On the other hand, we see some others clearly going for a money grab which is disappointing and people end up canceling.

You recently commented on LinkedIn that “Customer Success has changed in just the last 60-days and we need to evolve our thinking to keep pace with that change.” Can you elaborate on that?

The world has changed. The way that your customers are working, their worldview has changed dramatically. Obviously you need to know who your customers are and understand what that change is going to be. When you think of customer success as your customers achieving their desired outcome, what I’ve had to change is really the definition of ‘desired outcome’ from ‘outcome’ to ‘results’.

The ‘desired outcome’ was one of these things where you could say it’s something they need to achieve. But now, we’ve gotten to the point where customers just want to know, “How can I get this result?” So the more that you can speak to exactly what they need, the better off you’re going to be.

I’ve seen a lot of churn coming from customers who signed up for a particular result but things have changed since then. Let’s say they signed up for growth. Well. now the result they need has shifted to just sustaining their business. If they only associate you with ‘growth’, the fact that the result they’re looking for has changed to just ‘sustaining’ means that you may not be relevant in their world anymore.

But, a lot of times your service is totally relevant. You just didn’t recognize that shift in the result and didn’t reposition your offering. So be aware of what’s going on in their world. If what you provide can help them achieve that new result, then speak directly to that.

For more Subscription Economy insights, check out previous episodes of the Subscribed Podcast here

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