Blog Part 2 of 2: The Customer Success Journey
Once you have an understanding of your customers’ business goals and an agreed upon success plan, you can then execute a systematic process that leads to customer success at scale. The typical B2B Customer Success process includes:
- Acquisition of the right customer that represents a good fit for your application.
- Onboarding to get your customer started and receiving value quickly.
- Adoption to further extend value to additional users and ensure key features are utilized.
- Expansion to upsell and cross-sell product and services. Boosting feature consumption and extending the application into additional departments not only increases the value but also increases the stickiness of your solution when different teams become dependent on the application.
- Renewal of the subscription.
Customer acquisition strategy and execution can significantly influence success and renewal. When a customer has requirements that are not a good fit for your product there will be challenges delivering value that create risks for renewal. Unique use-conditions can absorb a lot of Product Management, Engineering and CSM effort trying to meet customer expectations. When the outcome is not successful, it can result in valuable resources being wasted and harm the morale of the CSM and renewals team. Knowing the customer profiles that represent a good fit for your application, and those that do not, is a key reason for a collaborative relationship between Customer Success and Sales teams.
Onboarding is the initial activity to get your customer using your SaaS product so they can receive business value quickly. Look for risks early on and address them immediately to get your customer started with positive momentum. Consistent with the Success Plan, your ongoing risk assessment should explore:
- Customer executive sponsor status and engagement levels. How engaged is the department leadership in the project?
- Plans for project governance, employee engagement and change management.
- Plans for business process redesign with ownership and target dates.
- Scheduled dates for onboarding training.
- Implementation rollout and configuration of the application. How well have any initial Support issues been managed?
In a high-touch model, onboarding is done individually with customers. In a scale environment, technology is used to create content once and reused many times. Webinars and automated emailing tools help manage customer participation and engagement while CSMs deal with exceptions such as low adoption and low consumption of onboarding resources. A customer success software platform that can monitor usage data and automatically trigger alerts is key to managing initial onboarding, especially at scale.
Adoption aims to maximize customer value by extending the number of active users and increasing feature usage of the product. A well-functioning customer success plan should leverage different teams in your organization to drive adoption. Support engineers can make appropriate suggestions for more effective product usage, marketing can promote training resources, and product teams can ensure that in-app notifications drive feature usage known to increase adoption. In addition to consumption metrics, look for correlation between feature adoption and Net Promoter Score (NPS) data so that you direct extra effort into driving adoption of the features that will drive value, loyalty and ultimately renewal.
On the customer side, a good executive sponsor will encourage the re-engineering of business processes that will embody adoption, e.g. using your product’s new dashboards instead of their old spreadsheets.
Expansion of revenue opportunities follows successful onboarding and adoption with full license and feature usage. If the initial customer success plan has been properly constructed with agreed success milestones, then achieving these milestones represents an opportunity to seek advocacy in the form of expansion. Up-selling more licenses and consulting services, or cross-selling to another department are ideal expansion goals.
Sharing real-world use cases can also inspire your customer to pursue new expansion opportunities. Peer to peer engagements, comparisons and discussions can be a very effective customer success tactic.
As organizations scale, expansion revenue is often assigned to Sales rather than CSM teams, and as such will have Sales pipeline metrics.
Ultimately, subscription renewal is the goal of customer success. Renewal steps should include the process for early renewal, with quotes issued well in advance, leaving time for any last minutes changes or negotiations as well as risk management.
Customers with full license utilization and high feature usage may be excellent candidates for upsell during the renewal process. Accounts with unused seats and low utilization could represent a significant challenge on the other hand.
Additional risk factors might include:
- Change in customer use conditions.
- Change in any key customer contacts.
- Technical issues with application, installation or configuration.
- High incidence of support tickets or escalations. A high number of tickets, if managed well, may actually be positive. However, a high number of tickets not being resolved would be a risk factor.
- Low NPS or CSat scores.
It is worth continuously promoting the available support resources, online forums and support offered by various consulting and training partners which will help accelerate progress and mitigate risks due to change.
Having a clear view of the customer’s definition of success, a mutually agreed success plan, and a process to execute at scale, puts your CSM team on a path that’s very likely to succeed.