The lab coated CSM

I’ll say it now.  In five years the job of a Customer Success Manager will be almost 100% focused on managing the performance of algorithms that drive the customer towards achieving their goals. We’ll see a 180 degree flip in how things are largely done now. CSMs in that near future will spend their time reviewing new findings of consumer/customer behavior and the data that show the progress customers have made towards their expected outcomes. They’ll use that information to tune the algorithms. CSMs will be more data scientists than customer relations experts. Provocative? Not really. Inevitable? Yes. Impersonal and detached from the reality of a customer’s experience? I can see that it might be perceived that way but, no. How can I be so confident? Because this type of work style is already being done everyday by a department employed by most companies but whose mission is aimed at a different target group (buyers) than the one targeted by Customer Success. Modern Marketers conduct themselves more or less this way now.

In the April 3, 2017 edition of The New Yorker magazine is an article entitled, The Algorithm Will See You Now. The piece mainly states that medical technology is advancing so rapidly and the pressure to reduce costs of the healthcare system is also increasing at a similar rate that the two together are forcing a rethink of how diagnostic medicine can, and should, be most efficiently and accurately delivered. My quick take for you from the article (written by a biological scientist)… it’s cheaper, faster, and in some cases, more accurate for machines to do the job of radiologists. There are limitations though that have to do with what are referred to as factual knowledge and experiential knowledge and while the state of the technology is quite sophisticated and there is enthusiasm for its ability to augment the diagnostic process, it isn’t yet seen to be a complete replacement of the human expert. Pick up the edition and read the article to get the complete picture. I can’t do two things here: 1)I cannot include the link because of the paywall, and 2) I cannot give the article the justice it deserves.

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A similar state exists in the Customer Success industry. Many people operate on experiential knowledge (gut) without a lot of factual knowledge. Conversely, we have vendors who focus a bit too much on factual knowledge and don’t give enough weight to experiential knowledge. That’s what I meant last week at the Toronto Customer Success Executive Breakfast (sponsored by Gainsight) when I said that the future of Customer Success will see smart people focused almost entirely on managing processes. They’ll exercise a blend of factual knowledge (from tools like Gainsight) and experiential knowledge (a highly mature gut instinct stemming from the experiences they’ve had themselves working directly with customers and also from conclusions reached by AI machine learning software) to determine the most accurate course of action that should be taken in order to improve the algorithms. Otherwise, how will it be possible for Customer Success to effectively perform, scale, and personalize its approach so the customer feels they get the right attention at the right time? This is especially true when you consider the implications of the data represented in the McKinsey chart below.


IoT, automation, escalating customer expectations, increasing calls for higher share value, accelerating business disruption… all these things and more are conspiring to force companies to deliver increased, personalized customer attention faster and at less cost. Scale is the only option but not just any scale. Personalized scale.

Do you have difficulty seeing this evolution of Customer Success? If so, I have one question for you. Is diagnosing customer health any more complex than diagnosing the health of the human body?

Customer Service coaching moments

Bad days have a ripple effect in our world in uncountable ways. But good days can sometimes provide significant counterweight. The tension between those opposing viewpoints is as old as humanity and maybe that’s why the world is an interesting place. Can you imagine a world where everyone was having a good day? How would you know?

I’ll describe what I would imagine is someone who was having a bad day. Mamie (read my other posts to find out who she is) needed to head to a part of Toronto that required her to take a different transit line than she is familiar with. I have to tell you first of all that Toronto is undergoing a construction frenzy of biblical proportions, and taking as long a time as the pyramids to complete. So, our major hub of transit, Union Station (finished renovation project depicted below) is in the midst of chaos, teeming with commuters from every mode of transportation converging in a single place amid debris, hoarding, and closures.

She saw a sign saying that the streetcar line she expected to use was out of service due to construction and so she approached a uniformed transit employee for guidance.

She asked him how she could get to Spadina Avenue if the underground streetcar line was shut for construction, to which he replied, “Bay Street.” Toronto is the third largest city in all of North America and Mamie was standing in the heart of it. To her, “Bay Street” was like saying “Get Lost”.  She was not impressed.

