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Building Customer Champions Into Your Team Culture

by | Customer Success

Culture is what actually happens.

We set out to influence our team or company culture in good ways. Sometimes, we succeed. Other times, we don’t. 

Along the way, many of us forget that for every great cultural moment we create, our company is exposed dozens, hundreds, or thousands of times per day to the most powerful creators of a company’s culture: their customers. 

Whether in sales calls, customer support tickets, or social media posts, customers often engage. Usually bluntly. And as soon as the impulse hits them. After all, by taking their money, we promise to provide a great experience.

What does this mean for the Customer Success team?

Becoming the Customer’s Champion

Great Customer Success teams become cultural drivers within your company. By carrying the pain, frustration, joy, and success of the company, they are uniquely ready to represent the Voice of the Customer. By bringing that Voice to every conversation, they challenge and improve your culture daily to be more responsive to and considerate of your customers. 

This brings together every advantage of a Customer Success team.

But what exactly does it mean to be the Customer’s Champion?

You Hear the Customer

Truly listening to what your customers are saying (and sometimes, not saying) is the superpower of Customer Success

When you hear them, you can understand their needs and turn those into discussions within your company.

And when you become excellent at hearing the customer, you can begin to understand needs that the customers don’t understand. 

After all, it’s common for people to express excitement or frustration as a strong but vague emotion since they’re not the subject matter experts on your product. 

You Speak for the Customer

Once you know what to say, it’s important to begin speaking up on your team and within your company. 

Why? Two reasons.

The first is that customer feedback fuels innovation.

The second is that your company needs to be reconnected to its customers.

We’ve covered both in-depth, so check out the linked articles to learn more. 

Your Team Learns the Customer

When you start speaking up, your company can learn what the customer thinks because you’re actively teaching them.

But the company will also start learning on its own. Why? Because your culture will begin thriving. Most teams naturally recognize this as it happens and respond well. 

Product, Marketing, Sales, Engineering, and the C-Suite become captivated by how your company is suddenly solving issues once thought to be unsolvable. 

Your Culture Develops Around the Customer

These changes merge into a culture that develops around the customer. 

Now, this doesn’t mean that the customer is always right. In fact, customer feedback is often a great way to learn which customers aren’t right to acquire or could even be fired. Sometimes, the best feedback you can receive is to know what not to do. 

What does happen is that delighting the right customer becomes (or becomes again) the core of your company’s culture. It is reflected in how products are researched, developed, and supported, in how marketing is created and reviewed, and in how the mission itself is evaluated over time. 

People in your company begin to use the same language your customers use.

Be ready (and excited) for the day someone who isn’t part of the Customer Success function reminds you to keep the customer in focus.

The Costs of Being the Customer’s Champion

This is a short list, but we want to address the main costs.

Resistance to Change

People are famously resistant to change. After all, we have done things “this way” well enough to reach a certain level of progress. Why change

It’s easy to dismiss these complaints as outdated or shortsighted.

Instead of fighting back, understand why these team members are resistant. 

Sometimes, you will find that they are just against change.

More often, you will find they are worried about losing something – respect, responsibility, or time spent relearning – which should be supported. 

You may also find that the resistors have valid points. Maybe they feel like the change is happening without enough information – after all, you just spoke to 3 customers – or that while the direction is a good idea, the tactics for changing direction are questionable. 

Frustration with the Messenger

It is never easy being an advocate for change. 

When people resist, they often focus their frustration on the person promoting the change, no matter where the data came from. 

You may be tempted to use the customers as a shield since these are their opinions, not yours. Be careful to balance your response since it is true you represent customer data but also true that you are choosing to support this change. 

Messengers are most successful when they support their message with data, show rather than tell, and focus on building relations instead of winning your point.

Check out our article on how customer success fuels innovation to learn more about engaging with your company.

Financial Cost of Change

The top line and bottom line. They decide everything in a company. That’s reasonable since, without revenue and profitability, any company is doomed to failure. 

This final cost of being a champion is all about you. As a champion of the customer, you care most about delighting them. Costs can seem secondary when you imagine droves of customers quitting your product for the competition. 

This makes it easy to forget, ignore, or disregard costs. But companies have built-in control mechanisms to stop this. These include decision rights overspending, functions like Finance or Accounting being responsible for financial management, and cultural resistance to haphazard change. 

Proactively investigate the financial costs upfront. Openly discuss those with your cross-functional team when reviewing a possible change. Invite rigorous challenges to all your assumptions. 

And recognize that, sometimes, a change might not be worth the cost.

Today we’ve explored how becoming the customer’s champion brings the advantages of customer success together for everyone. 


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How an Obsession with Customer Success Scaled a Billion-Dollar Startup with Shegun Otulana

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