Implementing Customer Success – An Organizational Balancing Act

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Following from our previous article on the importance of strategic foundations for creating a customer-centric culture to successfully implement customer success (CS), we’re pleased to follow on here about the company organization itself. We’re still aligned with the chronological OPT-IN² framework to which we previously referred, an acronym meaning: Organisation – Processes – Tools – INformation – INtegration.

While we saw in our previous article the strategic pillars of customer-centricity and service alignment, the organization of the company (the black bull’s eye of the above infographic) is the supporting backbone which will structure the progressive operationalization of customer success, allowing it to adapt and transform to a customer-centric and CS-championed company.

Without the organizational backbone firmly in place, there is a high risk that the CS strategy and tactical efforts will crumble.

We like to think of the fundamentals of the CS organization like a 3-legged stool, permanently supporting and keeping in balance CS operationalization as it is progressively implemented.

If all 3 organizational legs are not firmly balanced at all times, then the supporting framework topples over, bringing down the operational CS efforts supporting the customer-centric strategy. We consider that the 3 supporting legs are as follows:

  1. Charter
  2. Responsibility
  3. Executive Buy-in

Charter

Why is it important to have a customer success charter? This is an essential part of any customer-centric company as often the 2 correlated words of “customer success” are misunderstood or non-aligned across companies. It is essential to state loud and clear what is meant by customer success, what is its vision and what is the charter for its mission. The customer success charter will evolve as customers, vendors and their solutions and services evolve.

The vision for customer success is the strategy to drive a sustained dual growth engine for both customers and the vendor alike. Indeed, in the current business world where recurring revenue models and subscriptions are being rapidly adopted, the traditional seller-buyer relationship is gradually being replaced.

Picture Source – Lehigh University

These two parties have now evolved into a different kind of relationship, one of true partnership where they mutually help each other to grow and prosper: clients invest in a solution and/or service which will adapt and expand with their growing needs while the vendors benefit from their clients’ growth and consequent additional investment.

The vision of customer success includes above all what the customers need to achieve regarding their business performance. This corresponds to the mission statement of customer success, meaning how your company – corporate-wide – ensures that your customers’ evolving needs, required business performance outcomes and experience are met over time. The mission and charter of customer success evolve as vendor strategies develop and mature, adapting to the needs of their customer base. Customer success mission statements usually include an evolution of the following objectives as vendors and their customer base mature together: adoption -> performance and value outcomes -> transformation -> ROI -> advocacy. There are multiple internal corporate activities around these evolving objectives, resulting in the customers wishing to renew and expand their current investment.

“The vision and mission of customer success is a win-win viral spiral of health and wealth!” 

Source: Recurring Revenue Boomerang – Success Track Enterprise

To reach this vision, customer success must be viewed as a corporate-wide responsibility and which brings us to balancing our 3-legged stool with the second leg.

Responsibility

In the previous traditional seller-buyer relationship, our business mindset was conditioned by the seller owning the knowledge and power and practicing short-term financial wins (usually only for their company) based on short-term quota-driven selling incentives. In our current business environment, our mindset needs to adapt to the fact that this previous model has flipped: customers now own the power and knowledge and financial gains are achieved over the medium and long-term (for both vendor and customer alike).

As a consequence of this shift,  revenue generation is no longer the fruit of just pre-contractual marketing and sales activities. As sustainable revenue generation is now a long-term challenge, all cross-functional departments are responsible, working together in sync across the entire customer journey. In essence, customer success is a corporate-wide strategy which embraces all internal roles (marketing, sales, account management, R&D, product, support, professional services, customer success teams, finance,…) whether they are client facing or not. Even roles in the wings of the client stage are indirectly contributing to making customers successful, often serving internal clients who in turn, will directly serve external clients

Picture source: Team KR

So while all internal departments should be aware and made responsible for tactically contributing to the success of their clients, there is also the emerging function of customer success and which usually (although not exclusively) is positioned as a post-contractual team which partners the success of clients. As an example, marketing and sales team would work together in a seamless process by validating prospect needs, evaluating expectations and desired outcomes which would be communicated to the CS teams for a partnership delivery with clients.  

This customer success function is a critical role, working closely with all the other internal departments to continually communicate the voice of the customer so that the aforementioned main CS mission statements can be continually reviewed and aligned: adoption – performance – transformation – ROI – advocacy. The function of customer success proactively partners clients in an advisory role to help clients achieve their expected outcomes. This implies strong client domain knowledge as well as a clear understanding and insights in their evolving business, operational, functional and technical context.

Very often, the post-contractual function of customer success is parachuted as an add-on to existing established roles without reviewing the holistic impact of the CS corporate-wide mission. In other cases, confusion is created internally and externally when already existing roles such as support, account management, project management or professional services are renamed to the name of “customer success”, without reviewing their existing role and mission. For Customer Success to be efficient, the roles and responsibilities of all internal actors need to be reviewed, continually communicated and teams trained and incentivized on the changing scope of their contribution to the success of their clients.

CS is not the sole responsibility of a post-contractual department but is the shared responsibility of all internal functions. In the same way, no single function “owns the client”. The client is “owned” by the corporate collective and seamless process of engaging and delivering to meet expectations and outcomes. Each function contributes to the collective vision, while the customer success function acts as a critical pivot, acting as the voice of the customer to fine-tune and adjust the collective group music, rather like a conductor of an orchestra.

Picture source: BBC Proms

Having a privileged long-term partner relationship with customers, the CS function ensures that internal organization, processes and all contributors are aligned to continually deliver on expectations and play together in tune. This results in securing long-term health and wealth for their clients and their own companies. To ensure this harmonious sound of music, top-down buy-in is vital and which brings us to the third leg of our 3-legged stool.

Executive Buy-In

For a CS organization to be successful, it must be a strategic part of the corporate vision, infused top-down from executive management. This implies top executive buy-in cascading buy-in across the whole company, resulting in CS becoming the ADN of the new corporate organization.

