Engaged Learning

You’re Only as Successful as Your Customer

In the world’s first MBA program of its kind, USF teaches how to anticipate customers’ needs

by SAYANTIKA MANDAL, Office of Marketing Communications

To serve a fast-growing job market, the School of Management has created the first academic program in customer success management as part of its MBA program.

“Ten years ago, software vendors didn’t need a customer success manager,” said Vijay Mehrotra, director of the university’s MBA program in customer success management. “But now that so much business and personal software is hosted in the cloud, software vendors have to earn their money every time their subscription or contract comes up for renewal.”

A customer success manager, employed by the software vendor, helps customers get maximum value out of costly software and other programs by giving tutorials, sending reminders about key features, and sharing case studies that apply to the customers.

This manager’s job is not simply customer service.

“Customer service is reactive — the customer asks a question and the customer service representative gives an answer and marks the issue as resolved,” said Mehrotra. “Customer success is proactive. It enables the customer to capture the business value that was promised.”

As part of their training, USF students go on company visits and do real consulting projects with local technology firms.

“Our location in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area, the world's largest concentration of software and customer success professionals, is a key part of our program's competitive advantage for our students,” said Mehrotra.

Educating the Whole Person

Another advantages of USF’s program is the Jesuit approach of educating the whole person, he said.

“On the one hand, we strengthen our students’ technical foundation, training them to work with data so that they are at ease translating what the technology does and how it can be used effectively. On the other, we’re teaching them to work with people, helping them communicate clearly, organize and help execute projects, and speak in ways that both executives and users can understand.”

Many USF alumni are employed in customer success roles, among them Justin Oberbauer MBA ’06, vice president of customer success at PeopleGrove in San Francisco, a professional network and mentorship platform.

“Once they are a customer, I, with my team, am responsible for their success,” Oberbauer said.

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