Digital Darwinism and Customer Success

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As we onboard 2021 and bid farewell to 2020, the challenges thrust upon us over this past year have demonstrated our immense resilience and capacity to adapt quickly in the face of adversity. Digital transformation is a prime area where we have shown our huge capacity to adapt.

According to a study by McKinsey & Company, digital offerings in 2020 accelerated by 7 years within the space of a few months as companies have surprised themselves with their capacity to pivot their digital initiatives in response to Covid-19.  The pandemic has forced companies of all sizes, B2B and B2C to leapfrog their transformation efforts. We are now raising questions about how to anticipate the new digital “normal”, what that will look like, how to maintain momentum and how to set companies up for continued success.

As we celebrate all those companies and staff that have been able to adapt their digital offerings to help their customers get through these unprecedented times and to address new market needs, let’s also keep in our thoughts all those domains, companies and staff that have unfortunately been directly negatively impacted by the pandemic, e.g. travel, hospitality, culture, dining to name but a few.

Let’s view this accelerated digital transformation context from a Darwinian point of view. This is a revised article that I wrote 4 years ago but which resonates more than ever now in the context of the abrupt changes of our current world. The following famous Darwin quote echoes loudly today in our response to the business disruption triggered by Covid-19 and our attempts to survive and resume some sort of balanced “business as usual”:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change (Darwin)

Those of you who have crossed my path will have no doubt been introduced to 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 his skin colours to adapt to different environments has inspired me in all of life’s challenges, continually adapting to the next phase of evolution.

Whilst history has mostly shown us the somewhat progressive driving force of technology in transformation, digitalization is creating an immediate impact and disruption, particularly so in response to the pandemic. With each new digital offering, there’s a promise of progress that is accompanied by considerable learning curves and adaptation. In some cases, the height of the step to adapt is higher than others, implying considerable change management efforts and learning to take on board new working practices. In other cases, the height of the step to adapt may seemingly be less but as we’re on continual moving sands, it’s difficult to use a yardstick to measure the required effort. Whatever the required effort, we either adapt quickly and survive (thrive for some) or run the risk of being left behind or even extinct! In the words of Brian Solis:

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.

Digital Darwinism has been accelerated with the disruptive impact of Covid-19 as we have been collectively catapulted outside of our comfort zones and plunged right into unknown territory. All of us, suppliers and customers alike have had no choice but to learn fast. 

These challenging times have also reinforced companies putting the customer right at the strategic centre, focusing on doing everything possible to help and retain the current customer base. This customer-centric strategy has highlighted the strategic importance of customer success and how it runs through the veins of all the company, where each and every role contributes to helping customers survive, perhaps even thrive.  Many companies have reinforced their customer success efforts, put into place special success task forces or crisis committees,  bringing sales, support, product and other roles into redefining roles and responsibilities in the “collective customer success team” effort. This company-wide team effort is now playing a vital role by helping customers pivot, step out of their comfort zones to adapt quickly to new and unknown situations where their ever-changing pain points are resolved.

Customer success partners customers to help them blend their invested tools and services into their working environment. This means that customer success professionals need to be experts not only with the tools and services offered by their company but also to know how these tools and services can become “camouflaged” in the customers’ new working habitats. 

It’s rather like Adaptus Rex’s capacity to adapt his skin colour according to different habitats. With our Covid-19 impacted habitat, our adaptation capacity has been tested to the extreme. It has not been like our previous gradual adaptation to digital offerings in continuous improvement mode. This time, our adaptation capacity has been triggered out of pure survival.  Customer success has played such a critical role in helping customers to adapt in record time to new environments and facilitate our collective metamorphosis. The real challenge of this rapid metamorphosis process is not about the technology itself. It’s rather about how the technology, digitalization and its promise fit into the fast-evolving organizations, processes, routines and behaviours. This is where customer success professionals have demonstrated their capacity to anticipate new customer pain points, learn and adapt to these ever-changing environments, transferring their knowledge to help customers develop new skills to meet their evolving goals and survive. 

To give some Darwinian evolutionary examples in nature, a famous story took place in my native northern England during the last major technological evolution: the industrial revolution. To ensure camouflage as a consequence of the sooty northern manufacturing towns, peppered moths, originally white, became predominantly black via a reproduction process.

Courtesy of Deposit Images

Another 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 which have a lower body temperature to keep cooler in response to global warming. This phenomenon is noticeable in France where I live where snails are still a culinary delicacy, whatever their shell colour !

