Customer Success: The Revenue Team’s Secret Weapon

These are my notes from today’s webinar hosted by Altify and Gainsight. While there isn’t anything too groundbreaking here, this discussion did touch on some common themes in the industry such as:

  • Customer Success’s impact on company growth is being noticed by CEOs, boards and investors.
  • The actual function and organizational structure of Customer Success can vary across companies and industries.
  • Close collaboration across the entire company is important- it takes more than just one CSM to get customers where they need to go.

My notes:

  • Customer Success is one of the fastest-growing positions on LinkedIn, recently ranking as “#6 most promising” career paths.
  • CS is still on a journey to become a distinct discipline.
    • 82% of attendees have a distinct CS org in their company. The rest are ambiguous or a sub-team of a larger department.
    • CS works with the rest of the revenue team to coordinate and meet company goals.
    • Depending on the company, CS can often report to Marketing, Sales, or Support; or these can even report to CS.
  • It’s important to keep in mind how we approach customers themselves- what is our role?
    • Are we trying to simply sell them something, or come up with a real solution for their business? 
  • Customers are looking for advice. It’s often about making “heroes” out of our customers and helping them outperform their peers.
  • Post-sale, the real work starts.
    • We need to make sure customers actually get what they’ve purchased.
    • This requires close collaboration with sales and pre-sales teams.
  • Customer acquisition can cost up to 25x more than retention. Companies and investors are noticing, and mentioning CS more in earnings calls and reports.
  • There isn’t one correct answer to organizational structure.
    • CS might report to the CEO directly, to sales, to support, etc. depending on company’s market, goals and lifecycle stage.
  • There is definitely still ambiguity surrounding CS in the field. Don’t let semantics or titles get in the way of what you need to deliver.
  • KPIs will vary depending on what the company’s and team’s goals are.
    • Think of the Peter Drucker quote: “What gets measured, gets managed.”
  • When creating metrics like a customer health score, just start with a few simple points at first. Don’t try to “boil the ocean.”
    • Customers are often excited to participate in health scoring because they want to see these metrics themselves. Don’t be afraid to reach out for collaboration.
  • How to staff for CS roles?
    • Hire for culture fit.
    • Candidates should have a service mentality. Think about where they stand on the “me -> we” scale.
    • There is no particular background that is a clear winner. Good CSMs can come from anywhere; support, sales, finance, etc.
  • What kind of compensation models are standard for CS?
    • “We serve, we don’t sell” – this must be reflected in the compensation plan.
    • Avoid revenue-generating terms and incentives like expansion or upsells. Closing a sale doesn’t always contribute to the customer’s success, and incentivizing this way alludes to more sales-focused goals. There’s a different team for that.
    • Instead, focus CS compensation on activities and outcomes tied to the actual customer’s success, like engagement, activity, NPS, retention, and advocacy.

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