Learnings of Customer Success Academy 2017

On November 14th the first Customer Success Academy in Amsterdam was held. Rien Brus (Aegon) and Niels Feenstra (Adobe) really gave us something to think about with their presentations and during the discussion sessions new insights were shared that are still going around in my head.

Insights that can help any company, in any industry, to increase their customer success.

Rien Brus (Aegon Global VP Customer Strategy Aegon N.V.)

Let’s share a few of the learnings from his presentation.

Starting with how empowered employees lead to loyal customers. Empowering can be done in many ways, automation is definitely something we cannot work without for example. Why are humans then still so important? There are skills that only people can provide: Empathy, Passion, and Creativity.

When looking at the experiences that people had with a product or service, it is distinct that there are always people mentioned in reviews. It emphasizes how important it is to value these specific human skills and to make sure that your customers get a chance to experience these human strengths.

Today it is all about the company with the best customer interaction and this is where technology kicks in. For technology can help to create this experience and empower your employees. Conclusion is that the best customer experience is created by combining the human strengths with technology: The Yin Yang of Pursuing Happiness and Using technology

This sounds easy, but it is a difficult task. Apart from making sure that your employees work with the technology and your customers can efficiently find your employees, it is key to remember that you work with people, but more important, their emotions. The best way to explain this is to watch the movie “Inside out”. The five emotions that are in the center of the movie, can be identified as Disgust, Anger, Fear, Sadness, and Joy.

Four out of the five emotions are negative. This is a huge influence on the communication of people which is what Customer Success is about since 80% of the emotions we deal with aren’t JOY. So keep thinking like Joy has helped us at Oaky often to keep positive in our communication.

Niels Feenstra (Adobe Customer Success Manager)

Now let’s see what Niels showed us.

As a Customer Experience Manager at Adobe, he knows that it is all about the experience of the guest. Adobe has grown over the years and discovered that the more applications were accessible via the internet instead of hard copies, the more important Customer Success became. As customers can easily access but also switch online, making sure that they use your applications in the right way and create the most value becomes vital.

So where to start? When looking at your own company, what costs you a lot of time and energy but does not always feel like it shows enough result. Four main challenges for Customer Success:

  1. From firefighter to Strategic Advisor
  2. Reactivity to proactivity
  3. Influencing without authority
  4. Success is not a department

As a Customer Success team, you deal with these challenges daily, so how to deal with them? At Adobe they use an assessment framework. (see figure 1.) This framework is focused on business to business companies.

  1. Understand the maturity of the customers business.
  2. Value-based approach instead of product based (create a plan for success)
  3. Data-driven approach = based on facts.So looking at the maturity of the company and the numbers that it produces, how do you make this plan of success? What should it entail?
    • Track & optimise value realization as an integral part of marketing transformation
    • Equally, focus on both processes and business results
    • Deploy a very straightforward assessment framework
Figure 1: The foundations of Value Realisation


To make sure that everybody went home with his or her questions answered we had a Q and A scheduled. Rien and Niels answered questions and were obviously looking at the issues from different viewpoints which created a very interesting discussion.

The final conclusion: Technology and humanity meet each other on ethical issues.

“Machines are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid.

Humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant.

Together they are powerful beyond imagination.”

Albert Einstein

Dear guests, speakers, friends, colleagues, Thank you for your input, your stories, your insights, the business cards and of course, cheers to a great 2018, see you next year!

(To keep track of these meetups, please click on the link below) By Tanya van Ra

Customer Success Academy website

Want to see the pictures?