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 – 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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Innovative Vendors Strike Back – Vendors Organize For Customer Success

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Episode 2 of my interview with Gainsight’s CCO, Dan Steinman:

Vinylemag.com
Vinylemag.com

Innovative Vendors Strike Back – Vendors organize themselves for Customer Success

Following on from Episode 1: New Hope: SaaS Wars – A New Business Model and The Growing Importance of Customer Success.

Sue: So who do you think should own the role of customer success Dan?

Dan: It’s a really interesting question. Literally I have seen customer success organizations in different entities: sales, services, product, marketing and in a separate stand-alone organization. I believe that customer success is going to ultimately become so important that it’ll be more and more a separate organization for most companies, reporting directly to the CEO. It’s one of the reasons that the role of Chief Customer Officer (CCO like myself) is in vogue. That’s the person the CEO is going to hold accountable for the entire customer life-cycle and customer retention number. Whilst you want someone high level to own your sales number you also need someone to own your retention because it’s so critical to the long term success of the company.

I think for an ideal organization the following 3 roles reporting to the CEO are key:

– CRO (Chief Revenue Officer) who owns the acquisition process via marketing and sales.

– COO (Chief Operating Officer) who owns operations and finance and maybe engineering.

– CCO (Chief Client Officer) who owns customer success, professional services and support and perhaps the renewals.

Customer success can work in any organization and so there’s no right or wrong. But I think the evolution will take us where customer success will become this stand-alone organization.

Sue: We’ve also seen the emergence of different customer success roles, often called customer success managers (CSM). What for you does it take to be a great customer success actor ?

Dan: Yes I have a pretty long list after having managed CSMs over a number of years and so I’ll give the highlights. Firstly, I think it’s obvious but if you’re going to be dealing with customers, you have to have the right personality and demeanor to do that. That’s not just about being likeable. You also have to be able and willing to take some level of punishment. That’s because this job is often dealing with customers who are not always delighted. There is an element of pain which comes with that and so you have to know how to live in that world. In addition, the 2 skill components that you have to either find or build are:

1) A high degree of product expertise. At a user level, I can help you use my product better because I really know how to use it in an optimal way.

2) The second one is equally as important or even arguably more important and that is domain expertise. If I’m selling a marketing solution like we did at Marketo, my CSMs had a thorough knowledge of marketing processes. So if you are selling accountancy software, you may want to hire accountants and teach them how to use your product.

Sue: Yes that is really important for your credibility with your customers and their trust in you.

Dan: Yes, they love talking to people who have actually done the job which you are trying to do and who can truly empathize. There’s so much power in words when you know exactly how they feel.

Sue: So a typical great CSM needs to be a Jack of all trades.

Dan: Yes and there are a lot of skills in managing customers and product expertise as well as supporting and consulting team skills. It’s all about bringing all these together in one place with people who are very passionate about their customers. It’s not that I want to see CSMs going to hospital but I kind of expect them to feel ill if their customers aren’t really doing well. For the great CSMs, it’s a very personal thing. It hurts in your stomach when your customers aren’t happy. Great people in every job are like that. A great sales person for example anguishes over their deals. Great CSMs are just the same.

Sue: I empathize with that. It’s all about how you interact and the real concern and passion you feel for what’s happening with your customer’s success. It’s not just another routine job.

Dan: That’s right. It becomes a craft. It goes beyond a job and almost becomes a hobby. I think about it and work on it in my apartment in my spare time. I’m always determined to be better at it even if no-one else notices except me!

Sue: Indeed it gives you a great sense of satisfaction knowing that you’ve created added value.

Coming soon… Episode 3:

Return of “The Wall Street”- Evangelism of Customer Success Value and Return on Investment.

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