To achieve this company-wide CS ADN, this implies a progressive transformational approach where change management and sponsorship is key to success. For a company’s organization to steer towards the CS vision, a new mindset, processes, behaviours and routines need to be adopted so that all cross-functional departments are aligned in their collective contribution to success. In turn, these cross-functional contributors need to be driven by appropriate and equitable goals, KPIs, incentives and compensation. As CS organizations mature, they will gradually reinforce their footprint, building up the business case for their “raison d’être” as a strategic revenue-generating profit centre.

The question is often raised as to where the CS function should ideally be positioned within the company organization. While this depends on the size and organizational evolution and history of companies, what is most important is that the CS organization is driven as an instinctive top-down mindset, irrespective of the company hierarchical structure. Indeed and as developed in our previous article, CS is more a question of a holistic corporate culture rather than of organizational hierarchy.

To conclude, the challenge of any CS-centric company is to permanently keep the 3 legs of the supporting organizational stool (Charter -> Responsibility -> Executive Buy-In) in perfect balance and aligned as the company grows and adapts to clients’ evolving needs.

If any one leg changes in size, disproportionately to the others, there is always the risk of the tool toppling over and no longer supporting the associated processes, people, tools and data. We’ll be glad to share our thoughts on these in our follow-on articles, continuing our reference to the OPT-IN framework to operationalize a proactive CS organization. Thanks.

Sue Nabeth Moore and Daniel Coullet

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Creating a Customer-Centric Culture To Successfully Lead and Implement Customer Success

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The success of your customer depends on the continued added value you create and the experience you deliver to them. Successful organizations are shifting from being product-centric to a customer-centric mindset and often adopting and delivering via a recurring revenue or subscription based business model. These models imply a long-term correlation between the added value gained and financial engagement of the customer. Indeed, the more value gained, the more likely the client is going to wish to continue and even increase the amount of their subscription investment. As quoted by Jason Lemkin:

“Customer success is where 90% of the revenue is”

After e-meeting each other on social media and appreciating our common passion for the customer centricity of things, we (Daniel Coullet and Sue Nabeth Moore) propose to share some thoughts around a customer success (CS) framework developed across the layers illustrated in the diagram below: C.S. – O.P.T.IN²:

OPT-IN²~Framework – Success Track Enterprise

The “C” and “S” are the strategic layers, meaning Customer centricity and Service alignment.  “CS” is also a common acronym for Customer Success.

O.P.T.IN²  refers to the CS objective of ensuring  customers wish to stay for good.  It is also an acronym which spells the operational chronological steps across which the defined CS strategy is operationalised:

 

O = Organisation, P = Process, T = Tools. For the “IN²”, in parallel to the former steps, there is an evolutive and agile initiative around INformation (data) as well as the on-going INtegration of the Organisation, Processes, Tools and INformation.

The above will be outlined across 3 articles, the first of which on the strategic foundations is below. The second will be on the operationalisation of CS and the third a concrete case study.

Many software companies in SaaS or subscription models today are doing their best to try and create customer success management organizations and are often reactively addressing the threat of churn. So let’s move forward by building a framework that will help us iterate to become a best-in-class company that proactively delivers continued great value and experience to customers.

What does it take to operationalize customer success so that you not only mitigate the threat (churn) but you also create the opportunity to fully align your organization to proactively partner your customer’s expected outcomes? In turn, this will then grow your business by increasing renewal and expansion, consequently reducing churn and fostering client advocates.

Strategic Foundations

We outline below what we consider to be two strategic pillars and some related best practices which create the foundations for a customer success organization to become successful : customer centricity and service alignment:

  1. Customer Centricity

In the age of the customer, the vendor-customer power has flipped. Before suppliers had the power to sell without being that concerned about the business outcomes of their customers’ investment. In the software world, this was particularly the case with the on-premise model. Now, with abundant knowledge and alternative solutions to solve pain points and the growth of subscription, customers  have the power to opt out more easily from their engagement – operationally, functionally, technically and financially. This means that company mindsets should move from being traditionally product focused to include customers as the key business driving force. As George Colony, Forrester CEO predicts, if a company is not customer-centric, they’ll simply be out of business between 5 – 10 years.

So, what are some of the key competencies and pre-requisites to become customer-centric? Indeed, there are divergent perceptions on the definition of customer-centricity but in the most simplistic terms, for us it means when the customers are partnered to achieve their expected business outcomes thanks to their investment in your solution and services:

A. Ensure a customer-centric vision top-down:

  1. Top management show buy-in, sponsorship and change management to empower a customer-centric strategic vision.
  2. Define the meaning of customer-centricity.
  3. Top management nurtures and promotes a customer-centric mindset across all the company organisation and cross-functional roles.
  4. Customer-centricity is also embedded as a mindset among internal “customers”. Cross functional roles partner as “internal customers” in the interest of their external customers. Each role knows the expected inputs and outputs of their respective contribution to internal and external customers.
  5. Customer-centricity is the company driving force which determines all behaviours, actions, reflexes and engagement with customers.

    Picture by curtesy of Kilpatrick Group
  6. Continuous adaptability is encouraged towards changing customer needs.
  7. Objectives and incentives around customer-centricity are aligned across the organisation and roles.

B. Know your customers:

  1. Understand your customer’s current needs and anticipate new ones.
  2. Understand different customer needs according to user profile (or persona) and their impacted stakeholders.
  3. Understand and empathise with customer domain challenges, contexts and pain points. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes.
  4. Anticipate and follow customer domain and market evolutions.
  5. Define and operationalise required client knowledge data (to be developed in our second article).

C. Foster customer experience (CX) principles:

  1. Define via internal collaboration a customer journey/ies and milestones from the customer point of view.
  2. Generate a frictionless customer experience (CX) across the customer journey via an adapted customer relationship.
  3. Align CX and CS principles to create the conditions for success. CX and CS are often treated as 2 distinct disciplines when in fact they complement and feed into each other.
  4. Align the above customer journey/ies with all your company organization, roles and responsibilities.

D. Define expected customer outcomes:

  1. Help customers express their vision of success and how your solution contributes.
  2. Help define and measure tangible business outcomes (per impacted profiles). 
  3. Ensure your solution, related services and engagement address the above (use cases).
  4. Communicate, partner and measure how your solution + services contribute to business outcomes.

