Customer Success and the Hospital Pass

Barry Devon
Jul. 28th, 2014

Hospital pass” is a term used in several football codes to describe a pass that subjects the recipient to heavy contact, usually unavoidable, from an opposing player — the expression implying that the recipient of the pass could end up in hospital. (Wikipedia).

To throw (someone) under the bus is an idiomatic phrase in American English meaning to sacrifice a friend or ally for selfish reasons (Wikipedia). 

When your teammate throws you a hospital pass, it’s usually as the result of bad judgement or incompetence, rather than a desire to see you in traction for a month. Throwing a teammate or colleague under the bus, however, is done for more selfish reasons.

Customer Success managers (CSMs) are on the end of one or the other of these on a regular basis. When they are passed a new client by a salesperson, can the CSM be sure what kind of potentially unrealistic promises were made to help close the deal?

As part of Akita’s 2016 Customer Success Managers survey, we asked,

“Do you feel your new business sales team over-promise?”

Over 80% of the 100 CSMs surveyed (from over 90 SaaS firms globally) answered either:

‘Sometimes’ OR ‘Definitely – They are throwing us under the bus!’.

It looks like some salespeople are promising the impossible and CSMs are being put in an awkward spot.

Customer Success commentator Lincoln Murphy’s argument that the ‘Seeds of Churn are planted early’ may be mixing agricultural metaphors somewhat, but he does identify that a sell-at-all-costs philosophy can leave a legacy of churn. If you are on-boarding the ‘wrong’ customers or over-selling the solution, the job of the CSM becomes that much harder. A CSM on-boarding a mis-sold client wil have to do one of the following:

  • completely re-deliver the ‘true’ value proposition of your solution
  • dedicate an unbalanced amount of time to winning the client around and dragging health and happiness scores to an level where churn may be avoided 
  • let the client churn

In reality, all three may happen and this is a massive drain on a Customer Success resource that should be focused on driving adoption and growing ‘per customer revenue’.

Akita helps the whole team to understand how the success or failure of customers affects the success of your own business. Salespeople that continually deliver clients that churn early and don’t cover the Customer Acquisition Costs can be identified and their methods can be rectified early through positive intervention and coaching.

Do you have any stories about receiving ‘Hospital Passes’, being ‘Thrown Under The Bus’ or can you tell us how you resolved these issues, we would all love to hear!

Barry Devon is Head of Customer Acquisition at Akita 

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