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.
Hosted by DesiredPath, 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.
Vena Solutions, a provider of cloud-based financial planning and analysis software, has undergone rapid growth over the years leading up to the $115M equity financing round by JMI Equity this past January.
Chris reviewed with the group what Vena’s transformation of Customer Experience to a revenue generating function looked like over the last year leading up to the raise, as well as what the focus is for 2019.
The yearlong transformation initiative was broken down into quarterly phases each of which focused on a key area of change that needed to be addressed, specifically, Vena’s Customer Support Team, The Transformation to Success, Customer State in the Journey and the Impact of a $115M VC Investment.
Vena’s Customer Support Team: Vena grew up as a software company and, even though the product had migrated to the cloud, they were still operating as an on-premise solution consisting of heavy services implementations followed by product support. “CSMs” were not introduced to customers until after the implementation which in some cases could be years later. The company knew it had an opportunity to improve CX but that in order to do so, Customer Success needed to evolve from predominantly a support function to one that engaged much more fully with the customer and that leveraged cross-functional roles within the company to holistically partner with customers and drive advocates. In Q1 2018 Chris spent time with his organization defining the new role, discussing how they could impact renewal and expansion forecasts and setting the stage to define new compensation models for the CS team that would better align to supporting customers through their journey.
The Transformation to Success: With the new role profiles in place, Chris turned his attention to understanding the customer base. In speaking with CSMs, the team was so busy reactively servicing customers that they did not have a lot of intel on why customers were successful or why they were leaving. A budget request for customer “Exchange Tours” was submitted so that the team could meet with clients, and clients could meet with other clients, in their own city, to discuss the product roadmap and review best practices. At first the CS team was averse to the idea. Never having done it before, there was apprehension at the thought of meeting with every customer but Exchange Tours turned out to be an effective way of getting the necessary voice of the customer feedback they needed to better understand the customer and what they required in order to be successful.
Customer State in the Journey: In Q3 2018, armed with information about its customers, Chris was now in a position to pitch to Vena’s finance team what the right size for a CSM team looked like and what did that mean in terms of budget and the return on investment of such funding. Armed with a financial plan of projected customer growth, what that meant in terms of CSM headcount, Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and account ratios per CSM, Chris was able to demonstrate how the team could contribute not only to retention revenue but expansion revenue as well. Chris got the attention of his CFO by first showing what contribution Customer Success would make to the expansion number, and then made the ask for the necessary resources. The compensation plan for CSMs were then updated to reflect both the renewal and expansion components of their plan. Chris shared the numbers in somewhat details which the breakfast audience particularly dug into with enthusiasm.
The Impact of a $115M VC Investment: Leading up to the raise there was a lot of scrutinizing of the business operations. What does a CSM do every day? What cross-functional collaboration was required to ensure customer success? What, in the new CS model of operating, were the correct account ratios and activities spent per account? With a few quarters of formalizing CS, Chris had the data to start comparing budgeted versus actual results to show the progress and direct correlation of revenue generated through the CSM team. This helped to further refine the new CX model and further identify where work effort should reside accordingly (some work effort was shifted over to other roles that were more appropriate to fulfilling the activities). In the end, CS was able to achieve 107% of their expansion target.
Moving forward in 2019: With the new CX model in place, the focus moving forward in 2019 is around customer segmentation, hiring, evaluating the technology they have in place to support the CX team in their efforts, looking at the CX organization structure to ensure that supporting roles to CSMs are in place (CS ops, CS evangelist, CS sales engineers) and evaluating what other revenue opportunities CX could generate.
And the biggest challenge that Chris experience in this transformation initiative? It was the change management aspect. Having the patience to get everyone at the company onboard to this change and then operationalizing it across the entire company.
If you are responsible for the Customer Success strategy at your company and are interested in joining the group, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.