With 25 years in the software business I have had the opportunity to build every post sales organization required in order to serve customers and scale company growth. When people ask me what the key aspects of Customer Success are I outline the following three:
Understand your customer: their objectives & the customer journey
These 3 fundamental elements are critical for every business, for Customer Success they serve as the necessary foundation upon which to build a successful and flourishing practice.
To answer that let’s look at why Customer Success exists in the first place.
The goal of Customer Success is to retain and grow customers. Customer Success exists to ensure that customers gain value from the product so they stay loyal and buy more.
Obviously to gain value from your product customers need to be using it. Product adoption is therefore key to protecting and growing revenue.
Which means how Customer Success drives adoption and value is key to retaining and growing customers. And Customer Success better get really good at it.
Customer Success exists to:
retain & grow customers
drive loyalty so they buy more
ensure customers use product & gain ROI
drive product adoption & ensure customers realize business value
The best way to do this is to understand the customer and figure out how the product can fit seamlessly into their organization to deliver business value.
Quite simply if Customer Success understands what a customer is trying to accomplish, resources can be aligned accordingly to support that goal and by measuring the progress,
Customer Success can ensure that it happens.
Let’s take a look at each of the 3 elements in more detail.
Understand your Customer
Every successful endeavour has clearly defined objectives and a plan to achieve those goals.
Before Customer Success can even attempt to successfully help the customer adopt the product, they must understand both the customer’s objectives and the path to achieving them.
Think of understanding your customer as a means to acquire clearly defined objectives and the customer journey as the proven plan to success (as it is based on the collective understanding of your successful customers).
It is therefore critical that Customer Success learns all the relevant information about the customer especially why they bought and what business objectives they are trying to realize from using the product. This information will help Customer Success to manage and influence the customer to successfully accomplish their goals by keeping the focus on the desired outcome.
The customer journey is the path to successful product adoption. Combined with the customer’s objectives, it outlines what the customer needs to do and how Customer Success needs to support those activities to manage the customer to success.
The customer journey also aligns your customer’s objectives, why they bought and what value they are looking to realize, with your business objectives of driving loyalty & revenue.
With this information in hand Customer Success has an effective means of motivating and influencing the customer to do what is required to get proficient with the product.
Align your People to your Customer’s Objectives
When your Customer Success activities are not directly linked to the customer achieving their business objectives, i.e. if you're helping them do additional or different things with your product that do not align to what they’re trying to achieve, you're slowing down product adoption.
The best way to align your activities is with an account coverage model that supports the customer journey.
An account coverage model, simply put, is the team assigned to make a customer successful. It outlines the types of roles assigned to an account to ensure all journey supporting activities are delivered.
By providing clarity on who's doing what and when (i.e. the skills & the accountability), it ensures that there's no duplication of work effort, of resources piling onto an account, or having things fall through the cracks without ownership.
As all time and effort is directly focused on activities that help the customer achieve their goals, the account coverage model is the means by which Customer Success drives customer adoption in the fastest and most efficient manner possible.
A strong account coverage model will outline the roles assigned to an account, the responsibilities of each role (ensuring activity coverage in the journey), the accountability each role has for various points in the journey, and how hand-offs occur between roles to ensure there are no gaps of ownership for the customer along the way.
Measure & Monitor Customer Health
The third element fundamental to Customer Success is measuring and monitoring the health of customers.
If successful product adoption is the strategy. Think of measuring and monitoring customer health as operationalizing the strategy.
It is the means by which Customer Success validates that its customers are on track, and acts as your early warning system when they are not.
It provides Customer Success with the visibility of where customers are in their journey so resources can manage and prioritize their time across their accounts accordingly.
Having a feel for the collective "health" of customers allows Customer Success to notice when customers start to fall off the rails or become "unhealthy" and act accordingly to get them back on track proactively.
As Customer Success learns more from the data, known risk factors can be continually refined so that early warning notifications are sent to the account team to handle before problems occur or turn into major escalations.
Healthy customers adopt faster, are more efficient to manage and have a better experience therefore proactive support is the aim.
The reason Customer Success exists is to retain and grow customers.
Product adoption is key to protecting and growing revenue therefore Customer Success needs to get really good at driving adoption to ensure customers stay loyal and buy more.
The 3 fundamental aspects critical to every business, especially subscription models, are:
Understand your Customer: know why they bought & what they’re trying to achieve, then use this information to motivate them along the journey to the desired outcome
Align your People to the Customer’s Objectives: focus on activities that align to the customer’s goal for the fastest and most efficient product adoption
Measure & Monitor Customer Health: to ensure customers are on track to reaching their goal and assist proactively when they fall off course
The more Customer Success understands it’s customer’s objectives and aligns their operations around them (especially resources), the more successful they’ll be at driving product adoption and value.
The more successful product adoption is, the more successful Customer Success will be at retaining and growing customers.