She stood up to Mr. Grumpy and asked him again for more clarity to which he replied by silently pointing to a stairwell to the street.  Mamie is not one to back down and she cornered Mr Bad Day and said, “What I want to know is this. What’s the location of the stop and the vehicle number? Can you tell me?”  Here’s what he said, “Do you know how many times I get asked that question every single day?”

Here comes the coaching moment that Mamie so thoughtfully provided to this poor soul at that moment. “Then why are you doing this job if you don’t like it?” She turned on her heels and walked away.

My hope is he then took a breath, took a break, and went home at the end of the day in a better mood, maybe he resolved to take control of what he may normally feel are daily situations that are out of his control. stays put in SF

Marc Benioff is the CEO of and in this interview with the Wall Street Journal he pretty much nails exactly how I feel about location for high-tech firms.  Despite higher costs in terms of office space, employee living expenses, and density of traffic, he’s decided to keep in San Francisco rather than relocating to Silicon Valley.  I suspect if he was on this side of the continent, here in Toronto where I live, he would have made the same decision for the same reasons.  He mentioned the concentration of highly educated people and the wealth in number and variety of restaurants but I would add a broader, and more difficult to measure, metric.  A heterogeneous culture should be a desirable characteristic for high-tech firms when they are seeking locations because of its unmatched potential to ultimately reflect the market they intend to serve with their products.  What better way to create something for a wide cross-section of society than by employing people who reflect it?

So why do companies locate far from centers of action?  It probably makes sense for some types of businesses because of the cost of property and they feel there is nothing really compelling about the city from a business point of view.  Meaning that the level of  doubt about the ability to attract and maintain qualified staff is considered low, and a dearth of local amenities is not seen as important.  And to my earlier point, perhaps the product produced is meant for only a narrow slice of society. Therefore those variables are not factored in.  But for high-tech firms that need to cover a wide swath of society with their products, and that rely upon the energy, vitality, and flexibility of youth, it makes sense to locate where those people are and where they prefer to be.  You can’t beat SF and Toronto for that.

Benioff’s decision confirmed for me ideas that have been presented by people like Richard Florida of The Martin Prosperity Institute. In this article about the knowledge in cities he cites data showing various cities in North America and, basically, what they are good at.  While San Jose shows up (logically) as an engineering and IT place, Toronto (as well as Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami ) show up as enterprising places.  Meaning that they have high knowledge of:  sales and marketing, economics and accounting, customer and personal service, and information technology and telecommunications.  In other words, they are broader and more diverse and have in place a solid infrastructure to support all aspects of the knowledge economy.  San Francisco was not mentioned in Florida’s blog post but it might be in the report he speaks to.  Anyway, SF is much smaller but very similar to Toronto in many cultural ways.  The decision to keep his company in the city doesn’t surprise me and I think it’s a great one.   Benioff needs to keep growing his culture and that culture is fed by the environment of the city. As he says in the interview, “I honestly think it’s so much better. I worked in Silicon Valley for 13 years. There are no restaurants, there is no shopping, there is no energy.”

Yes, exactly.

Global Cities

AT Kearney, the management consulting company, published a report last year ranking the top cities in the world against various measurements.  The report is titled The Urban Elite and can be viewed here.  Easy to read and make sense of, the report does a thorough job of explaining why it ranks the cities the way it does.  Starting with a list of the top 65, it proceeds to break-out 5 categories and the top 10 cities in each.  For example, the list of the top 65 is a rating of how well each city did for all 5 categories combined (Toronto at #14 and Montreal at #31 are the only Canadian cities on the list).  The 5 categories that are then broken out are: Business Activity, Human Capital, Information Exchange, Cultural Experience, and Political Engagement.  The usual suspects show up in the top 10 for each category (New York, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, etc) but also others like Singapore, Chicago, Boston, and Toronto (shows up at #9 for Human Capital).  To give the Human Capital category a bit of context for you… it means, a city’s investment in brain power, how well-educated and diverse is the population that resides there, any internationally known universities, etc.

I found the report extremely interesting but not necessarily surprising at all.  The world is becoming increasingly mega-urban and competition now is truly global.  It’s not inter-provincial or inter-state like it was just 20 years ago.  As a resident of Toronto I am happy to see my city on the list and especially in the top 10 for Human Capital but it also causes a bit of anxiety knowing that cities all over the world are doing the right things too and just because a city is ranked well one year does not mean it will stay there for long.