Why Is Product Success a Precursor to Customer Success?


Have you ever no­ticed a com­mon theme among the first episodes of most tv shows?

The word pi­lot per­haps?

This is be­cause the first episode of a tele­vi­sion se­ries is broad­cast as a test for the net­work to see if it will be a suc­cess. This might sound a lit­tle dras­tic, and you are prob­a­bly won­der­ing why the suc­cess of a show can come down to that cru­cial point.

Drastic? Yes. Common? Absolutely!

So com­mon in fact that this is some­thing we do in the soft­ware in­dus­try, with our own spin on it of course. You see, pi­lot­ing (or test­ing) is a fan­tas­tic way to un­der­stand the true na­ture of your con­sumers and their ex­pe­ri­ence.

It might sound like all the suc­cess rides on this sin­gle mo­ment in time, but truth be told, there are many mech­a­nisms we can put in place to en­sure that pi­lot mo­ment is a suc­cess, or at least as suc­cess­ful as it can be.

To un­der­stand how these mech­a­nisms can mod­er­ate the re­la­tion­ship be­tween prod­uct suc­cess and cus­tomer suc­cess, have a look at the di­a­gram be­low:

diagram showing the relationship between product and customer success moderated by marketing, sales, development and operations

In this re­la­tion­ship di­a­gram, I have po­si­tioned prod­uct suc­cess and cus­tomer suc­cess on the same con­tin­uum where they are feed­ing in­for­ma­tion back to each other and other ar­eas of the or­gan­i­sa­tion. I have done this be­cause when one does well, the other fol­lows closely, in an in­cred­i­bly care­ful bal­anc­ing act.

It is also im­por­tant to note that prod­uct suc­cess is mod­er­ated and in­flu­enced by other or­gan­i­sa­tional in­flu­ences such as:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Development
  • Operations

Just to clar­ify, a mod­er­at­ing fac­tor (or vari­able) in­flu­ences the strength to which a re­la­tion­ship.) is found.

For ex­am­ple, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween prod­uct suc­cess and cus­tomer suc­cess can be mod­er­ated by the kinds of cus­tomers the mar­ket­ing team at­tracts to the prod­uct. For in­stance, the ideal cus­tomer will (hopefully) strengthen the re­la­tion­ship be­tween prod­uct and cus­tomer suc­cesses. Whereas a de­tract­ing cus­tomer will weaken this re­la­tion­ship.

Needless to say, our suc­cess, prod­uct, sales, mar­ket­ing, de­vel­op­ment, and op­er­a­tions teams have a tight knit re­la­tion­ship!

However, this ar­ti­cle is not solely about this re­la­tion­ship, as I want to fo­cus on its ori­gins.

Before we launch to cus­tomers, through a pi­lot(!), there are el­e­ments of the prod­uct that need to be suc­cess­ful first. These are:

  • Performance
  • Problem solv­ing
  • Seamless in­te­gra­tions

An ap­pli­ca­tion needs to per­form tech­ni­cally, vi­su­ally, and ef­fi­ciently.

Firstly, tech­ni­cal per­for­mance (at a high level) is the de­gree to which the ap­pli­ca­tion sends and re­ceives re­quests to and from the servers and users, this sits with the de­vel­op­ment team. Next, the vi­sual per­for­mance refers how the prod­uct is de­signed and what as­pects of it the user can see, this sits with the UI/UX team. Finally, the ef­fi­ciency of the ap­pli­ca­tion refers to the be­hav­iours needed to com­plete the work­flow/​s within the ap­pli­ca­tion.

I have only just scratched the sur­face of per­for­mance here but there are many facets within each of the 3 lay­ers of per­for­mance that are re­quired to en­sure the suc­cess­ful per­for­mance of an ap­pli­ca­tion.

Problem Solving

This might seem odd, but when you think about it, an ap­pli­ca­tion is de­signed to solve a prob­lem. “There’s an app for that” aptly demon­strates that no mat­ter the prob­lem, there is an app to solve it.

So, why are we still build­ing them??? Well, that comes down to how well that prob­lem is solved by the ex­ist­ing ap­pli­ca­tions in mar­ket, or maybe that so­lu­tion is so com­plex, the ap­pli­ca­tion has not been built yet!

