“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…” Dickens’ words from 1859 seem so relevant today…
Emerging fields of business are a draw for business book writing. Not only there is thirst by professionals for knowledge in a field that by definition lacks such knowledge, but also vendors in the space are eager to shape the market according to their beliefs as well as position themselves as thought leaders there. And what a better way to achieve those than by “writing The Book about it”.
The emerging field of Customer Success is no different. The thirst for knowledge is there and the few books that have been written about the space in the past few years came far short of providing neither a good overview not a practical framework for the growing cadre of professionals employed in and entrusted with Customer Success.
And all of a sudden, there is not one, but two really good books in the field!
In February 2016 came “Customer Success: How Innovative Companies Are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue” by Nick Mehta, Dan Steinman, Lincoln Murphy and Maria Martinez. Exactly a month later came “Farm Don’t Hunt: The Definitive Guide to Customer Success” by Guy Nirpaz and Fernando Pizarro.
It is interesting that the two companies which lead the emerging CSM solutions space not only hold their annual conferences a month apart, but also publish their books on the field within a month from one another…
With two books on the shelves, it begs the question, which one should we read? and: are there conflicts between them on some key questions related to this emerging field? Two very reasonable questions that I thought I can share some light on.
Full Disclosure: Before I continue, I’d like to note that I provided lots of feedback to Guy Nirpaz in writing his book, “Farm Don’t Hunt”, and wrote a chapter in it.
The first book is written by the Gainsight team, lead by Nick Mehta, Gainsight’s CEO, and is everything you’d expect from a book written by Gainsight. It is beautifully written, very engaging, flowing and educating. It is a big and broad book that is a fantastic tale of the evolution of Customer Success and its key characteristics. It is probably the most comprehensive and well written book on Customer Success in the market today, and I would strongly advise anybody who is in Customer Success or touching the field to read it.
The second book by Guy Nirpaz, the CEO and co-founder of Totango, is positioned as a hand-book, a practical guide for CSM and others who want a glimpse into Customer Success to make sure they get the basics right. It aims at ensuring a common ground of knowledge and understanding of the field so individuals and companies can build their unique processes over it with greater ease. To that end it is built along the life cycle of customers (and groves…) and discussing people-process-technology needs at each one. The Customer Success Association gave the book the award for “Best in Customer Success Content – 2016.“
Read them Both: Both books receive high ratings from readers and are well written. Since they complement one-another my advise for you is to read them both if you can afford the time. If you only wanted one book, the Gainsight book will give you a much broader perspective, while the Totango one will provide a quicker read. Choose what addresses your needs better.
Not for SaaS Only: The books are especially relevant to SaaS companies, but are very applicable to anybody in the space of Customer Success. If you are working today or wish to work in the Customer Success field, these books are priceless resources for you to gain a wonderful perspective on the field as well as some great methodologies and frameworks to use. If you are an executive who wishes to gain a good understanding of this emerging function, how it is different from and interacts with other corporate functions such as Sales, Customer/Technical Support, Professional Services and others, these books are a great resource for you too, especially the Gainsight book.
Renewal Should be an Outcome of On-Going Success, not a Focused Activity: “Farm Don’t Hunt” introduces the paradigm of managing a grove to the management of customers. Guy lays out this analogy beautifully and uses it to explain the activities needed to make customers successful beyond “securing the renewal”. The Farming analogy makes a lot of sense to me. Especially, the idea that managing customers involves a number of recurring activities that should be done on an on-going basis regardless of the customer state (think watering for example) versus other activities that are situation-based (think pruning in the winter, or treating a bug problem if and when it arises). This insightful understanding should lead to some meaningful realizations on the customer management side. For example, one can clearly understand that “managing renewals” if a situation-based activity that must be preceded by a set of successful recurring activities that drive the health of your customer. Focusing on the renewal alone, in isolation of the recurring activities, is understandably a very ineffective strategy.
Customer Success Applicability is Expanding: Demand for Customer Success processes, professionals and software is increasing in many non-SaaS industries already as evident from attendance at conferences, such as the recent Customer Success Summit and the active discussions on The Customer Success Forum on LinkedIn managed by The Customer Success Association. The argument for that applicability is very well presented in the Gainsight book, laid out beautifully and quite compelling.
Technology Shapes the Level of Touch: The segmentation of customers between high touch, low touch and tech touch is a key theme in the Gainsight book and is quite compelling. The authors use it to provide insights on each of the “Tech Laws of Customer Success”, which are the key messages in the book. It provides a useful framework to assess the different activities the Customer Success team must conduct and push for automation and scalability in their performance along the different touch levels.