E. Foster customer success principles:

  1. Define a clear mission statement (charter) for CS.
  2. Ensure all internal actors understand the role of CS as a strategic business pillar.
  3. Ensure each internal actor is empowered in their responsibility and contribution to CS.
  4. Align cross-functional incentives and compensation for CS.
  5. Determine appropriate and pertinent metrics/KPIs to measure CS in alignment with the strategy, e.g. adoption and performance metrics for customers and internal metrics for your company such as NPS, net retention rate, CLTV, churn rate, CSAT, time-to-value, etc…

2. Service Alignment

Ensure that the related services are aligned with the customer-centric strategy. While the use of the word “product” is still common place, e.g. “product to market fit”, “product development”, “product owner”, , “product run” etc…, we prefer to use the word “services” which holistically includes the product and the CX. In the business models of “X as a Service” for example, we consider that maintaining the previous wording and mindset of selling a physical “product” is rather a contradiction in terms. We prefer the term “service” and which englobes the product, the related services and adapted CX. The term “service” also infers that there are expected outcomes which will materialize as the services are consumed, as opposed to the word “product” implying just a means to an end.

A. Design the “Service”:

  1. Unite cross-functional teams to define the expected outcomes and experience at each stage of the customer journey per profile/persona.
  2. Design the product (UX), experience (CX) and services in parallel using a methodology such as Design Thinking to create harmonized value to the customers. In many cases, the experience and services are designed after the product which often creates a non-coherent CX and misalignment and friction between vendors and customers, putting customer success teams in a challenging position.
  3. Consider the CX like a “product” launch, using best practices and processes for software development such as design, quality assurance, and “service” owners,…

B. Design Service Engagement Models:

  1. Define engagement models per client segment needs with the appropriate number of touch points. Synchronize them between the digital, physical and product experience.
  2. Align the engagement models and touch points with your CX and CS principles.
  3. Align the engagement models with your internal key processes and related actors.
  4. Include the ability to measure adoption and performance directly in your product/services in alignment with the metrics defined in your strategy.
  5. Validate with customers their key moments of truth (MoT) during the customer journey which are crucial moments for CX.
  6. Instrument your customer feedback to continually understand if the design (outcomes and experience) are delivering what is expected.
  7. Adjust the above whenever necessary.

The above strategic foundations provide the base upon which the customer success organization can then be operationalised. While customer success is emerging in business as a strategic pillar of recurring revenue models such as SaaS, it is in fact applicable to any customer-centric company intent on generating win-win growth and profitability, irrespective of their business model. Indeed customer-centricity demands a proactive shift in culture and not just a reactive response to changes in business models. The product, the service and CX are all an intrinsic part of the success of the customer and together they will progressively become an inherent part of the storyboard for doing  “business as usual”.

In our next article, we’ll be pleased to share some further thoughts around the above  OPT-IN² framework which outlines more best practices in operationalizing proactive customer success with an agile mindset. This will be followed by a case study article.

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SaaStr Europa Bienvenue à Paris

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Quel bonheur! It was thrilling to be able to exchange with so many passionate “SaaStrepreneurs” at SaaStr Europa in Paris last week (1300 attendees from 32 different countries including founders, CEOs, Cxx this and that, investors and of course a large number of customer success (CS) professionals ! What’s exciting about SaaS of things is that it impacts all aspects of “doing business as usual”: go-to-market, delivery, revenue generation, internal organization, valuation, customer relationship and partnership…

In such a context of the age of the customer, I’m grateful to be actively engaged in the emerging role of customer success in Europe. This strategic mindset is key in the SaaS business model and indeed in any other recurring revenue model where the customer is king or queen. When these are well served and partnered in reaching their own success, this generates win-win success for both customer and vendor alike. As quoted by Jason Lemkin:

Customer success is where 90% of the revenue is

and indeed successful customers wish to stay, invest more to generate more gains and then become raving fans of your solution. Oh, talking of which, Fraser Stark it’s always a pleasure to meet and exchange on the Influitive advocacy platform.

I was thrilled to meet my customer success peers and fabulous ladies from the other side of the pond Emilia d’Anzica and Sue Duris.

Emilia d'Anzica, Sue Duris, Sue Nabeth Moore, Peter Oosterwijk
Emilia d’Anzica, Sue Duris, Sue Nabeth Moore, Peter Oosterwijk

Thanks again for your customer success panel!

It’s always a pleasure to meet and share stories and experiences with my fellow customer success evangelists from this side of the pond: Dave Jackson, Jan Schlosser, Emilie Dubau, Hannah Chaplin, Nathalie Berger, Elisabeth Courland and fellow partner and customer success community builder Kate Forgione.

Kate Forgione, James Mayes
Kate Forgione, James Mayes

 

Dave Jackson, Emilie Dubau
Dave Jackson, Emilie Dubau

 

 

 

 

 

The speakers I heard were terrific and I thoroughly enjoyed the brain date concept where I was able to exchange tête-à-tête on the customer success of things with like-minded CS professionals. The networking was rich, each new encounter presenting a passionate “Saastrepreneur”, terrific story and incredible talent. A special mention to Peter Oosterwijk (the smiling guy in the blue shirt in the photo above), CMO of Curious Inc who has the gift of illustrating in cartoon style and in real time his key takeaways (see samples below from the customer success panel session). Dank je Peter!!

By Peter Oosterwijk
By Peter Oosterwijk
By Peter Oosterwijk
By Peter Oosterwijk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of my key takeaways :

  • Adaptation to new ways of doing business is key to be successful  in SaaS + recurring revenues + subscriptions.
  • “Nail a niche” (Aaron Ross) – Identify customers who consider you as need-to-have rather than nice to have.
  • To win, be a big fish in a small pond
  • Customer success trends in 2018:
    • Incorporation of emotional intelligence
    • Introduce customer success more and more into the products
    • CS will become increasingly recognised as a strategic role
    • CS will involve more than retention
  • Customer success professionals no matter where they are in the world find huge benefits in getting together to share and learn best practices from each other.

