Customer Success is a transform necessary in an environment where customers have more power than ever before. This 4-step change framework, focuses on the type of continuous evolution needed for success in your industry.

Either you’re launching Customer Success or have already started on this journey. This type of transformation involves many people, departments, and functions. To be successful, a change management program is necessary.


While an established framework, John Kotter’s 8 step change management approach is still among the best toolkit. One challenge with Kotter is that the final step, “Institute Change” fails to recognize that in the 21st century world, change is indeed the only constant. With that in mind, we think of a 4-step change framework, where the end state focuses on continuous evolution is more effective. While this model can apply to various types of transformational change, let’s focus on Customer Success.


  • Engage the Right People (Condenses “Build a Coalition” and “Enlist a Volunteer Army”)– For Customer Success, this must start at the top. It requires CEO level commitment to make the investments and drive the culture change necessary to transform your enterprise. With the CEO’s blessing, you can begin to enlist your “coalition of the willing.” Your coalition must include representation from the following functions:


    • Product
    • Marketing
    • Sales
    • Customer Care/Service/Support
    • Finance
    • Human Resources


Without their support, your Customer Success team will not have the transformative impact you intend. Your coalition should engage the leaders of these functions (your peers) as well as key influencers at different levels of the organization.


  • Define what Success Looks Like (Condenses “Create a Sense of Urgency” and “Form a Strategic Vision and Initiatives”) – The business case is relatively easy to create as it relates to customer success. Churn is a straightforward measure, that is easy to understand. Quantifying its impact is also straightforward as it relates to revenue, growth rate, and ultimately valuation. While this is likely the vision of the executive leadership team, it’s vital to cascade that into something meaningful across the organization, and to identify items which have an emotional resonance. Defining what you expect to impact and when will drive the vision. To increase urgency, you can convert these metrics into a monthly/weekly/daily value, to ensure that decisions are made quickly, and resources are allocated.


  • Leverage Wins to Drive Change (Condenses “Enable Action by Removing Barriers” and “Generate Short Term Wins”) – Most clients kick off customer success to reduce churn. The most effective play is to understand a segment (usually driven by account segmentation), where you can quickly reduce churn, developing a playbook, executing and getting results on the board.   Often, the highest point of leverage would be your strategic accounts, where saving 1-2 accounts would quickly drive improvements.


  • Embed in Culture (Condenses“Sustain Acceleration” and “Institute Change”) – that the playbook you developed in the above steps and rapidly iterate it to other segments. You need to publicize these wins to maintain momentum and expand the coalition. 


Throughout these phases a detailed communication plan is necessary. Here are some things to consider

  • Consider all levels of the organization, and their need to know. Most companies fail to proactively communicate changes and provide status to front line staff. Engaging them is vital.
  • Consider various functions, the list of departments above, and identifying the key interlocks will help you identify which departments need to know about the changes.
  • Frequency and mode. In nearly 20 years of leading change, I have yet to see an initiative, much less a transformational one that was over-communicated. It’s also important to leverage different channels (face to face 1:1 meetings, conference calls, email, Chatter, Town Halls).
  • Enable your coalition to communicate on your behalf. Erring on the side of simplicity is a great way to ensure the message stays consistent

Customer Success is a transformational change that is necessary in an environment where customers have more power than they’ve ever had. Applying these best practices will increase the odds of you making the number. If you would like to learn more about leading transformative change, please reach out to us and one of our experts can join you in The Studio.


For additional help evaluating your customer success strategy click here to take SBI’s Revenue Growth Diagnostic. This self-assessment helps corporate executives:


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  3. Facilitate discussions with the Executive Leadership team on the importance and value of creating a strong compelling brand and message


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Sources: Leading Change, John Kotter,