So, to re­it­er­ate the point, the rea­son why a user would use an app is to solve a prob­lem. I have an app for my alarm clock so that I don’t sleep in, a photo li­brary app so that I can store my mem­o­ries, a run­ning app so that I can track my runs…nearly every part of my life has an ap­pli­ca­tion at­tached to it.

This is not meant to sound hor­ri­fy­ing; it is merely a re­flec­tion of the tech­no­log­i­cally cen­tred lives we have to­day. So, in­stead of run­ning for the hills and switch­ing off — em­brace it!

Applications that are suc­cess­ful prod­ucts demon­strate their prob­lem-solv­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties over and above their com­pe­ti­tion. In my pre­vi­ous blog, I un­packed the is­sues I ex­pe­ri­enced with my past bank­ing app that, if I look at it from a prob­lem-solv­ing point of view, could not solve the crit­i­cal prob­lems a bank­ing app is in­tended to solve (i.e., trans­fers, re­pay­ments, spend track­ing, etc.) which is why I switched apps.

Seamless Integrations

The whole point of a na­tive app is that it works seam­lessly into the users’ de­vice us­age.

To in­ves­ti­gate this a bit fur­ther, I am go­ing to go back to the alarm clock ref­er­ence. Using my phone as my alarm clock (as so many other peo­ple do), feeds data into other ar­eas of my phone that as­sist me with us­ing the de­vice.

For ex­am­ple, as my alarm clock is set to the same time each week­day, my no­ti­fi­ca­tions set­tings (are al­lowed) to adapt to this seam­lessly.

Of course, there are set­tings that al­low users to self-se­lect this data shar­ing, but to be hon­est, I like the au­toma­tion!

Another ex­am­ple can be sim­ply shown in iCloud! I love the fact that I have iCloud on my phone, iPad and MacBook be­cause every­thing just works to­gether so seam­lessly.

Another way to look at it is switch­ing be­tween a desk­top/​web ap­pli­ca­tion to a na­tive mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion. For ex­am­ple, I can open the Outlook desk­top app, the web app and the mo­bile app and should see the same data (i.e. emails) dis­play­ing in the same fold­ers. This is an ex­am­ple of data syn­chro­ni­sa­tion, but it is a big part of the seam­less in­te­gra­tion layer of prod­uct suc­cess.

diagram shows how a well performing app can perform well across multiple devices

It goes with­out say­ing, these lay­ers need to be op­ti­mally op­er­at­ing to en­sure the over­all suc­cess of the prod­uct.

Where to now?

We need to put to­gether an ac­tion­able strate­gic plan that out­lines how we are go­ing to make a suc­cess­ful prod­uct into a cus­tomer suc­cess. This is not nec­es­sar­ily a nat­ural thing. You might have all the el­e­ments of a suc­cess­ful prod­uct, but with­out the strat­egy to trans­late that prod­uct into suc­cess for your cus­tomers, the prod­uct won’t con­tinue to be a suc­cess.

Step 1: Clearly de­fine the prob­lem that you are try­ing to solve (which all those mod­er­at­ing busi­ness func­tions can re­late to)

At WorkingMouse we stress the need to de­fine the prob­lem clearly from the get-go. To make sure that all busi­ness lev­els are aligned and fo­cused on achiev­ing the same so­lu­tion. This can also be re­ferred to as a sin­gle met­ric, or the vi­sion of the prod­uct.

Setting a strate­gic sin­gle met­ric for each prod­uct and align­ing this across the or­gan­i­sa­tion means that there is an agreed ob­jec­tive for the prod­uct and each func­tion of the busi­ness can work within their teams to achieve this. This al­lows each de­part­ment to set their own KPIs that lead to that over­ar­ch­ing met­ric with­out feel­ing con­strained to the prod­uct it­self.

Customer Success uses the sin­gle met­ric to map out how each cus­tomer us­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion will achieve this, and in turn find value in the app.

Step 2: Pilot, test, trial…how­ever you want to put it - just do it!!!

Remember how we said at the be­gin­ning that each tele­vi­sion pro­gram has a first episode that is gen­er­ally a pi­lot? This is ex­actly why!! We have a new prod­uct/​pro­gram/​ap­pli­ca­tion, and we need to know, even af­ter all of the R&D work we have done, if it is some­thing that the wider au­di­ence will want and use (better yet, pay for!).