Whilst we humans have not suddenly developed coloured shells and wings (although I believe I can fly) to adapt to this harsh environment thrust upon us,  we are being forced to challenge more than ever before our “business as usual”: business models, organization, processes, tools, behaviours and routines. Most companies have now adapted to operating with remote workforces, attending online meetings and events and investing in tools for remote collaboration, onboarding, team building and customer engagement. This last year has forced us into adopting new working habits that we would have not thought possible when we were celebrating the arrival of 2020 just one year ago!

Prior to Covid-19, we were adapting digital offerings in a rather progressive manner where “digital transformation” was being placed as a priority for business strategies. In reality, however, companies were often struggling to adopt digital offerings and make digitalization an inherent part of the company DNA. Unlike the instinct-driven metamorphosis of our friends Adaptus Rex, the peppered moth and the shell-changing snail, our response to change has always been complex. It is perhaps because we human beings are the most intelligent of creatures on earth (we are led to believe) that we have often approached each new business evolution, including digital transformation with too much thought, emotion, memory and resistance. It is also because we are not always conscious of the risks ahead or are simply not measuring the risk of staying in our comfort zone.

Courtesy of Deposit Photos

With our Covid-19 impacted environment, our adaptation process has been more in line with the instinct-triggered adaptation of our friends from the animal kingdom. Like the peppered moths of my native England, we humans face the challenge of adapting quickly to our accelerated digital environment in order for our business to simply survive. We need to rapidly “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 evolution! With remote working practices and collaboration for example, we’re still learning about the tools but also acclimatizing associated best practices, code of conduct, new routines and associated soft skills.

Customer success is a role to partner our fellow human beings to acclimatize as quickly as possible to our new surroundings and rise to the new challenges of a world propelled more than ever by technological and digital innovation to overcome a global crisis: whether that be to facilitate remote collaboration, to foster online payment, to facilitate eCommerce transactions, to produce vaccines and monitor their supply chain, distribution and impact, to use 3D printing to produce medical supplies, to use AI to monitor and anticipate important data including the spread and behaviour of Covid-19 around the world … and the list goes on.

Courtesy of Deposit Photos

As we embrace 2021, I’d like to congratulate all the companies, all their customer success staff (customer success teams and all roles of the company) that have adapted and delivered their offerings (digital and non-digital) to help their customers and their own companies to survive and even thrive over the past year. I’d also like to send thoughts to those companies, customers and staff in verticals that have been directly negatively impacted by the pandemic.

“Adaptus Rex” joins me to wish you all the best for 2021 with joy, health and continued business adaptation, evolution and success!

 

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From RIO Sport Success to ROI Customer Success

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I’ve always been a sports fan and with the Olympic Games in Rio just starting, I’m excited to admire the performances of these great sports men and women. Whilst we watch the games as they’re televised around the world, let’s keep in mind the incredible determination and daily routines of practice, dedication and passion with which these sports people have prepared their ticket to success..

As we know, the Olympics were invented by the ancient Greeks and according to written records around 776 BCE. The modern Olympics were revived by a French aristocrat, Coubertin in 1896 following his concern about the lack of sportiness at that time of the French boules-playing population. French Boules playerI’m glad that 120 years later, his concerns and investment have now truly paid off despite the fact that “boules” is not yet an official Olympic discipline! For those interested, you may lobby for their introduction in the 2024 Games!

The games have evolved since 1896 admitting more disciplines, more countries and even women! Female participants were first allowed to compete in the Paris games in 1900 where just 2% of participants were women compared to 44% in the 2012 London games.

Whilst the individual stellar performances have always captivated our imagination (Mark Spitz, Mohamed Ali, Nadia Comaneci, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt to name but a few), Mohamed Ali 2team sports earn our admiration for the magical synergy and euphoria of collective performance. The RIO games for example will see Rugby 7 for the first time.

For those nations not familiar with the game (my US friends I’m impressed to also see you have a team in RIO), rugby is a passionate team game with core values comprised of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship. Basically, it’s 2 opposing teams (usually 15 aside) each running forward in opposite directions throwing backwards a squashed shaped ball. The aim is to run across the boundary line, dive on the ball and gain points (try), often squashing the ball even more. Johnny 4. pngThe winning team is the one with the most points, boosted with throws through a post (penalty) after doing a hen-like impersonation! (Johnny Wilkinson we love you). Humour aside, rugby demonstrates the epitomy of team work and collective performance. By the way, it was invented by the Brits!

