Handling Rapid Growth: Key Theme at the Toronto CS Executive Breakfast


Rapid Growth Customer Success Operations Scale

The Toronto Customer Success Executive Breakfast is a forum whereby local industry leaders get together over breakfast to discuss the still young and rapidly evolving field of Customer Success.


Co-hosted by Natasha Narayan and myself, and Sponsored by Gainsight, senior executives in the field of Customer Success are invited to share their knowledge and expertise amongst their peer group in an intimate and highly interactive setting.


The breakfast is an opportunity for these leaders in Customer Success to convene, exchange ideas and further define industry best practices.


Greg Boyd, Director Customer Success at Axonify, and Jesse Goldman, VP Customer Success at Influitive, were the headliners of this past week’s executive breakfast session.


The two shared the context of their respective businesses, how Customers Success within each organization is structured, what initiatives they have been working on to address key challenges, and the corresponding results of those efforts.


Customer Success at Axonify


Axonify has been growing leaps and bounds.


Coming out of 2016, the challenge for Customer Success was to ramp up the function to support the massive increase in renewal.


To address retention, which was impacted as a result of the growth, they executed three key changes.


Axonify:


1. Re-organized


Axonify was philosophically bought into customer success but they were not structurally setup to fully support it.


Heading into the new year, they re-organized to a Client Experience organization carving out a Client Sales team.


The resulting Client Success team partners very closely with Client Sales to address risk and help with upsell, they also established a tighter connection with implementation and support.


Separating sales from Client Success was huge for Axonify resulting in both increased retention and deal sizes.


2. Set up an executive review


Every three weeks starting in January last year the entire executive team, Client Success team and a few other key individuals meet for a couple of hours to review risky accounts and come up with an action plan.


The time invested by this cross functional group resulted in a significant number of very high-value account saves supporting the increased retention rates.


It also had two key beneficial side effects.


It instilled more customer empathy within the executive team; they feel they need to be invested in their customers, and it developed the confidence of the Customer Success Managers (CSMs) to speak with executives at the customer regarding these action plans.


3. Implemented a robust reporting system


Axonify had Gainsight but their reporting system was not as robust as they wanted it to be.


To address this, they started a churn analysis by creating a spreadsheet that outlined every touch-point and relationship with the customer and they collected all the data points.


Out of this analysis they captured four key insights that form the foundation of their maturity model and identify which accounts need to be reviewed for risk mitigation:


  • Relationships with their clients are important. They have the data to support that those accounts with various employee touch-points are stronger.

  • Alignment to strategy helps keep the client’s focus on the meaningful business objective they want to achieve.

  • Content that is good and ties back to the business objective helps drive customer maturity

  • Adoption metrics provide insight into how proficient and sticky customers are to the technical solution.


Greg shared how those specific initiatives accounted for double digit growth in retention and resulted in the Client Success group forming a notable contribution of the company’s overall ARR growth.


Customer Success at Influitive


At Influitive, scale is top of mind.


Growing faster than the infrastructure and process could handle, Jesse shared how Influitive is in the process of transitioning to a more scalable model to drive Customer Success.


The key challenge for Customer Success is that driving advocacy is easy to understand but hard to do.


It requires a considerable amount of change management for the solution to stick thus the Customer Success model has traditionally been very high touch.


As Influitive looked at ways to engage their customer in a more repeatable manner, they created a framework for creating advocates consistently, and clearer boundaries on the work that CSMs do to support that.


The key to the scalable framework was outlining a standard journey that all customers follow and then segmenting their customer base to determine the depth of service provided to each tier of customer along the journey.


A main component in managing the customers through the journey consistently, one that drove a 4x increase in retention, was to employ Customer Success Plans (CSPs).


CSPs facilitate the Accordingly, CSMs are compensated on CSPs.


Self-service tools also formed a key element in the scaling strategy.


Creating and implementing templates, content, webinars and weekly office hours provides increased air cover to Customer Success to drive adoption at scale, and flexibility to customers allowing them to self-service.


Influitive also created a function called the Center of Excellence within Customer Success, installing their top consultant in the role, who spends the majority of their time sharing advocacy thought leadership to all customers.


By creating a differentiated level of service for customers and resetting the CSM’s expectations with respect to their responsibilities, Influitive has been able to employ tech-, low- and high-touch models across the customer base and support its transition to a more scalable Customer Success model.


They have better visibility in terms of the customer’s journey facilitating better aligned to the customer’s objectives and improved cross functional collaboration internally to support that journey.

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