UN GRAND MERCI to SaaStr for coming to Paris (capital of love & innovation) to organise this first SaaStr event in Europe! La cerise sur la gateau – the stunning venue at Le Grand Hotel!

Vivement l’année prochaine!

Other useful links:

In addition and if you’re a customer success professional in Europe, you may be interested in the following links:

Customer-Success-Europe : who organise regular CS events in Europe, the next one being in Dublin on 3rd October.

Customer SuccessCon London – on 4th September

Paris customer success Meet-up – on 19th June

Lisbon Meet-up – next date TBC

Customer Success Network – where you can find an on online community which connects CSMs across Europe.

CSM Portail – A francophone community

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Business Mutualism: Customer eXperience and Customer Success Enrich Each Other for Business Health

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A series of articles by Sue Nabeth Moore and Helene Duneigre, October, 2017

Sue is a leader in Customer Success (CS) and is evangelizing it in France, Portugal and the rest of Europe.

Helene is militantly in favour of Customer Experience (CX) which she has promoted and organised for years.

Sue and Helene met in Paris and listened with curiosity to each other’s convictions and practices and found them to be very close, yet different and decided to write about it.

Here’s part 1 and introduction to our series of perspectives on the proximity, comparison and emergence of a business mutualism between CX and CS: 

Helene about CX Stories:

A few months ago, AmazonGo video became viral. They opened a store where thanks to an app in their smartphone, customers come, shop and leave without going through cash desks. There are not even any cash desks in the store by the way!

On April 10th 2017, a disturbing video, about United Airlines this time, got watched thousands of times across the world. It showed a traumatized 69-year-old customer who paid for his ticket and asked for nothing but to be be flown to his destination. He was dragged off the plane and injured as airport police got called by the aircraft staff and dealt with him like a criminal, only to make room for transferring partner airline staff.

On the one hand, we witness what may be the ultimate shopping experience: customer extreme convenience and user friendliness, enabled by sophisticated technology behind the scene.

On the other hand, we witness extreme – and difficult to believe – excess of strict adherence to process and total lack of human empathy by company staff. This, followed by a very poor speech from the CEO later in the day, demonstrating that when a fish rots, it rots from the head down.

These are both examples of customer experience. The best and the worst. Customer Experience is indeed all about how your customers individually perceive interactions with your brand, self-assess their satisfaction compared to their initial expectations, share their story with friends and network and eventually remember afterwards their related emotions.

Sue about CS stories in the making of…:

Being relatively new, the storyboard for CS in Europe is “in the making of” as companies investing in CS are keen to build their ROI business cases.

Whilst CS is currently often associated with SaaS, the first customer success teams saw the light of day with CRM software companies, somewhat frustrated with the poor adoption and relatively low obtained value. The first CS organisation was a non-SaaS company called Vantive in 1996, followed by Siebel on Demand in 2004 and then in 2005, Saleforce gave birth to their “Customers for Life”. If Salesforce is the best-known success-story for CS (80% of their current revenue being driven from their current client base), this emerging role is applicable to any recurring revenue model (SaaS or not) as well as any business wishing to distinguish themselves by making their customers want to stay longer, invest more and advocate on your behalf.

Sue to Helene: What is the definition of Customer Experience?

It is the sum result of how the customer perceives each of its interactions with the company during the whole journey of purchasing and then using its product or services over the duration of their relationship. This perception covers rational assessment as well as emotions. It is highly subjective and individualized.

Helene to Sue: What is the definition of Customer Success ?

Customer success is a company-wide mindset and approach to operationalize and generate win-win growth, for customers and consequently for suppliers. CS is preoccupied with achieving the evolving desired business outcomes of customers as their internal and external contexts change, presenting new challenges and opportunities via their interactions across the customer journey.  In the words of Lincoln Murphy:

“Customer success is when customers achieve their desired outcome through their interactions with your company”

CS therefore includes CX and aims to obtain customer desired outcomes via controlled operationalisation. In a recent Webinar with Dan Steinman, we explored the following equation relating CS, CX and CO (Customer Outcomes):

CS = CO + CX

Sue to Helene: Who should work on Customer Experience?

Well, when you think about business, you’ll agree that there are no parameters more important than customers. All companies thinking seriously about their long-term performance should be working on their CX.

Traditional companies may have forgotten the customer priority as they are too busy with internal and administrative challenges, regulations, strategy, financial reporting, stock exchange volatility and so many other topics. New entrants, be it already mature digital companies or fresh new start-ups, are focussed on customers as priority.  This is one key reason why they are dangerous to established business.

CX references often come today from Amazon, Apple, Uber, Airbnb.

If you look around, you can find your inspiration with lots of others. Nespresso, Maïf, Leroy-Merlin, Midas, Ventes-Privées…    are set leaders. Others are improving quickly and smartly: Air France and its digital services, SNCF Voyages, La Poste…

Helene to Sue: Who should be interested in implementing customer success and when?

All recurring revenue companies should be preoccupied with introducing a CS approach. Value is obtained by customers over time through a 3-step succession of adoption , performance and transformation. When customers measure positive ROI during the transformation stage, they will wish to remain loyal and invest more in order to grow more.

CS is not only applicable to software companies and is increasingly more practiced in other typical subscription sectors such as media, telecom and insurance but also in more industrial sectors where IoT and AI enable to measure customer consumption patterns and behaviours.

CS should be anticipated and implemented as soon as companies start acquiring paying customers. The acquisition and contract signature is just the beginning of the customer hands-on experience. The on-boarding stage is critical in ensuring the desire for the customer to adopt new ways of doing business and the consequent customer journey milestones and engagement are key to pave the way to success. If these success milestones are not deliberately traced and the customer journey is perceived as a haphazard mystery tour, then there is a big chance that the customer will lose track and go astray to other places.

Sue to Helene: Why would a company spend time and money in CX?

