What are the elements of a good Customer Success Technology Suite?

Which software vendors are active in the Customer Success space?

These questions are constantly being asked by Customer Success teams and their companies worldwide.  Two of the most popular pages on the Customer Success Association website are the Customer Success Technology Vendors List (CustomerSuccessSoftware.com) and the Customer Success Technologies Map (CustomerSuccessTechMap.com).   The CSA site had over 100K -new- visitors in 2017, and we expect many more for 2018.

The Elements of a Customer Success Technology Suite

Open laptop with data and reflection of user's face.Customer Success teams have a wide number of integral functions that they must perform – and perform well in order to accomplish their mission.  Just as with any other role in the company, the CS team needs appropriate technology to enable data collection, analysis and reporting as well as the management of the team itself.  The following 12 categories make up the CS Technology Map:  (The list of vendors offering products in each category is included in the Customer Success Technologies Map [CustomerSuccessTechMap.com] — you must be logged in as at least a Basic/free member to access this page.]

1. The Master Customer Record

Ideally, the ability to both access and edit/update data about the customer should be directly available to members of the Customer Success team from their main dashboard.  Some Customer Success Management Systems maintain master customer records inherently within their applications, while others integrate with CRM systems or other systems of record for this information.

2.  Application Engagement/Usage Tracking & Analysis:

The ability to see in real time exactly what a customer is doing with the functions and features of the product is critically important for Customer Success teams.  For software vendors, this capability can either be a design function of the company’s own technology or it can be added later via a 3rd party application.  The functionality also includes license usage.

3.  Value Management:

The mission of customer success is to increase sustainable proven value for both the customers and the company.  Being able to monitor the return on investment (ROI) for the customer is therefore a vital capability, necessary for the preparation of regular Customer Value Reviews (sometimes referred to as QBR’s, etc.)  Value Management functionality also includes deep churn analysis and reporting, tracking and reporting on up-sell and cross-sell potentials and actuals, and analysis of sales pricing, commitments and deal quality.

4.  Customer Intelligence: Gathering, Reporting

Knowing what is going on with the customers’ business overall is very important for customer success managers.  If key members of the customer’s management team leave, and otherwise stable relationship can quickly move into the at-risk category.  Other significant factors can include mergers/acquisitions or general downturns.

5.  Customer Feedback

Customer feedback concerning enhancement requests and/or about their perception of your company’s products, or company overall often can be transmitted in various ways.  Regardless of the communication channel used, it’s vital that the feedback be captured, recorded and made readily available throughout your organization.  Customer success managers have a key role to play in this area as they are the most likely people to gather the feedback, and therefore this functionality needs to be in their technology suite.

6.  Customer Advocacy

Customers who are willing to serve as references for the quality of your products and company are strategically significant assets, and need to be managed accordingly.  As with customer feedback, customer success managers are often the most likely people in your organization to know which customers are most suitable to be asked to be references.  Social media activity is another key value.  Your customer success technology suite should include the capability of tracking customer advocates and their effectiveness.

7.  Data Integration / Synchronization

Over time, the various departments of your company will collect enormous amounts of very valuable data.  Having that data accessible to the Customer Success team is a core need.  The Customer Success Technology Suite must be able to accept data from and update other company systems such as the main CRM or Sales Force Automation tool, Customer Support ticketing system, Development’s bug-tracker, website visitation monitor, learning management systems, the project management system used by On-Boarding/Professional Services, Marketing Automation tools, etc.

8.  Customer Health Monitoring

The ability to assess and to monitor the health of the ongoing customer relationships, both individually and as segments/portfolios is a core requirement for customer success teams.  The technology used for tracking customer health should include predictive analytics and robust filtering and visualization capabilities.  This category also includes the ability to map the customer journey in various ways, especially tracking progress according to individual Customer Success Plans and/or cohort monitoring.

9.  Customer Success Manager Workflow Management

Each Customer Success Manager needs to have direct access to technology for tracking their daily work/process, including specific functionality for:

  • Dashboard of tasks to be done by CSM; prioritization, status of assigned customers
  • Status of assigned tasks, alerts
  • Activity and outcome tracking/recording; Interaction category, duration, outcomes, volume, channel
  • Best practices playbooks
  • Playbook effectiveness / outcome monitoring
  • Internal team communications/collaboration capabilities and tracking
  • Project management

10.  Customer Success Team Management

Just as individual Customer Success Managers need access to all available data about the customer, the Customer Success Executive requires in-depth knowledge about the functioning of the team as a unit.  The CS executive dashboards and reporting capabilities need to include specific functionality for:

  • Status of all tasks/activities by both both individuals and the team
  • Utilization of individual CSMs
  • Effectiveness of individual CSMs

11.  Self-Success Management / “tech-touch”

A major challenge facing all Customer Success teams is the question of scalability.  Individual Customer Success Managers are expensive resources for a company to recruit and maintain, and not all interactions with the customers require human assistance.  The determination of which classes of interactions need to be done with human resources and which may be automated is a strategic one, but the necessary automation resources must include:

  • Knowledgbase content creation, distribution and effectiveness tracking
  • Automated e-mail distribution of content to individual customers & analytics
  • Online community resources and usage analytics
  • E-learning management

12.  Communications Channels

A variety of communication channels needs to be readily accessible by the members of the Customer Success team.  The technology should include:

  • In-app messaging
  • Text messaging
  • Video-conferencing
  • Online meetings (webinars, etc.)
  • Phone
  • Email Management (Segmentation, list building, etc.)

Which Software Vendors are Active in the Customer Success Space?

The Customer Success Association maintains a complete list of all known vendors offering products for Customer Success teams on the CustomerSuccessSoftware.com page of the CSA site.  There are about 48 vendors listed currently, and more are undoubtedly coming.