In launch­ing a pi­lot of an ap­pli­ca­tion there are some non-ne­go­tiables that need to be in place be­fore hit­ting the big red [LAUNCH] but­ton:


  • (What?!? Again!?!) I know, I know…I say it every time, but it is one of the most, if not the most, im­por­tant in­clu­sions to en­sure is live and record­ing dur­ing your pi­lot phase
  • There are go­ing to be so many op­por­tu­ni­ties dur­ing this pi­lot to learn from your users, op­por­tu­ni­ties that you might not come across again
  • Coordinate quan­ti­ta­tive with qual­i­ta­tive data to paint the over­all pic­ture of how your users are feel­ing

Create a feed­back loop

  • Feedback can come in many dif­fer­ent shapes and sizes — it is cru­cial to the suc­cess of your prod­uct and cus­tomers to open those av­enues up for all to ac­cess
  • It can fuel pri­or­i­ties, al­lude to is­sues you were not aware of, but it can also val­i­date your as­sump­tions about the prod­uct and the end-users
  • Feedback needs to be ac­cessed in­ter­nally and ex­ter­nally; re­mem­ber those or­gan­i­sa­tion func­tions? They need to be able to see what feed­back trends are com­ing through so they can act on it. The prod­uct is not the only thing that can im­prove from feed­back. Think about this, as a prod­uct, the feed­back is pos­i­tive, but as a web­site that de­tails the prod­uct and its of­fer­ing, it might not be as strong. This is great feed­back for your mar­ket­ing team. Those con­tribut­ing func­tions will con­tinue to en­hance the pro­duc­t’s suc­cess.

Demonstrate cus­tomer value

  • This is a tricky one, but done well, you can reap many ben­e­fits
  • Testing out a prod­uct for the first time can be daunt­ing to many users so you need to show them that you value their time and their ef­forts
  • This could be through mon­e­tary in­cen­tives, ex­clu­sive ac­cess to prod­uct el­e­ments, any­thing! If it’s some­thing that says, “hey, we ap­pre­ci­ate you, thank you for spend­ing the time to do this,” that might be just enough to demon­strate back to your cus­tomers that you value them.
Step 3: Analyse, Evaluate and Iterate!

You have all this data, all this feed­back and a happy pi­lot test­ing base, now what?

Analyse the feed­back and data you have re­ceived

Ask your­self (n.b this is not an ex­haus­tive list):

  • Are there par­tic­u­lar themes high­lighted?
  • Is one sec­tion or mul­ti­ple sec­tions of the app com­mented on?
  • What were the pain points?
  • What were the suc­cess points?
  • And did the users solve the prob­lem the app aimed to solve?

Evaluate the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the feed­back

Once the an­a­lyt­ics and feed­back has been analysed and sorted, it is time to eval­u­ate who, or which de­part­ment rather, does the re­spon­si­bil­ity of ac­tion­ing this feed­back lie with?

For ex­am­ple, if the app is slow to re­spond, this would be some­thing the de­vel­op­ment team would need to be aware of.

It is crit­i­cal that dur­ing the eval­u­a­tion, the feed­back points need to be con­sid­ered and as help­ful or hin­der­ing. What I mean here is that some­times ap­pli­ca­tions can be vic­tim to de­sign­ing it­er­a­tions from feed­back, in­stead of stick­ing to their guns and just be­ing in­flu­enced by feed­back.

Iterate from eval­u­a­tions

Using the eval­u­ated feed­back points, the ap­pli­ca­tion will need to be it­er­ated re­peat­edly. Iterations are not meant to be con­sid­ered as “rebuilds” they are more like con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ments and con­sol­i­da­tions of solv­ing the ini­tial prob­lem.

Just from the length of this ar­ti­cle we can see that there is quite a lot that goes into the en­sur­ing a prod­uct is set up for suc­cess to then lead its cus­tomers to suc­cess.

If we go back to the orig­i­nal re­la­tion­ship di­a­gram and mak­ing note of the bi­lat­eral di­rec­tion the ar­rows de­pict be­tween prod­uct suc­cess and cus­tomer suc­cess. Setting up a prod­uct for suc­cess is just the be­gin­ning of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween prod­uct and cus­tomer suc­cess.

It is safe to con­clude that prod­uct suc­cess and cus­tomer suc­cess should con­tinue to work with each other to de­liver a suc­cess­ful ap­pli­ca­tion to the users.

Remember, we are al­ways here to help — so reach out and book a strat­egy ses­sion with us!

Discover Software


Alice Spies

KPI mo­ti­va­tor and res­i­dent head chef

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