There are several reasons:

  1. Ensuring that customer experience is aligned with the brand promise and their expectation is the healthiest way to build loyalty. This also means it is cheaper and more profitable to recruit new customers.
  2. Sustained differentiated experience leads to growth and improved market share.
  3. Many surveys and research demonstrate that companies serious about CX are financially performing 5 to 20% better in their sector.
  4. CX strategy contributes to giving sense to employees.
  5. CX culture can even lead to new and more profitable business models, for example the subscription service model developed by Michelin for truck kilometre service, or else the management print service model adopted by the printing industry.

Helene to Sue: Which benefits can a company expect from working on CS?

The reasons you indicate for CX above are also applicable to CS and in addition:

  1. CS enables customers to grow as a result of facilitating the achievement of their desired outcomes.
  2. As a consequence of the above, CS allows suppliers to grow.
  3. CS allows to operationalise a customer-centric strategy based on driving results. This includes defining customer journeys based on segments, scaling customer engagement and aligning internal roles to meet desired customer outcomes.
  4. CS acts as a company financial catalyst. It allows the collection, analysis and actioning of pertinent customer data to control costs, forecast revenue and detect risks and opportunities.

Conclusion

In our current evolving business environment, CS and CX cohabit side by side mutually benefiting each other in a kind of business mutualism:

Mutualism Example
Samlung Fotos

the challenges of B2B are inspired by best-in-class B2C CX practices, while the B2C world is evolving their CX approaches into brilliant models and practices where the likes of Netflix and Fitbit have become CS/CX rock stars.

CS and CX share the common ground of customer loyalty and delivering pristine experiences and pertinent engagement across customer journeys.  Whilst CX is concerned with delivering an end-to-end positive emotional and rational experience to reach satisfaction and lock loyalty and love, CS extends that to include driving business outcomes and ROI – in a word – success!

Together both CX and CS create a win-win business situation:

“CX locks consumer/customer engagement and CS locks business outcomes”.

Coming soon… join us in our next perspectives on CS and CX.

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Mapping The Customer Journey with Engagement Models

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I’m honoured to have participated and co-hosted this Webinar on mapping the customer journey and engagement models with Gainsight’s Dan Steinman.

Ocean liner journey log book in 1904 (Le Havre – New York)

 

 

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Calling all Customer Success Actors

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In the context of an initiative in Europe to bring together customer success leaders to exchange on their experiences, we’d appreciate if you could take a couple of minutes to indicate what are your current top 3 customer success challenges. You’re of course welcome to reply whether you’re in Europe or not 🙂 The results will be published afterwards.

Customer Success Challenge Survey

Thanks in advance for your contribution.

The European Customer Success Community Team :

Peter and friends : OonaghEvinSue

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Customer Success of Things (CSoT) – A Darwinian Evolution Approach

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To continue the CSoT (Customer Success of Things) blog series and as we onboard 2017 with new resolutions to transform our habits, let’s keep indarwin mind our digital transformation context and take a Darwinian look at the role of customer success to facilitate this exciting evolution.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change (Darwin)

Chameleon
Chameleon – “Adaptus Rex”

Having always been inspired by this Darwin quote, those who have crossed my path will have already met my mascot chameleon which I affectionately call “Adaptus Rex”. He’s tame and as a prehistoric descendant, he learned to survive environmental change! His capacity to modify colours has followed me through all life environments and challenges, adapting to the next state of evolution.

The famous Darwin concept of “survival of the fittest” (1) and its selection process is accelerated today in response to unprecedented environmental changes such as global warming in our natural world while in business, the digital transformation is taking us by storm.

Whilst history has always shown us the progressive driving force of technology in transformation, digitalisation is creating an immediate impact and disruption. Each digital change brings a promise of progress or new experiences and which are accompanied by considerable learning curves and adaptation, irrespective of our generation: baby boomers, Xers (like myself) and millennials. It’s simple. We either adapt, transform and evolve or we don’t with the risk of being left behind or even becoming extinct! In the words of Brian Solis (2):

Each business is a victim of digital Darwinism, the evolution of consumer behaviour when society and technology move faster than the ability to exploit it. Digital Darwinism does not discriminate. Every business is threatened.

In nature, the famous evolutionary story took place in my native northern England during the last major technological transformation: the industrial revolution. To ensure camouflage as a consequence of the sooty manufacturing towns, peppered moths (3), originally white, became predominantly black via a reproduction process. mothsA recent example in response to current climatic change is the shift of snail shell colour from dark to light. Snails have developed lighter coloured shells (4) which have a lower body temperature to keep cooler in response to global warming. This phenomenon is noticeable here in France where snails are still a culinary delicacy!

In business today, we’re lucky enough to be facing another incredible transformation, this time in human form. The digital revolution and the related technological innovations are forcing us human beings to challenge our behaviour, routines, processes and even our business models.

Whilst we may not suddenly develop coloured shells and wings to adapt, this brings me to the vital importance of the role of customer success as a lever to facilitate our collective metamorphosis. In today’s professional environment we are constantly trying to keep pace with the impact of digitalised innovations: cloud, big data, IoT, predictive analytics, machine learning, Artifical Intelligence, 3D printing and mobility to name but a few.

Customer success emerged and evolved in the Silicon Valley as a logical response to the introduction of the cloud subscription economy. Cloud exposed painful gaps in how existing companies were interacting with their customers. These pain points were filled with the role of customer success to encourage customer engagement with solutions, continued added value, client longevity and advocacy.

As the SaaS model continues to grow with companies moving away from purchasing software upfront preferring to purchase on a subscription basis, customer success promises a bright future ahead. Other non-SaaS recurring revenue companies have also been seduced by its strategic importance and are investing in customer success.

With the continuous flow of new digital technologies to our business environments, it seems that my favourite Darwin quote has never rung so true. comfort-zone-24Out of all the animal kingdom, though we humans are definitely not the strongest, we are perhaps the most intelligent (open to debate…) but when it comes to responding to change, we are generally slow or resistant. Staying in a known comfort zone is so much more tempting than stepping out into unknown and potentially risky territory.

