Creative Confidence – a book and many ideas

With lower workloads, summer is a good time to get creative. But skilled analytical thinkers  (like us, right?) can be uncomfortable with “unresolved” issues and are prone to rush to judgment, and action, too soon — just the opposite of what’s needed to be creative.

Following up on last month’s post on innovation, I thought I would highlight another book, Creative Confidence, in which Tom and David Kelley of IDEO share many ideas to spur creativity for yourself or for your team. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Talk to customers. This one made me smile since we in the customer success world have long ago overcome any fear of talking with customers. Now, creativity experts are telling us that getting to know our customers is the best way to be creative. We have that down pat.
  • What people say they do is different from what they actually do, so you need to find ways to observe actions. This idea is at the core of user testing for support websites. Users may tell you that they use the tidy navigation on the left-hand side, but if you watch them use the site you will see that they instead scan the page for a promising icon. If you believe what they say, you will design the wrong thing.
  • Create an environment that’s conducive to discoveries. It won’t happen magically if you (and your team) are scheduled wall-to-wall with escalations!
  • Keep a list of what bugs you — they are all opportunities for improvement.
  • Use a storyboard to test your ideas.

The book also shares useful games and techniques to spur creativity. One I liked a lot (perhaps because I already use it) is the I like/I wish technique for group feedback. Ask the participants, one at a time, to say one thing they like about the idea/product/process, then one they wish was different. The recipient of the feedback should just listen quietly, without responding. It works, try it.

What do you do to spur creativity in your team?

What is success for Customer Success?

Many thanks to Nida Gabriel who suggested this topic.

The question is simple: how can we tell that a Customer Success team is successful?  What would signal that our investments are bearing fruit?

  • Adoption. Many customer success programs onboard customers to encourage their use of the product or service. If customers are not using the product, they are unlikely to continue paying for it. Adoption is important, but certainly not sufficient to signal success.
  • Renewals. Most customer success organizations use the renewal rate as their main success metric, some capturing logo (individual customer) renewal, most capturing the ratio of revenue renewed to the revenue up for renewal.
  • Upgrades. Upgrades usher the wonderful realm of “positive churn”, in which revenue from existing customers can exceed the revenue up for renewal. There are infinite variations of how to measure this, since a given customer may fail to renew part of their contract but double down in other areas, yielding an apparently higher revenue, but with some losses hidden behind the rosy outside. Some customer success organizations choose net churn ((renewals + upgrades)/renewal revenue) as their main success metric.  Note that this encourages customer success managers to press for additional purchases while discouraging efforts to get smaller customers to renew.
  • Referrals. It seems that the ultimate goal for customer success is to get customers to spread the word and actively recommend the vendor’s solution to others. Interestingly, referenceability in general and referrals in particular are rarely used as benchmarks for customer success. Strange, isn’t it? It’s true that buying decisions are rarely made based solely on referrals, and referrals are hard to track, but still.
  • NPS, CES, CSAT. Many success organizations are partially measured by some variation of loyalty measurement, and many are indeed responsible for gathering these metrics. While they cannot, in my mind, be linked directly to financial performance, they are valuable to diagnose issues (especially the Customer Effort Score), to track progress over time (all three), and to measure individual performance (CSAT).

Is funding for your customer success team tied to any of these metrics? Others?


Last Call for Website Makeovers!

Would you like to get an impartial, detailed critique of your website that highlights the top 2-3 changes that would make the most difference to your users?

Of course you do. So join me starting next Tuesday (12th) for the Great Support Websites workshop. In 6 short, convenient remote sessions you will learn best practices for support websites, how to decide what functionality to include, and much more, including how to win a 10 Best Websites awards from ASP.

Thinking of taking time off this summer? No worries, all sessions are recorded so you can catch up anytime. The cost is $1500 per person, with generous discounts for ASP members and for registering multiple attendees.

Find more information and sign up here. Sessions are 8-10 Pacific Time so work for European attendees, too.