3 Lessons the World Cup Can Teach Customer Success Professionals

Giorgina Gottlieb | July 9, 2018

Two soccer players chase the ball down the field

Every four years, the World Cup provides an opportunity to watch the best soccer players (or footballers, depending on your vernacular) compete against one another on the international stage.

The prestigious tournament can obviously teach viewers a thing or two about passing and headers. But the World Cup games are also filled with lessons on teamwork, preparation and adaptability, and the importance of fans.

As it turns out, these lessons are as relevant to customer success as they are to soccer. Below, we’ll explore what customer success professionals can learn from the World Cup about working together, striking the right balance between being prepared yet adaptable, and never losing sight of the fans.

Teamwork and Collaboration

The first lesson the World Cup can teach customer success agents is the importance of working together.

Without a doubt, there have been some standout stars in this year’s World Cup, which is currently taking place in Russia. (We’re looking at you, Harry Kane, Eden Hazard, and Kylian Mbappé.)

An individual player, especially one with star power, might be able to single-handedly (correction: single-footedly) score a goal or two. But no team can win a game — much less the entire tournament — without working together.

Some players are particularly adept at set pieces, while others are better at running and passing, which are critical to moving the ball within range of the goal. And then there are players who specialize in defense, keeping the opposing team from their goal area and blocking their shots when they do enter scoring range.

In order to win the match, players in each position must work together. Teamwork is likewise essential for customer success.

As a success professional, you must work closely with your colleagues in sales in order to ensure a smooth transition from closing the deal to onboarding and beyond. The team member who worked with the customer prior to making the sale can provide you with important insights into the customer’s pain points, as well as what they hope to achieve by using your product.

Your success department should also work closely with the product and engineering teams. Ideally, customers will form deep and lasting relationships with you and your fellow success managers, which will open an avenue for them to share honest feedback on the existing product and useful input on potential new features. The success team is the critical link between customers and the PMs and engineers working on product improvements.

“Teamwork makes the dream work” might be corny, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true!

Be Prepared Yet Adaptable

The second lesson the World Cup can teach customer success agents is how to be prepared yet adaptable.

Any team talented enough to qualify for the World Cup no doubt does their homework before a match. They study their opponents’ prior games to better understand their strengths and weaknesses. They also practice specific plays in addition to training on passing, penalty kicks, etc.

But once the kickoff takes place, all sorts of unpredictable things can happen on the field. For example, a player might get injured or the opposing team might try a new strategy that catches them by surprise. That’s why it’s important for the players to remain highly adaptable, ready to change a play on the fly or make other adjustments mid-game.

Customer success teams must also be prepared yet adaptable.

There is no substitute for doing your homework on your customers. You must research the product or service their company provides, their goals for using your product, and the landscape within which they operate. Only by deeply understanding your customer can you help them to succeed with your product.

That said, preparation can only take you so far. Once the papers have been signed, and it’s time to onboard your customer, you might find out new information that contradicts what they told the sales team while negotiating the deal.

Also, a customer’s needs and goals in regard to your product will likely change to some extent over time. As a customer success manager, you must be able to ingest this new data and adapt your strategy accordingly.

Focus on the Fans

The third lesson the World Cup can teach customer success agents is the importance of your fans.

The commitment of World Cup fans is legendary. In 2014, ABC put together a 50-slide deck showing photos of what the news organization dubbed “The Craziest World Cup Fans.” And following England’s victory over Sweden in a match just a few days ago, the Brits were celebrating so enthusiastically that a USA Today headline stated “the fans need to chill out.”

As the latter example makes clear, World Cup fans can sometimes go a little overboard and no doubt occasionally cause the players to feel frustrated and exhausted. But, at the end of the day, the World Cup would not continue if no one were watching it. Therefore, it’s important to show appreciation to the fans and avoid taking them for granted.

When it comes to customer success, the “fans” are your customers. Now, don’t get us wrong. At Squelch, we believe that you, the customer success professionals, are the true heroes of the company, and we don’t want to minimize the critical nature of your role.

That said, without customers, there could be no customer success. So, even when you feel like your customers need to “chill out,” it’s important to continue to show appreciation to these “fans” of your company.


Whether you call the sport soccer or football, we hope you enjoyed this post on three lessons the World Cup can teach customer success professionals.

And if you think of any additional lessons, please give us a shout on Twitter at @squelchio. We’d love to hear from you!