Success is on the other side of your comfort zone (Orrin Woodward)

So this is where customer success plays its role by partnering clients, helping them step out of comfort zones and adapt to new and unknown situations where gains are promised. The aim is to either obtain better results than before or create new positive experiences which could never have been imagined without innovative technology. The real challenge of this adaptation process is not about the technology itself. It’s rather about how the technology, digitalisation and its promise fit harmoniously into the future organisation, processes and methodologies defined for achieving desired outcomes.

Like the peppered moths of my native England, we humans face the challenge of adapting in our digital fast paced environment. We need to “camouflage” the new technology and associated behaviour, blending it into our daily habitat so that it becomes the accepted “norm”, at least until the next one presents itself.

It is perhaps because human beings are the most intelligent of creatures on earth (so we believe) that our response to change is more complex than our animal neighbours.

internet-strategy

We perhaps approach each new business context with too much thought, emotion, fear and memory rather than acting on our instinct, like my friends Adaptus Rex, the peppered moth and the shell changing snail.

Customer success is a passionate role to partner our fellow homo sapiens acclimatise to their new surroundings and rise to the challenges of a business world driven by technological innovation. Afterall, the word “success” derives from the latin “successus”, meaning “an advance, a good result, happy outcome.”

So as we move into 2017 with the human tradition to make resolutions (myself included) to change certain behaviours for improvement, there’s no better prospect for customer success to partner these desired outcomes, helping companies transform their performances through the challenges and gains of the digitalised environment.

“Adaptus Rex” joins me to wish you all great resolutions for your digital adaptation, transformation and evolution to success in 2017.

If you’re setting up or expanding your customer success organisation in Europe, we’d be pleased to help out : Success Track Enterprise.

Other Customer Success of Things Blogs : CSoT blog stories

For further Darwinian reading:

1) Explanations on “Survival of the fittest

2) Digital Darwinism – How Disruptive Technology is Changing Business For Good

3) The story of the peppered moths

4) How A Few Species are hacking climate change

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Customer Success of Things (CSoT) – Part 1 – Some Definitions

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As we observe momentum building up in Europe around the emerging role of customer success, I’d like to share a few thoughts around this business metamorphosis we are witnessing. While this new role is still very much at experimentation stage as it positions itself in the recurring revenue business model, there are common themes around its practice and impact. This inspired me to create a series of some reflections around recurring themes and which I have called “Customer Success of Things” (CSoT)

What do we mean by Customer Success ?

Before we dig further into some common CSoT themes, a definition of customer success is fitting. The notion of customer success has different interpretations and maturity levels depending on countries, sectors, markets and company sizes. The role of customer success for example is quite different in a large enterprise organisation than in a start-up. There is however a common goal:

To fulfil the evolutive expected outcomes of customers through their multi-directional interactions around your company.

Customer success is a mindset and a series of on-going processes and interactions. A customer’s needs, expected outcomes and context at the beginning of their customer journey may change after contract signature or within the licence period. Proactive listening, observation and business-people-silhouettes-communications-netwo-6393095engagement is necessary to identify health and risk to ensure your solution and company services are constantly providing added value and adapting to signs of change. Customer success thrives on multi-directional positive engagement and communication:

1) Vendors towards customers

2) Customers towards vendors

3) Vendor customers between themselves

4) Vendor customers in exchange with other third parties (peers, prospects, stakeholders, competitors,…)

This CSoT series of posts will share some thoughts on customer success themes. The first one below continues the above definition:

“Customer Success” – Term with a Double Meaning

When On-Demand and SaaS first started (Salesforce.com being one of the pioneers), they observed that to retain client subscriptions it was necessary to proactively engage with customers to help them become successful with your company and solution. So they created the notion of “customer success teams”.

Customer Success Teams

The customer success team is commonly known as the group of actors who relay, usually after contract signature (though not always) to continue to proactively partner customers to achieve their expected outcomes. The foundations for success have already been laid early in the sales cycle by the marketing/business development/sales teams. The customer success team now continues the customer engagement and provision of added value over the whole duration of the licence period until renewal and beyond. Depending on organisations, renewal is also included as part of the role of the customer success team.

So whilst there is a group of people called “customer success team” dedicated to the contractual health and wealth of the customer, other teams have also played their part in the “customer success journey”.

This brings us to the second more holistic notion of customer success.

Customer Success – Company DNA and Global Objective

It has transpired that customer success is not about a team of people trying to please customers and reduce churn. The term “customer success” is a holistic cross-functional objective and responsibility. This teamwork-team-together-collaboration-business-communication-outd-outdoors-concept-48568990means that across the entire customer journey, every single actor has a customer success role to play with clearly defined responsibilities. A customer success mindset is in the DNA of the vendor company running throughout the whole organisation, e.g.

  • Management to define the customer success vision, objectives and tempo
  • R&D to evolve the product according to customer input and market needs
  • Marketing to prospect ideal customers + personas with success potential
  • Sales to close and prepare customers ready for on-boarding to success
  • Customer success teams to provide proactive engagement and added value
  • Support to provide rapid and pertinent replies to customer queries
  • Etc…

All teams play a customer success role as customers progress across their journeys to achieve repeated success. For this holistic view of customer success, this often means that existing internal roles are revisited so that each player has clear objectives, responsibilities and engagement aims at each stage of the customer journey. success-businessteam-sky-4289404In the recurring revenue model, the post contractual growth potential is so considerable that the traditional notion of pre-sales and post-sales activity is revisited. This necessarily impacts the internal organisation, responsibilities and internal relays.

Conclusion

There are 2 notions around the term “customer success”:

  • Customer success organisation = holistic responsibility and objective of the whole organisation to ensure the success potential and achievement of its customers as they move across the customer journey.
  • Customer success team = group of actors (usually after the initial contract but sometimes before) responsible for proactively partnering customers to reach their evolutive expected outcomes.

For this internal relay of actors across the customer journey, check out the boomerang recurring revenue flight.

Thanks for taking interest in this post. I look forward to joining you soon to share further thoughts in the “CSoT”series.

