What Benchmarks or Industry Standards are there for Customer Success?

What’s the Industry Standard for number of accounts per CSM?

“How often should you do Customer Value Reviews or QBRS, etc.?”

“What percentage of the company by employee size is customer success?”

Definition: Benchmark / Industry Standard

  • A standard or point of reference against which things may be compared or assessed
    • a surveyor’s mark put in a wall, pillar, or building and used as a reference point in measuring altitudes
  • Something that serves as a standard by which others may be measured or judged. (Merriam-Webster)
  • Standard, or a set of standards, used as a point of reference for evaluating performance or level of quality.  Benchmarks may be drawn from a firm’s own experience, from the experience of other firms in the industry, or from legal requirements such as environmental regulations. (Businessdictionary com)

Customer Success Benchmarks / Standards?

Currently, the answer to the question is very clear:  there are no accepted industry standards or benchmarks for Customer Success.  Further, this situation is unlikely to change anytime soon.  Why?

Comparing Apples to Oranges?

The term “Customer Success” as commonly used internationally covers too many variables.  Companies use the label (or one of its many variants) to describe everything from ad-hoc “firefighter” or “churnfighter” teams to full-fledged established groups with complete ownership of every aspect of the ongoing customer relationships — and everything in-between.    When companies set out to create new Customer Success groups, the typical first step is to go out to LinkedIn or other recruiting source and simply copy the open position announcement of some other firm.  After changing a few words, the company then publishes the result as their own job posting and starts looking for candidates to do the work of designing and building the new group.  The result is a lot of confusion and high turnover rates — especially for Customer Success executive team leaders.

The mission statement of one group may be specifically about increasing customer adoption of the product’s features.  Another may be focused on raising customer satisfaction levels, NPS, or “happiness.”  There is often little correlation between the stated role of a Customer Success group and the metrics used to measure its performance.  Yet all will use the same terms to describe their group and its process.

The Customer Success Standards Committee

For the past few years, the Customer Success Standards Committee has been working on a draft set of standards, based upon the ongoing research of the Customer Success Association into the practices and policies of customer success groups worldwide.   The intention of the committee is to ultimately produce an open specifications document that may in time gain general acceptance in the customer success community.

One of the outcomes has been the compilation of The Questions of Customer Success resource, a bank of questions intended to guide the efforts of company senior management teams as they work to define the strategy, process, people, and technology of their new customer success group. While the CSA’s mission statement for Customer Success, to increase sustainable proven value for both the customer and the company, is strongly recommended as a beginning point, the vital factor is that whatever the company may decide as the focus for their group, the process, people, and technology aspects need to be in alignment with that foundation.

Recommended Reading:

The Definition of Customer Success

The Mission of Customer Success

The History of Customer Success