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 engagement 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 means 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
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. In 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.
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.