 

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From RIO Sport Success to ROI Customer Success

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I’ve always been a sports fan and with the Olympic Games in Rio just starting, I’m excited to admire the performances of these great sports men and women. Whilst we watch the games as they’re televised around the world, let’s keep in mind the incredible determination and daily routines of practice, dedication and passion with which these sports people have prepared their ticket to success..

As we know, the Olympics were invented by the ancient Greeks and according to written records around 776 BCE. The modern Olympics were revived by a French aristocrat, Coubertin in 1896 following his concern about the lack of sportiness at that time of the French boules-playing population. French Boules playerI’m glad that 120 years later, his concerns and investment have now truly paid off despite the fact that “boules” is not yet an official Olympic discipline! For those interested, you may lobby for their introduction in the 2024 Games!

The games have evolved since 1896 admitting more disciplines, more countries and even women! Female participants were first allowed to compete in the Paris games in 1900 where just 2% of participants were women compared to 44% in the 2012 London games.

Whilst the individual stellar performances have always captivated our imagination (Mark Spitz, Mohamed Ali, Nadia Comaneci, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt to name but a few), Mohamed Ali 2team sports earn our admiration for the magical synergy and euphoria of collective performance. The RIO games for example will see Rugby 7 for the first time.

For those nations not familiar with the game (my US friends I’m impressed to also see you have a team in RIO), rugby is a passionate team game with core values comprised of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship. Basically, it’s 2 opposing teams (usually 15 aside) each running forward in opposite directions throwing backwards a squashed shaped ball. The aim is to run across the boundary line, dive on the ball and gain points (try), often squashing the ball even more. Johnny 4. pngThe winning team is the one with the most points, boosted with throws through a post (penalty) after doing a hen-like impersonation! (Johnny Wilkinson we love you). Humour aside, rugby demonstrates the epitomy of team work and collective performance. By the way, it was invented by the Brits!

Customer Success, Adoption and Performance

Although customer success has not yet been admitted as an Olympic discipline, the values it encourages in partnership with customers have all the ingredients: customer future vision of success, an expected business performance outcome, a plan of how to get there, discipline and determination to adopt new routines, behaviours and processes and of course the celebration of success stories.

As part of my approach to business transformations and for which customer success has an active role, I have coined the concept of A.M.P.M. This time, inspiration comes from the ancient Romans: A.M. meaning, ante meridiem (in other words before noon or morning if you prefer) and P.M., meaning post meridiem (afternoon for short). I have revamped the original Roman phrasing with the Anglo-Saxon term: Adoption Measurement and Performance Measurement. The underlying idea is that in any transformation where greater performance is the expected outcome (whether in business or sports or whatever…) we simply can’t just come out tops and nail it without first putting in all the adoption effort. So the saying goes, no pain, no gain! Naturally by the laws of science, we have never seen the afternoon come before the morning, right?

So whichever solution or service is being used to help achieve a determined greater business performance (however that may be defined), first a top-down plan of disciplined preparation and adoption needs to be implemented, controlled and measured. The RIO games participants have been carrying out such plans on a daily basis with blood, sweat and tears since the last London games in 2012.

A.M.P.M. Indicator Examples

The A.M.P.M. approach can be applied to any solution or service and implies defining adoption and performance indicators. The adoption indicators are considered as the pre-requisite measurements to control that the path for the desired outcome necessary for success is being paved. This often implies new routines, reflexes and adaptations to organisation and processes. It’s no longer a question of doing business as usual but moving out of a known comfort zone. For sports people today, this can correspond to measuring the evolution or maintenance of their physical form, aptitude and mental state, e.g. number of practice hours per day, amount of sleep, number of kilos gained or lost in weight, etc… For ancient Greek athletes (they were all male by the way), this also meant keeping their bodies in great shape to show off their magnificent muscles to their opponents as an indicator of superiority and intimidation!

Performance indicators measure the improvement in expected outcomes as they are achieved. For sports people, this is for example the reduction in seconds for track races, the number of goals scored or medals won, the number of world records broken, or the number of squashed ball tries for our rugby friends! The ROI of sports efforts and investment is palpable.

The table below shows just some non-exhaustive examples of A.M.P.M indicators which can typically be used to measure adoption and performance in a business context where CRM solutions are deployed. Depending on the context, solution type and expected business outcomes, the A.M.P.M. indicators are adapted. The ROI of solutions can then be more easily measured thanks to the analysis of the performance measurements.

A.M.P.M. Table

Team Performance

Whilst vision (dream of future performance) and determination (adoption needed to get there) is admirable for an individual sports person, when applying to a team, the effort is multiplied and accentuated by the added difficulty of getting everyone in sync. As we saw during the Euro football championship in France this summer, although there is often great individual talent, if the team as a whole is out of sync, then collective success is not au rendez-vous!

The A.M.P.M. can be applied to business team efforts and performance and it is interesting to detect any weak links which could potentially put collective performance at risk. Corresponding action plans can then be anticipated and addressed.

These A.M.P.M. indicators are of course just measurements. The real impetus for fabulous team performance comes from top-down management: sharing the vision of success, knowing how to drive a plan and create collective momentum to sustain the adoption activities which pave the way for team success.

To exemplify all this and to light up our Olympic flame, you’ll love the following short video and music* (5 mins). Although it’s a few years old, it makes a tribute to some all-time great sports men and women who have demonstrated the A.M.P.M. approach in the pursuit of their dreams for success. Sadly, Michael Schumacher has since been seriously injured and Lance Armstrong has demonstrated that non integrity never pays. This is a shame considering his fight to combat illness. On a brighter side, the video makes a final poignant tribute to Pelé, a very fitting Brazilian example of a stellar performer to nicely kick off the RIO games.Pelé

Enjoy and just imagine what would happen if each one of us displayed this kind of passion – everyday!

I dedicate this blog to all the RIO games participants as well as to all those embracing their next business transformation challenges. So A.M.P.M to you all and may the best sports performers earn their place on the RIO podium and the best business transformers on the ROI podium!

Just as a last minute inspiration from The Greatest :

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”  Mohamed Ali

Que comecem os jogos no Rio de janeiro !

View here the 5 minute video  : Everyday – Sports Champions Inpirational Video.

