As we onboard 2020 with new resolutions to transform our habits, let’s keep in mind our digital transformation context and take a Darwinian look at the role of customer success to facilitate this exciting evolution. This is an article I wrote 3 years ago but which is more than ever applicable to our changing business ecosystem.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change (Darwin)
Having always been inspired by this Darwin quote, those who have crossed my path will have already met my mascot chameleon which I affectionately call “Adaptus Rex”. He’s tame and as a prehistoric descendant, he learned to survive environmental change! His capacity to modify colours has followed me through all life environments and challenges, adapting to the next state of evolution.
The famous Darwin concept of “survival of the fittest” (1) and its selection process is accelerated today in response to unprecedented environmental changes such as global warming in our natural world while in business, the digital transformation is taking us by storm.
Whilst history has always shown us the progressive driving force of technology in transformation, digitalisation is creating an immediate impact and disruption. Each digital change brings a promise of progress or new experiences and which are accompanied by considerable learning curves and adaptation, irrespective of our generation: baby boomers, Xers (like myself) and millennials. It’s simple. We either adapt, transform and evolve or we don’t with the risk of being left behind or even becoming extinct! In the words of Brian Solis (2):
Each business is a victim of digital Darwinism, the evolution of consumer behaviour when society and technology move faster than the ability to exploit it. Digital Darwinism does not discriminate. Every business is threatened.
In nature, the famous evolutionary story took place in my native northern England during the last major technological transformation: the industrial revolution. To ensure camouflage as a consequence of the sooty manufacturing towns, peppered moths (3), originally white, became predominantly black via a reproduction process.
A recent example in response to current climatic change is the shift of snail shell colour from dark to light. Snails have developed lighter coloured shells (4) which have a lower body temperature to keep cooler in response to global warming. This phenomenon is noticeable here in France where snails are still a culinary delicacy!
In business today, we’re lucky enough to be facing another incredible transformation, this time in human form. The digital revolution and the related technological innovations are forcing us human beings to challenge our behaviour, routines, processes and even our business models.
Whilst we may not suddenly develop coloured shells and wings to adapt, this brings me to the vital importance of the role of customer success as a lever to facilitate our collective metamorphosis. In today’s professional environment we are constantly trying to keep pace with the impact of digitalised innovations: cloud, big data, IoT, predictive analytics, machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, 3D printing and mobility to name but a few.
Customer success emerged and evolved in the Silicon Valley as a logical response to the introduction of the cloud subscription economy. Cloud exposed painful gaps in how existing companies were interacting with their customers. These pain points were filled with the role of customer success to encourage customer engagement with solutions, continued added value, client longevity and advocacy.
As the SaaS model continues to grow with companies moving away from purchasing software upfront preferring to purchase on a subscription basis, customer success promises a bright future ahead. Other non-SaaS recurring revenue companies have also been seduced by its strategic importance and are investing in customer success.
With the continuous flow of new digital technologies to our business environments, it seems that my favourite Darwin quote has never rung so true.
Out of all the animal kingdom, though we humans are definitely not the strongest, we are perhaps the most intelligent (open to debate…) but when it comes to responding to change, we are generally slow or resistant. Staying in a known comfort zone is so much more tempting than stepping out into unknown and potentially risky territory.
Success is on the other side of your comfort zone (Orrin Woodward)
So this is where customer success plays its role by partnering clients, helping them step out of comfort zones and adapt to new and unknown situations where gains are promised. The aim is to either obtain better results than before or create new positive experiences which could never have been imagined without innovative technology. The real challenge of this adaptation process is not about the technology itself. It’s rather about how the technology, digitalisation and its promise fit harmoniously into the future organisation, processes and methodologies defined for achieving desired outcomes.
Like the peppered moths of my native England, we humans face the challenge of adapting in our digital fast paced environment. We need to “camouflage” the new technology and associated behaviour, blending it into our daily habitat so that it becomes the accepted “norm”, at least until the next one presents itself.
It is perhaps because human beings are the most intelligent of creatures on earth (so we believe) that our response to change is more complex than our animal neighbours.
We perhaps approach each new business context with too much thought, emotion, fear and memory rather than acting on our instinct, like my friends, Adaptus Rex, the peppered moth and the shell changing snail.
Customer success is a passionate role to partner our fellow homo sapiens acclimatise to their new surroundings and rise to the challenges of a business world driven by technological innovation. Afterall, the word “success” derives from the latin “successus”, meaning an advance, a good result, happy outcome.
So as we move into 2020 with the human tradition to make resolutions (myself included) to change certain behaviours for improvement, there’s no better prospect for customer success to partner these desired outcomes, helping companies transform their performances through the challenges and gains of the digitalised environment.
“Adaptus Rex” joins me to wish you all great resolutions for your digital adaptation, transformation and evolution to success in 2020.
If you’re looking to evolve your customer success career or teams, we’d be pleased to help your evolution with our training and career development program: Customer Success Mastermind
If you’re setting up or evolving your customer success organisation in Europe, we’d be pleased to help: Success Track Enterprise.
Other Customer Success of Things Blogs : CSoT blog stories
For further Darwinian reading:
1) Explanations on “Survival of the fittest”
2) Digital Darwinism – How Disruptive Technology is Changing Business For Good