The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude” -Oprah Winfrey.

When you hear about ‘Change’ in your team or organization, what comes first to your mind? 

Is it “fear”, or “uncertainty”, or “more work”? Irrespective of what you feel, ‘Change’ is difficult. It is a hassle. Yet, it could be a beautiful experience that helps us see and feel something that we would never have until forced to. 

According to a report by HBR, “About 75% of change efforts fail due to their inability to deliver value or complete abandonment,”. This probability is quite huge in itself! People usually resist change because they fail either to get value or see it as unworthy.

Why does emotions play a big part in carrying out ‘change management’? How is change management important in Customer Success? Wait. First, let’s try and understand what is change management. 

What is Change Management?

Change management is the act of influencing or making people do things in a different way. It is more of a behavior change. 

As a Customer Success Manager, you’d need to manage change during processes such as Onboarding a new customer, implementing new playbooks, processes, and CS strategies. Customer Success is all about driving transformation. 

A big chunk of your job is to help customers adopt the product satisfactorily. Fundamentally speaking, change management is ultimately about increasing product adoption increase retention. You need to change your customer’s behavior before any of that can happen. 

Why is Change management Important in Customer Success?

Customer Success, as a profession, grew because of its reliability. It is reliable because it controls churn and increases retention. When churn happens, you lose the steady stream of income. It is really expensive and a lengthy process to acquire new customers every time you lose existing customers. To plug this “leaky bucket”, SaaS companies came up with the idea of Customer Success Managers (CSMs). 

A Customer Success Manager is required to onboard new customers, ensure that the buyer adopts and uses the product. It is to make sure that customers obtain value for which they bought your solution. Throughout the whole process, providing an amazing customer experience is an implicit responsibility of the CSM. 

The ADKAR model helps the CSMs to make customers understand ‘change management’. 

A- Awareness of the need for the change

D- Desire to support it.

K- Knowledge on how to bring about the change

A- Ability to show relevant skills

R- Reinforcement to stick the changes

This model is very helpful.  It shows that customer training isn’t enough, alone. The whole journey from purchasing products to attaining business results needs a fundamental change in human behavior. It helps in answering some relevant questions that customers might ask, 

  • Why this change?’
  • Did we buy this product for this specific reason?
  • What’s in it for me?
  • Why now?
  • How’s is this going to help me?

Implementing a change management process that is not frustrating is key when driving product adoption. The following are some of the do’s and dont’s that the CSMs must focus on to help with the change management process.

Do’s and Don’t to overcome customer’s resistance to change. 

Customers’ resistance to change is something that can derail your plans you’ve for their journey. They won’t agree to ‘the change’ even if you get them to a place where they now understand the advantage of change. Because that is difficult for making the change actually happen. For example- even if you know the benefit of healthy eating habits, choosing broccoli over chips is not easy. 

Now let’s see how can the CSMs or CS leaders navigate the challenge of “resistance to change” that customers show. 

Do’s  Dont’s 
Put yourself in customer’s or employee’s shoes. Be empathetic in your approach towards your customer.  Never forget in the first place as to ‘why’ the customer needs the product.
Communicate value to different people in your organization. Cross functional communication is an important skill that a CSM needs to possess.  Don’t underestimate the power of discipline. It’s critical to form new habits. 
Reiterate what your customers want to achieve. Monitor their product usage and make them. Don’t implement sudden changes on your customers. Drop clues about what’s next in the process and collect feedback along the way. 
Remind them about the goals that they can achieve by using your product.  Don’t focus too much on irrelevant variances caused by the change. Focus only what is essential.
Changing customer’s attitude isn’t going to be easy. For that to happen, value of the product must be re-emphasized.   Don’t hesitate to assure customers that they’ve their ample resources and information at their disposal. 

Change Management Best Practices

Organizations shifting from ‘support-oriented’ mindset to ‘success-oriented’ mindset drive value through desired outcomes. Customer Success function ensures that customers is at the center of everything that the company does. However, it can be still difficult to get your customers to adapting to changes. 

What do you do then? Well, try having some best practices in place to overcome the resistance. For example, if CSMs themselves resist change due to uncertainty, its upto the CS leadership to make it clear why and how the change must be implemented. 

  • As mentioned earlier, tell them clearly “What’s in it for them?” Be clear what needs to be done. Example- Let CSMs own the playbook versus ‘telling them to adopt A playbook’. 
  • Be honest about what you need. 
  • Know that other teams might not understand the exact reason or scope of the change that you need them to make. 
  • If you don’t get required help, achieving goal would be tough. 
  • As mentioned earlier, CS is all about driving transformation. So 
  • What value are you bringing to the table? For the organization?
  • Be Consistent. Not only with employees but also with your customers as well.  
  • Be systematic. On how you Onboard both your employee and customer. 
  • Set upfront the expectations clearly. Be clear about the value that they would receive. 
  • Prescriptive guidance is important. Make sure the temper is set right and both the employee and customer 
  • Customer accountability should be real. 

Key takeaways

It’s the fundamental thing for a human- ‘what’s it in for me?’. If you’re clear enough about what the CSMs, the entire organization, and most importantly the customers want, then managing the ‘change’ is not going to be tough. 

When dealing with change, human emotions come into play. Hence, along with following best practices, you must account for their emotions as well. Understanding the reasons why customers or employees resist change helps you to get to the root cause of their problem.  and address the issue, so you have the best chance of making change stick.

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