Don’t Sell the Bacon. Sell the Sandwich

“There’s a battle between what the cook thinks is high art and what the customer just wants to eat.” – Mario Batali


As a customer success professional, one of the first things you need to explain to people is what you do. Imagine you are at a cocktail party – or even better – a family gathering, and your relatives ask you, “What is Customer Success?”

You might have just experienced a momentary panic.

If not, then congratulations! The quote above by Mario Batali goes a long way to explaining the crux of the problem when defining success. We often label success differently when we view that success from the perspective of the cook or the perspective of the customer. The reality is that to have a great restaurant (we’ll continue to stretch the metaphor here), you need a healthy tension between both.

Whether you are considering product features, the delivery of an implementation or a product, or the everyday use of a product, as a Chef or Owner, you want the customer to appreciate your work. You want the customer to delight in and love your work. You want the customer to sing your praises to the heavens. And why not – this might be some of the best work you’ve ever done!

And as the customer arriving at the product, you are expecting a great implementation. You anchor your expectations of the user experience on the best products you use every day. And you want the product to make you look great. This is a pretty tall order for any product or service to fill. But really you are just hungry and you want a pretty good meal.

So coming back to the question of customer success – how can the maker maintain the sense of creating great work that is intrinsically valuable to any customer while meeting the immediate needs of most customers given the product or service they deliver today?

One way to think about this problem is to consider the Biggest Small Thing you are able to do to help the customer. Distilling the problem into a simple improvement is a core concept of Kaizen –the idea of continuous improvement.

You always have more things that the customer would like you to do than you have time. You always have more things that you would like to do for the time you have available.

I’d propose that the best way to promote Customer Success for you and for your customer is to do the following:

  1. Understand their business and their key objectives (if you don’t know what ingredients they like, your sandwich won’t appeal)
  2. Identify any “show-stoppers” or obstacles to the service delivery(serving gluten to a gluten-intolerant customer doesn’t build success)
  3. Build the next best step forward by improving your craft (plating your food artfully improves any restaurant)

What is Customer Success? It happens when you align your business objectives with the key metrics your customers value. And don’t forget all the small touches that make a skillfully combined dish more than the sum of its parts.