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What "is" Customer Success?

Customer Success as a term conceptually easy to grasp but possibly challenging to comprehend as part of a business's organizational structure for those new to the practice. Emerging out of the Business-to-Business (B2B) Software as a Service (SaaS) space in early 2000's, this company strategy has grown in relevancy and impact ever since. While there are many different operating versions of Customer Success its objectives are consistent throughout. In essence, Customer Success is a business methodology of ensuring customers achieve their desired outcomes throughout their interactions with your company. This approach is intended to help businesses create happier, healthier customer relationships that lead to increased customer retention and profitability for the organization.

How organizations achieve universal desired outcomes is done through a mix of customer-centric strategies, tactics, and functional roles all driving on a singular mission of customer success. This typically manifests itself in teams of subject matter experts and customer programs created to deliver maximum customer value throughout the customer's journey. The phases in a customer journey represent the value the customer is seeking during that particular period and may be visualized like the example below.

Possessing a command over what the customer is looking for throughout each stage will require implementing an effective Voice of the Customer program as well as feedback from your internal teams. This input is critical to uncovering any gaps or unexpected friction in the customer journey and present you opportunities to course-correct where needed. These steps will manifest in an organizational structure where influence, support, ownership, and management of particular phases in the customer journey are all aligned to driving customer value. An example of where a company may assign the customer journey phases to their Customer Success department is below.

The tasks associated with delivering on the customer's desired outcomes in the phases typically overseen by Customer Success involve product onboarding & implementation, product training, relationship management, commercial management (renewal, upsell, cross-sell, payment), product support, and professional services. The company's growth stage and product maturation will determine how they structure the teams, tasks, and ownership delivering customer value during each phase. That said, more mature Customer Success teams usually possess a structure that looks similar to this example.

At the highest level, Customer Success's KPIs revolve around customer retention, experience, and occasionally product adoption. Revenue measurements likely include customer churn, customer retention, customer renewal, and product expansion. Experience goals normally involve Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), and account health. Product adoption typically includes adoption rate, time to initial launch, and percentage of users performing key action for the first time. Which Customer Success team and role owns each metric (and their subsequent sub-metrics) will depend on the organizational structure of the Customer Success department and overall business strategy.

As one can see, there is a breadth of strategy and tactics that go into assuring your organization understands their customers desired outcomes and delivering on them. This summary only scratches the surface of what it takes to realize a fully developed Customer Success driven organization. That said, businesses that adopt the methodology of ensuring customers achieve their desired outcomes throughout their interactions with your company are 60%* more profitable than those that don't. If you're feeling lost, stuck, or confused about how best to maximize the capabilities of your Customer Success team, please reach out to us, we'd be happy to help!


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