*If you’re wondering what’s the wonderful music: Vangelis–1942 Conquest of Paradise Theme (Christopher Colombus) 1992 Ridley Scott film

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Customer Success – It Takes Two Totango – Interview with Guy Nirpaz

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Two TotangoInterview By Sue Nabeth Moore – Customer Success Evangelist, France

Sue: Why is customer success becoming so important when it is often perceived as an activity which has always been done but was not given the label “customer success”?

Guy: Customer success is often associated with traditional activities such as account management, professional services or support but the activity of customer success is linked to the maturity of the recurring revenue model. Companies with a recurring revenue model such as SaaS depend on their ability to retain and grow. The role of customer success is becoming just as critical as that of sales. Customers prefer now to have the choice of renewing their contract or not with a company. The role of customer success is therefore to do everything to make sure that the customer just keeps coming back.

Sue: Customer success seems more mature in certain regions and sectors. What are your thoughts for the expansion of this role?

Guy: Totango was initially created in Israel in 2010 as a response to ensure life-time value to the Telco industry, a sector heavily dependant on the recurring revenue model where churn prevention is critical.

In terms of geography, the need for customer success is everywhere. 40% of Totango business for example is outside of the USA, mainly in Europe but also in Australia, India and Brazil. Totango has been collecting and sharing best practices and creating events to evangelize customer success. We have noticed that the customer success machine has started to develop just by the number of participants. Our first Totango event in the USA in 2013 attracted 100 participants, the 2nd one in 2014 attracted 400, and the 3rd one in 2015 attracted 1000 people. This is a huge success for CS actors to network, participate in the interactive seminars and workshops and learn from their peers. Over 75% told us they’d be back! We’re excited to start the Totango road show this first quarter 2016 in USA and Israel.

Sue: What do you consider to be an ideal profile for a CS Manager ?

Guy: OK well let’s start by defining what they need to do. Basically their goal is to retain and grow customers. To achieve these 2 main outcomes, we need to look at the drivers and values. The 5 main drivers are:

1) On-boarding

2) Nurturing

3) Renewal

4) Up selling/Up-grading

5) Escalation

On-boarding is critical to success. It is often complex and fluid process and organizational and project management skills are required.

Depending on the size of the company, there are different CS organizations and roles. In smaller companies, the CSM is usually responsible for all 5 drivers, at least to begin with. As a company grows, the drivers are often split into CS management roles where CSMs are specialized, e.g. for on boarding, renewals, up selling and cross-selling.

The CSM drives and articulates business value at all times. Value indicators are measured on the business outcomes expected. It’s not about the product itself but about the business gains generated. Business curiosity and a talent for solving issues is also key. Engagement is essential in order to identify gaps for achieving this value.

The real challenge is how to articulate the customer success activity and engagement in a scalable way.

Sue: What for you are the main challenges for a company wishing to start a customer success activity?

Guy: First of all the CS activity must be aligned with the main objectives of the company – to maximize renewals and up sell. This should be done in a very pragmatic way to ensure profitability and growth. If the fire-fighter model is still in operation and a company needs to spend for example 1$ to generate 1$ of renewal, then the CS role is not moving the needle forwards.

It is necessary to invest heavily in the previously mentioned 5 drivers (see above) and to keep tabs on the value that customers are gaining from the product. This is applicable for all customers.

Sue: There are more and more actors on the customer success software market, yourselves included of course. What guidelines can you give as to when a company should invest in such software?

Guy: Usually for smaller companies, the CEO begins the CS activity themself. As a general guideline, as soon as there are between 20 – 50 customers, it’s a good time to start and think about investing in CS software and for the following 2 reasons:

1) It’s great to build the activity and capitalize from best practices rather than repeat the same mistakes made before by other companies.

2) At a certain point, it can become very quickly unmanageable to be in control of all the 5 main levers. Customer success software helps to structure and alleviate the multiple tasks, allowing greater visibility on customer activity, risks and the company engagement.

My advise is to invest in customer success software as early as it is affordable.

Sue: So what is your elevator (or rather “lift” – sorry I’m British) pitch for Totango ?

Guy: Our key philosophy is to drive value to customers. It’s necessary to know how your company is driving value. To do that, you need to understand the way that customers are using your products. Once you’ve mastered that, you can better retain and grow your customers. We built Totango on this foundation.

I’ve never been a fan of the customer 360° view concept. This implies that you’re in the middle of a circle without really knowing in which direction to look first. I prefer to consider customer knowledge and consequent success with the following main areas:

1) Utilization

2) Adoption

3) Measurable business outcomes

4) Operational aspects

5) Feedback, e.g. NPS

Success is the result of the company’s engagement and understanding of their customer’s gained value but also of their customer’s ownership on what’s going on around your product.

It takes two Totango! Tango 2

Sue: What are the main profiles of Totango’s current customers?

Guy: There are 3 main world-wide categories:

1) Start ups and maturing SaaS companies

2) Medium to large companies

3) Verticals : telco, data providers and infrastructure

Sue: What are Totango’s ambitions for 2016?

Guy: Our first aim is to make Totango software easily accessible to all client focused actors: CSMs, VPs, CEOs…

We aim to have a new release per month and celebrated 8 new releases already in 2015.

We look forward to the Totango Customer Success Summit on March 21st and 22nd in San Francisco. Here we’ll meet and exchange with like-minded actors in a very convivial, productive and inspiring event.

Sue: If you had a crystal ball, describe what you would see for customer success in 5 years from now:

Guy: Customer success will be more mature and we will know how to do it better than today. It will evolve like the role of digital marketing has evolved over the last 7-8 years.

As customers innovate and their expectations increase, customer success will also gain in importance, becoming equally strategic and sustainable as the role of sales. Customer success will be more efficient and scaled, facilitated by faster programs and software.

For Totango, I can foresee continued amazing growth and thank all our customers for their advocacy and for finding great value from our customer success software.

Sue: Thanks Guy for the interview. I wish you continued success and look forward to seeing you at the next Totango road show, why not here in France!

Guy: Yes with great pleasure. Thank you Sue.

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