There is no shortage of opinion in the market place about Customer Success; what it is, how to execute and whether growth should be a success metric are all hot topics. My observation is that much of what is written centers around how an organization is built or how one can sell retention strategies in the boardroom, but what if you already have a nicely run success organization (at least in your boss’ opinion)? Have you thought about areas of opportunity? What are the aspects of success you haven’t been able to implement because you just don’t have the time or budget?
There is always an opportunity to improve and likely a mix of both big and small rocks that could be moved today to increase the NPS of your partners, customers and employees.
1. Think Scale
Do your processes work for 40 customers? How about 400? 4000? What happens to your business when you begin to experience true hypergrowth and you have 40,000 customers to engage? Regardless of your current size, unless you think scale, you will not be the proactive organization you need to be in order to grow into the organization you and your investors envision. Are there aspects of your customer touchpoints which can be tech touch? Perhaps there are activities that need to be executed by a human and if so, can the activity be centralized with one person vs. all your CSMs performing the same action? Are your education courses available on-demand, on a platform with usage metrics easily tracked in one location? Are you still onboarding every user/customer with a web-call? If so, why? As you grow, your CSMs should be reserved for high-impact activities. Remember, it’s a lot harder to implement scale when both your internal and external customers are used to the individual, personalized touch you’re offering today.
2. Involve Customer Marketing
When you’re solving for scale, don’t assume you have to do this on your own. Our friends in marketing (especially customer marketing) can help you not only achieve the scaling goals above, but also help solve for onboarding, ongoing engagement, the introduction of new features, celebrate and elevate campaigns and more. This may require a long-term culture shift for not only your team but your CMO as well, as their current success metric is probably centered on lead generation. Helping to develop a (small) team focused on increasing the engagement, NPS and health of your current customer base can be a huge win, and the best part is the systems are currently in place for new customers! Help the CMO grow their sphere of influence while growing engagement and growth by leveraging marketing expertise – it’s a win-win!
3. Creatively Segment your Customers
Believe it or not, customers are not created equal. It’s easy to tie yourself in knots trying to determine the best way to segment your customers, but it doesn’t have to be hard or complicated. Understand it may take a few iterations to get it right (there are so many options – common options include size of prize (SOP), industry and/or geography) but it should be dynamic. As you grow and as your customers mature, so too should your segmentation. If you split the commercial relationship between sales and customer success, I would examine if there was a segment of your customers who would renew and organically grow a single CSM on the account vs. having two resources (sales and CSM) on the account. Perhaps there is a segment for which you can leverage tech touch 100% of the time vs. another sub-segment of customers you know need that white glove service. It’s crucial to think outside the box with segmentation. I believe there are great efficiencies to be had outside of only segmenting by spend.
4. Ignore Churn
You are reading this correctly. While measuring churn is important, it is only a measurement of the effectiveness of your activity and engagement with your customer over time. If you focus on the negative, the negative will be the end result. If you focus on the positive engagements, the positive is more likely to occur. Instead of focusing on churn, you should focus on the quality of the customer engagements your team is having.
5. Improve the Quality of Customer Engagements
One of the basic metrics many organizations track is how many times they talk/email/engage customers. A simple rule I’ve heard (and employed) is touching every customer, every month. While sometimes aspirational, yet rarely realistic, do you understand the quality? Are your CSMs engaged in high quality conversations with their customers? Are they asking, inquiring and reminding your customer about why they invested in the first place? Are they tying your solution back to a business problem your customer is trying to solve? It’s easy to become a human knowledge base but is that leveraging the skill set of your superstar CSMs? They can do more and should. You should enable their ability through coaching and call reviews to ensure they are engaging in high quality touchpoints. Looking for a quick win? Turn on video when running a customer call!
6. Understand the Customer Journey
When was the last time you sat in a room (preferably at an exotic off-site location with your team!) and truly gave yourself the space and time to map out the customer journey? I would argue few organizations have done this well. The trick is to not map out the customer journey the way you WANT it to look but to understand the reality of the situation. I was at a conference recently and a Chief Customer Officer commented that the entire 10-foot wall of his office mapped out the customer journey in extreme detail. Understanding how your customers engage with your entire organization, your solution and the business problems they are solving are all important touch points to understand. Invest the time and energy into this exercise as it can change the game.
7. Involve Product
Very few products are built from a customer success perspective. My vision of a customer success friendly product is one which leverages the information I know about my users and A.I. In an ideal world, engineering produces a product that understands the individual user, their goals and their use-case. It will lead the user through efficiencies, education and net-new features and benefits to ensure the product becomes invaluable. Unfortunately, this type of functionality is not easy or sexy to develop, so it will require your best negotiation skills to make it happen.
8. Learn from Customer Support
If you’re like my organization, the support team not only sits in a different physical location but in a different reporting structure from customer success. Collaboration can vary depending on your company culture but ultimately, both of these functions sit under customer experience so it’s imperative both of these teams are on the same page. Imagine, as the head of Customer Success, sitting down with your colleague in Support, analyzing tickets over the course of the past six months? Not only could you flex onboarding or enhance a step or two in your customer journey to avoid more tickets, but it could influence your product roadmap and thereby positively influence the overall customer experience.
9. Build a Holistic Customer Health Metric
The health metric is very much the holy grail of customer success. Does it exist? Will it ever be found? Instead of waiting for the science of customer success to emerge, leverage what you know and enable your CSMs to have that information at their fingertips. Do they know the most recent history of support tickets filed and the resolution status when your team is calling to promote a new feature (especially when their customer has issues with bugs)? Is your billing department on point? Are you sure? Was the most recent invoice sent also the correct invoice? What was their customer’s most recent NPS? All of these data points, and more, are valuable when your teams are engaging your customers. Ensure you are providing your team with the most holistic view of your customer’s experience, not just a one-sided view.
10. Celebrate & Elevate
We all know that without our customers, no matter how great our SaaS solution may be, we would not have a job. We appreciate their investment, their partnership and as customer success professionals, we are the voice of the customer. As it can be in our personal relationships, we can take those we care about for granted. It’s imperative to have a celebrate and elevate campaign (I suggest quarterly, if not monthly), recognizing customers for their business and/or their engagement with your solution. I suggest it be personalized, grassroots and while scale is the name of the game, nothing can beat a hand-written card from one of your CSMs to a user acknowledging an achievement or successful moment that may have been influenced by your product.
Building, running and executing a Customer Success Organization is not easy. It requires the right skills, process, people and technology. While you might not be where you want to be at this very moment, taking the time to improve your current strategy can help you move the needle internally and as a result help your customers succeed. Perfection may be your goal, but it is impossible to achieve without improvement!