Last week I looked back at the three most frequent areas of practice that Customer Success was building out in 2017, namely customer journey mapping, segmentation and customer health and data.
That is, these were the key areas that Customer Success was operationalizing.
There were also many additional topics discussed throughout the year, but not fully practiced, because the profession is still trying to collectively figure out how to put concepts into place.
These topics are interesting to note as they typically reveal common challenges facing the industry and are leading indicators of where the profession is headed.
What then were the hottest topics deliberated?
Customer centricity, customer management via customer success plans and revenue ownership topped the list of inquiry last year.
It has been well established that companies focusing on customer experience, understanding customers and delivering on their expectations, grow revenue considerably faster than the competition.
Customer centricity was hence a very in vogue topic for discussion.
Companies continue to jump on the bandwagon to implement “best practices” and systems that generate insights to anticipate customer needs and deliver customer success.
Yet too frequently I see great concepts operated within a company as disparate processes or tactics to the detriment of the customer experience.
Recall how many surveys you have completed only to have the feedback ignored to get the point.
Holistic operating models that center around the customer and consider their entire journey, and which align operations accordingly, are key for world-leading performance.
Companies need to intentionally look at how key concepts and best practices are implemented within their organizations and aligned to the customer, not just implement them independently for the sake of doing so.
Customer Management via Customer Success Plans
By far the topic on which the community was the hungriest for was Customer Success Plans (CSPs).
This is an interesting one in that it is an easily understood concept, the challenge is that the majority of companies still do not know how to execute on it.
Seems to me that everyone is looking for THE one CSP template that can be copied and inserted into the organization to instantly improve retention.
The missing point is the recognition of what the CSP is.
The Customer Success Plan is a tool that serves to manage the customer and hold them accountable to successful product adoption and retention.
It still requires a well-thought out process and/or CSM to drive the customer through the journey so that success is not an accident rather a manageable and repeatable process.
I see the root cause for the lack of implementation taking hold or sticking is that companies have not figured out what their prescriptive success path (i.e. customer journey) is for the use of the product.
Value propositions and use cases for the technology are well defined for use in the acquisition phase of the customer lifecycle but when it comes to realizing the vision in real-world business environments, that’s where clarity is on shaky ground.
The most successful Customer Success organizations know how their products are best adopted and have clearly defined a prescriptive, business perspective, approach (not product feature and function), that considers the element of change management, to make the ingestion of the solution into the customer’s organization the most seamless and rewarding.
The topic that still stirs up the most passionate debates is where revenue ownership should reside.
As I pointed out towards the end of the year, there is no one-size-fits all solution to who should own revenue.
Practical realities specific to the company need to be considered and a pragmatic decision-making approach must prevail.
Again, this is where customer centricity plays such a huge role.
Understand what the needs of the customers are, their journey and what type of support you need to provide customers, and the model that’s best suited to your company and your customers will emerge.
Those were the hottest topics discussed.
Predictions for 2018
What do I predict will be on the minds of, and center of focus for, Customer Success in 2018?
I expect to see more companies implementing customer journey mapping, segmentation and evolving their use of tools such as CSPs to effectively and proactively manage customers to success.
I predict we will hear more discussions about data, Artificial Intelligence and systems as the profession looks to leverage new capabilities to drive efficient and scalable Customer Success.
Finally, as Customer Success looks to mature the practice, we will continue to explore ways to drive true customer centricity in our business models and holistically tie operating functions together for seamless and value-added interactions for customers.