The Marketing Strategist:
Marketing’s Next Opportunity: Leading the Charge for Customer Success
Ensuring customer success has moved from important to urgent as B2B firms rely more and more on customer retention and growth in a subscription- and service-based economy.
ITSMA’s recent interview with Jeb Dasteel, Oracle’s chief customer officer and co-author of Competing for Customers, highlights the great opportunity that marketers have to lead the transformation that B2B companies need to make in prioritizing customer success.
Jeb Dasteel: Thanks, Rob, and you’re right: we have been focused on customer success for many years, and some of our competitors have been, too. But there has been a tremendous intersection of changes over the past few years that has made this an urgent priority today and created an enormous opportunity for marketing to lead the way.
For one thing, customers are more demanding today than ever before. The expectations for customer experience are greater than they have ever been. Meanwhile, our business has changed; our whole business is focused more on delivering cloud services to our customers. The people making the buying decisions—our customers—are also changing. No longer are these decisions centralized in the IT organization with the CIO and their team.
Finally, we have a real framework for helping customers deliver business outcomes. We have always talked about the value of our solutions, but the process was fragmented in the past. We were pretty good at doing business cases as part of the sales process, and we did some post-implementation assessments. But we were never great at it, and there was never a real need to put it all together into one continuous, complete view of the customer journey.
ITSMA: What’s the scope of urgency here, Jeb? Clearly this makes sense for the software companies working in or moving to subscription and cloud, but what about other types of B2B firms, like manufacturers or even professional services firms?
Dasteel: I really think this applies to most B2B businesses. It’s all about retention. For any business that relies on retaining customers as well as acquiring new ones, the customer success focus provides a unifying theory to ensure retention and growth. What we’ve learned at Oracle is that there’s a clear, demonstrable relationship between engaging our customers all the way through to their success and ensuring their satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. It’s made a big impact for Oracle in terms of customer retention, and I think the same is true for most B2B companies.
ITSMA: Let’s talk about how to put customer success into practice. Oracle is obviously a big company with multiple business units, all the typical corporate functions, and thousands of diverse customers. How do you get everyone working in the same direction?
Dasteel: Oracle is a kind of petri dish for the whole approach. We’ve been experimenting and pushing the boundaries in pretty much every aspect of what you see in the Competing for Customers book for a number of years, and it’s still a work in progress.
Overall, though, there are four critical initiatives that have shaped everything we do.
- Customer Feedback: Being disciplined about collecting feedback across multiple channels, doing it in a way that brings you both qualitative and quantitative input in structured and unstructured formats, applying the right analytics, and then presenting it all to the organization as a change agent.
- Easy to do business: This is really important, and understanding this, addressing it head on, and getting it right are especially critical in the subscription economy.
- Universal segmentation strategy: This was probably the most successful corporate-led program I’ve seen at Oracle, and it had a huge, almost immediate impact on our customers and on Oracle’s business. It allowed us to create consistency across the whole organization in how we treated different types of customers and has paved the way for a truly integrated approach to customer success
- Orchestration: CIOs told us that it was too complicated doing business with Oracle and that we needed to coordinate across the different touch points with all our products and services. At first, we began at the account level with our key accounts. I don’t think the basics are different from other companies, but we have key account directors for our top tiers and they are driven to a large extent by customer success. They certainly have other commercial measures, but the way they organize the team and the deliverables and all the interactions with the customer are rooted in customer success.
ITSMA: Speaking of orchestration, what is marketing’s role in all this? You mentioned earlier that the move to customer success is a huge opportunity for marketing. How so?
Dasteel: I think there are two big opportunities for marketing. One is to take ownership of the customer engagement strategy. To me, customer engagement is the central point. I think marketing is best positioned to drive the engagement model from beginning to end and to frame what we do across the whole customer lifecycle.
Second, and directly connected to engagement, is tracking and measuring business outcomes and the realization of value.
It’s a huge change for marketing, though. At Oracle, we started to shift seven or eight years ago with a big focus on marketing and sales alignment, and we’ve done a good job with that at the tactical level. In the last couple of years, we’ve begun doing a lot to drive more strategic objectives around customer success and doing more work on engagement all along the customer lifecycle.
Jeb Dasteel is senior vice president and chief customer officer at Oracle, and co-author of Competing for Customers: Why Delivering Business Outcomes Is Critical in the Customer First Revolution. He is responsible for driving the relentless focus on customer success into all aspects of the Oracle business. Dasteel works across Oracle to deliver customer programs that continuously improve collaboration and attainment of customer business outcomes. He has been with Oracle for 18 years in a number of corporate and field-based roles. Before joining Oracle in 1998, he worked as a management consultant at Gemini Consulting, helping Fortune 500 organizations define and implement business and IT strategies.
Note: To read the full interview with Jeb Dasteel, check out Orchestrating Customer Success, an ITSMA Viewpoint available at no charge to ITSMA members (password required) and for sale to everyone else.
*See Jeb speak about marketing’s opportunity to lead customer success at ITSMA’s Marketing Vision 2016 conference on November 1-2 in Cambridge, MA.