All across the high technology industry and now well beyond it, a new and vital role is being established and developed. The job goes by many names: Customer Success Manager, Client Advocate, etc., but regardless of the label, it’s about customer relationship retention and optimization. And the most effective way to keep your customers is to make them as successful as possible in using your product.
What is the definition of Customer Success Management?
For any business that depends upon continuing income streams from its customers, the choice is becoming clear. You either actively manage your customer relationships as strategic portfolio assets, or you effectively cede control over them and your company’s future to chance and/or the competition. Customer acquisition is only the very first step in what must be a long-term, scientifically engineered, and professionally directed strategy.
What is Customer Success Management? The emerging role is about a solution to the core issues of customer portfolio development, retention and expansion. Customer Success Management is an integration of functions and activities of Marketing, Sales, Professional Services, Training and Support into a new profession to meet the needs of recurring revenue model companies. There are three necessary building blocks for this emerging profession: an in-depth knowledge of the customers, effective knowledge of the product being sold, and extensive domain expertise.
The day of the traditional perception of a product as a stand-alone artifact, with its historically hodgepodge tactical methods of packaging and distribution, has passed. The ultimate strategic goal of the Customer Success role is sustainable corporate profitability and growth. The method is to make your customers as profitable and productive as possible.
“To increase sustainable proven value for both the Customers and your Company.” In a nutshell, this is what CSM teams promise to accomplish. Being able to prove your worth in both directions is the most crucial aspect. While virtually all Customer Success Management initiatives start out as “churnfighters,” reactive tactical teams charged with saving an at-risk customer relationship, you can’t stop there. The challenge is to gather and use the data from every interaction to move your team out of reactive mode and into far more effective proactive stances.
What do Customer Success Managers do?
The daily activities of the members of a customer success team can vary widely, depending on the breadth of their charter. For example, a CSM group that is dedicated only to reacting to churn threats may spend all of their time in trying to persuade “Code Red” customers not to leave. It shouldn’t take too many of those code red exercises, however, even if successful, to realize that the earlier the team can address the issue of maintaining sustainable customer relations, the more effective they can be and the less it will cost. As the diagram below indicates, the Point of Engagement for the team needs to be moved up and their activities expanded.
The operational role of a fully realized Customer Success Management team includes participation in technology product design to create the tools that your customers need. It’s about working with Marketing to find the right kinds of leads, the ones that Sales can bring into the company to become first-tier high-value assets. Through on-boarding and training, the CSM group ensures that all customers are fully engaged and getting the value that they expect. At every point, the team collects, analyzes and then uses data to make the customers’ experience of the company a seamless, consistent whole.
From Customer Success Definition to Design
The above definition has substantial implications and effects for the new profession. Effective, fully capable CSM groups are not built in a day. It’s going to take at least a year, and probably two just to establish the foundation for the team. Then the real work begins, to extend and fully develop into a core strategic unit of the company.
Ready to begin a Customer Success Group for your company?
If you’re designing or building a new Customer Success team for your company, or looking to take an existing one to the next level, the Customer Success Association offers a number of resources and services which can lessen the time required and significantly improve your effectiveness. The journey needs to begin with a clear understanding among the members of the senior management team as to the mission and strategy of the new group. What are other companies similar to yours doing about customer success teams and operations? What are the options and possibilities? There are a wide range of questions that will need to be answered in the planning for the new Customer Success group. The CSA offers Customer Success Briefings to provide answers and insights about the state of the profession worldwide.
The Customer Success Forum on LinkedIn
To participate in the ongoing conversation of the worldwide community of customer success professionals, join the over 20,000 members of The Customer Success Forum on LinkedIn:
The Customer Success Technology Suite
You’re going to need the tools that will power your Customer Success group and enable it to scale as your customer base grows. This is not something you can do with your sales automation system and a few spreadsheets. For a list of all known/established vendors of customer success software and tools, click here or visit http://www.CustomerSuccessTechnology.com
The Customer Success Association
Do you have questions about what a Customer Success Management program and team might mean for your company? Do you have comments about the definition of Customer Success? Let’s talk. Please fill out the form here to start.
To receive pertinent and timely news about what’s going on in the Customer Success Community, become a member of the Customer Success Association — it’s free, and we only do mailings out to the members list once or twice per month at most. You may unsubscribe at any time if your preferences change. Use this link, or the one at the bottom right side of the page, or click here:
Customer SuccessCon West / Europe / East / Seattle
The Customer SuccessCon events are the best places for direct in-person networking with other Customer Success professionals. The entire conference is designed to facilitate executive connections and knowledge-sharing both during and long after the day. Held in Boston, Seattle, London, Denver and San Francisco/Oakland, for no more than 100 participants each, the program is now in its 4th year. For more information, click here:
- The Mission of Customer Success
- The History of Customer Success
- The Questions of Customer Success
- The Customer Success Library
- Customer SuccessCon
- Customer SuccessCamp
- The Customer Success Forum on LinkedIn
- The Customer Success Advisors