Customer Success, Adoption and Performance

Although customer success has not yet been admitted as an Olympic discipline, the values it encourages in partnership with customers have all the ingredients: customer future vision of success, an expected business performance outcome, a plan of how to get there, discipline and determination to adopt new routines, behaviours and processes and of course the celebration of success stories.

As part of my approach to business transformations and for which customer success has an active role, I have coined the concept of A.M.P.M. This time, inspiration comes from the ancient Romans: A.M. meaning, ante meridiem (in other words before noon or morning if you prefer) and P.M., meaning post meridiem (afternoon for short). I have revamped the original Roman phrasing with the Anglo-Saxon term: Adoption Measurement and Performance Measurement. The underlying idea is that in any transformation where greater performance is the expected outcome (whether in business or sports or whatever…) we simply can’t just come out tops and nail it without first putting in all the adoption effort. So the saying goes, no pain, no gain! Naturally by the laws of science, we have never seen the afternoon come before the morning, right?

So whichever solution or service is being used to help achieve a determined greater business performance (however that may be defined), first a top-down plan of disciplined preparation and adoption needs to be implemented, controlled and measured. The RIO games participants have been carrying out such plans on a daily basis with blood, sweat and tears since the last London games in 2012.

A.M.P.M. Indicator Examples

The A.M.P.M. approach can be applied to any solution or service and implies defining adoption and performance indicators. The adoption indicators are considered as the pre-requisite measurements to control that the path for the desired outcome necessary for success is being paved. This often implies new routines, reflexes and adaptations to organisation and processes. It’s no longer a question of doing business as usual but moving out of a known comfort zone. For sports people today, this can correspond to measuring the evolution or maintenance of their physical form, aptitude and mental state, e.g. number of practice hours per day, amount of sleep, number of kilos gained or lost in weight, etc… For ancient Greek athletes (they were all male by the way), this also meant keeping their bodies in great shape to show off their magnificent muscles to their opponents as an indicator of superiority and intimidation!

Performance indicators measure the improvement in expected outcomes as they are achieved. For sports people, this is for example the reduction in seconds for track races, the number of goals scored or medals won, the number of world records broken, or the number of squashed ball tries for our rugby friends! The ROI of sports efforts and investment is palpable.

The table below shows just some non-exhaustive examples of A.M.P.M indicators which can typically be used to measure adoption and performance in a business context where CRM solutions are deployed. Depending on the context, solution type and expected business outcomes, the A.M.P.M. indicators are adapted. The ROI of solutions can then be more easily measured thanks to the analysis of the performance measurements.

A.M.P.M. Table

Team Performance

Whilst vision (dream of future performance) and determination (adoption needed to get there) is admirable for an individual sports person, when applying to a team, the effort is multiplied and accentuated by the added difficulty of getting everyone in sync. As we saw during the Euro football championship in France this summer, although there is often great individual talent, if the team as a whole is out of sync, then collective success is not au rendez-vous!

The A.M.P.M. can be applied to business team efforts and performance and it is interesting to detect any weak links which could potentially put collective performance at risk. Corresponding action plans can then be anticipated and addressed.

These A.M.P.M. indicators are of course just measurements. The real impetus for fabulous team performance comes from top-down management: sharing the vision of success, knowing how to drive a plan and create collective momentum to sustain the adoption activities which pave the way for team success.

To exemplify all this and to light up our Olympic flame, you’ll love the following short video and music* (5 mins). Although it’s a few years old, it makes a tribute to some all-time great sports men and women who have demonstrated the A.M.P.M. approach in the pursuit of their dreams for success. Sadly, Michael Schumacher has since been seriously injured and Lance Armstrong has demonstrated that non integrity never pays. This is a shame considering his fight to combat illness. On a brighter side, the video makes a final poignant tribute to Pelé, a very fitting Brazilian example of a stellar performer to nicely kick off the RIO games.Pelé

Enjoy and just imagine what would happen if each one of us displayed this kind of passion – everyday!

I dedicate this blog to all the RIO games participants as well as to all those embracing their next business transformation challenges. So A.M.P.M to you all and may the best sports performers earn their place on the RIO podium and the best business transformers on the ROI podium!

Just as a last minute inspiration from The Greatest :

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”  Mohamed Ali

Que comecem os jogos no Rio de janeiro !

View here the 5 minute video  : Everyday – Sports Champions Inpirational Video.

*If you’re wondering what’s the wonderful music: Vangelis–1942 Conquest of Paradise Theme (Christopher Colombus) 1992 Ridley Scott filmFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedin