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TSIA Customer Success Research Trends: Toronto Customer Success Executive Breakfast Review Part I

Customer Success Benchmarks
Customer Success Benchmarks

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.

This past week Toronto executives were treated to a visit by Phil Nanus, VP Research Customer Success at TSIA, to review their key benchmark trends for Customer Success.

This particular research study, conducted with over 300 companies, identified key trends that can help inform businesses on how to make incremental improvements to their Customer Success practice.

The companies participating in the research were fairly evenly distributed amongst the following revenue groupings: under $100 million, between $100 million to $1 billion, and over $1 billion.

During our session, we focused our discussion on four of the key trends identified around the topics of:

  • Organization Motions of Customer Success

  • Data or Lack Thereof

  • Monetizing Customer Success

The following is a two-part summary of the discussion that ensued.

Organization Motions of Customer Success

14% - Customer Success Reports into Sales

Companies employ the strategy of Customer Success to drive revenue from the customer base yet interestingly, only 14% of the companies participating in the research had the function of Customer Success report into Sales.

That is, companies generally distinguish customer acquisition from retention and delineate the roles of hunting and farming, with the former’s focus on acquiring new customers using traditional sales methodologies and the latter’s focus on retaining and upselling to existing customers using more traditional services and support methodologies.

The folks at the breakfast, representing predominantly the company grouping of less than $100 million in revenue, generally agreed that their Customer Success organizations reported directly up to the CEO and consisted of the roles that facilitate onboarding and help nurture the accounts to do more through ongoing adoption activities.

The group did not feel strongly that there was only one, correct, reporting structure, rather the conclusion was that where Customer Success reported into depended on various key factors such as the nature of the company’s business, the industry they serve and the complexity of the product to name a few.

Data or Lack Thereof

23% - Use Data Analytics to Predict Churn

14% - Use Data Analytics to Predict Expansion Opportunity

The discussion topic around data analytics proves to be the one that causes some of the greatest frustration for Customer Success organizations.

Everyone was in full agreement that data is a key factor in improving the nature of their business, but how to analyze and understand the data still proves to be challenging.

Only one of the companies represented at the breakfast employ a full-time data scientist for their Customer Success organization, another has access to one sitting within product.

Even so, understanding what the data means in terms of customer retention and loyalty is still a work in progress.

Generally, organizations are organically learning from data, employing tactics around that to drive retention activities and then learning and adapting their practice again with the additional insights.

The notion of customer health and using key data points to predict churn is something most of the group is on top of (to relative degrees of maturity).

Predicting expansion opportunities is still in a nascent state, with most using the Customer Success Manager’s understanding and relationship with the account to identify potential new opportunities.

Stay tuned next week for an overview of the most the debated part of the breakfast covering the final discussion topic, monetizing customer success.

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