Is Yours An At-Risk Customer Success Group?

The rumor mill is working overtime, there is talk about a hiring freeze after the last board meeting — which itself didn’t go well, by all accounts. The CEO seems to wear a constant worried face. What’s going on? The colleagues that you met at the last Customer Success conference are suddenly asking if you know of any openings for CS executives anywhere, and the members of your own team are asking the same for their friends. Could your company’s Customer Success Group be at-risk? In a word, Yes. Why?

A Pretty Picture

Image of two red roses with stemsYour customers love their CSMs. The complaints you hear from other Customer Success professionals about non-responsive customers, the difficulty in getting the executives from the customers to attend value reviews, and so forth don’t seem to be a factor with your team. You’re meeting all of your KPI’s, the customer health scores are mostly well into the green zone, churn is within what you’ve been told is acceptable limits; why are there persistent worries being quietly expressed?
There is are some key words in the definition of Customer Success: “Customer Success is a long term, scientifically engineered and professionally directed, business strategy for maximizing customer and company sustainable proven profitability.” The pretty picture you see when you look out at your Customer Success group is based on your standing with your customers. But you have another group of “customers” inside your company that are every bit as important, if not more so, than your external ones. The Senior Management Team. The other functional departments of the company: Sales, Product Development, Marketing. How do they perceive you and the value you bring to their roles?

The Profitability Challenge

Image of eye with a dollar signThe basic reality of corporate life is that power follows money. If you are not necessarily connected with strategically significant levels of income and profitability, you will always have less status than those who are perceived as being connected to money. Just as it can be difficult to clearly connect dollars and sense value to the features and functions of your application in your customers’ eyes, or for what your CSMs do for them, it also can be challenging to make the connection between your CS group’s activities and money coming into the company. But that difficulty must not deter you from trying, for it isn’t safe to be thought of as a nice-to-have part of the company.

Marketing Your Data

Bluntly, most Customer Success groups have a bad habit of sitting on their data. If someone wants to know what you know, won’t they come and ask? That’s not likely, and you can’t afford the risk if they don’t.
What data and insight does your group have that would be valuable to the roles and functions of Sales or Product Development? How can your data inform the decisions that are made up in the C-Suite? What might help Marketing to design better campaigns to attract the best prospects? To answer those questions requires that you take the time to get to know the other groups and what they need to know.

The At-Risk Customer Success Group Resource

Using the data of a survey of obliterated groups and other sources, I’ve created a Questionnaire for CS execs to use in assessing their groups’ level of risk. It was designed for SaaS firms, but I think it could be useful to non-SaaS CS execs too. I also created a couple of pages that go into detail on the questions and their meaning. All of the resource, the Questionnaire and the explanatory pages. require Executive Memberships or higher for access.

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Yellow wooden ruler measures the word success on blackboard

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