Most of the companies we work with are in the Ad Hoc stage of customer success.
They have one (or maybe a handful of) standout CSM(s) who are working hard to keep their customers happy. They are basically doing whatever it takes to minimize the risk of customer churn. The successes they are having are hit-or-miss, rather than prescribed and routine. The good thing about this stage is that your company recognizes the importance of allocating resources to Customer Success (at least in some fashion). The bad thing is that, as it currently exists, it’s quite difficult to scale. You (and your team) have desire and passion going for you. But, you are up against a lot of obstacles in scaling your CS efforts, and susceptible to fatigue and attrition. Not only is the workload unequally dispersed, but that one person (or a few people) don’t have full support from the organization. There isn’t likely a priority placed upon integrating data sources and automating best practices. The only place to go is up.
You know the saying, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you”? Well, as companies enter into the Managed Stage, they are beginning to grow in self-awareness, and thus recognition of what is hurting them. This knowledge can be inspiring (productive), or daunting (unproductive). We consider this awareness a gift, but also recognize that it can feel a bit like drinking from a firehose. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the awareness that comes with maturity, consider celebrating your accomplishments of having a CS team, and some simple best practices in place. You may even have a platform that you are using to support your CS functions. Some companies who are in the Managed Stage can fall back into an Ad Hoc state when they implement a platform. A few CSMs are taking the ball and running with it, while others may be slower to adapt to integrating a platform into their work flow. That said, Managed CSM teams are in a great place. They likely have clean, accessible data, and are using the data and existing processes to ask great questions of their teams, which is beginning to result in the establishment of best practices. This is a formative stage that can feel painful at times, but is a monumental step forward toward having established, highly functioning Customer Success Management in your organization.
The Managed Stage is a time for some soul searching. It’s time to ask and answer some difficult questions. Taking the time to pause from work can be a challenge, but should (if done with candor and strategic thinking) result in an opportunity to operationalize more of your CS functions, which will result in creating standardized (positive) customer experiences.
CS teams that are in the Repeatable Stage can be comprised of as few as 2 or as many as 20 (or more) people. They can be dedicated to just high value customers or to all customers. The common features of a CS team that is at the Repeatable Stage is that they know what they are supposed to be doing and are all doing it. They track time against prescribed activities, which allows management to get a clear picture on capacity. They follow customer-focused proactive steps to continually provide delight to their customers. They are using some approach for assessing their customers’ health (i.e. NPS and/or usage metrics). They conduct routine retrospectives to engage with their customers to assess their ongoing (and, perhaps, shifting) priorities as they relate to their solution. Teams that are in the Repeatable Stage likely have a CS platform that is integrated with a CRM (or sales force automation tool). Prescribed best practices are in place and triggered from data or events, such as NPS scores or life stages within a customer lifecycle. Troubled accounts are tended to immediately. Renewal dates are clearly documented, and delivery calendars are built around those dates.
If you are in the Measurable Stage of maturity, Kudos to you! You can count yourself among an elite group of high performing Customer Success teams. Perhaps the most enviable aspect of CS teams that are at this advanced stage is how clean and accessible their data is. This is no small thing, and the ability for multiple teams within an organization to glean insights from the data is extremely valuable. Teams that are in the Measurable stage are highly efficient and are garnering visible value for their organization. CSMs have a depth and breadth of talent that is being monetized through professional sThe range of reporting capability is robust and can be relied upon for forecasting revenue, understanding capacity, and making decisions about how to provide service to all tiers of customers. Your CS team is efficient and effective. They address variability among your accounts, and are able to introduce new value to your customers by demonstrating enhanced functionality (that may have been previously underutilized) and/or adding monetized levels of service. Your CS team is able to have an impact on your customers’ levels of delight because they know what to do and when, and those activities are prescribed and automated. In a nutshell, teams that are in the Measured Stage are agile in delivering what their customers need before they have to ask.
What’s considered optimal today for CS may not be optimal in the near future. We regard agile customer success as the current standard for our customers. However, we also know we’d be foolish to believe that there’s not a future that is even more robust. We think this evolved stage will have specialized teams within the CS organization who provide unique fits for segments of customers and whose skills can be monetized to more than justify the return on investment. Just as the CS team works iteratively to address their customers evolving needs, they also incorporate self-evaluation and retrospectives to foster and implement regular improvements to processes. Innovation abounds in this stage, where CS has key insights into customer wants and needs, and plays a major part in driving product and organizational change. Customer Success is officially a profit center, and the debate about its value to the company is outdated. At this optimized stage, data is truly used to provide predictions about customer use.
Note: While some current Customer Success companies suggest that this can happen now, we don’t believe that most teams are actually ready for the artificial intelligence that is becoming available. Their processes and resources aren’t mature enough to assimilate that kind of data analytics. However, we do recognize that this is an imminent future state, and one that we are excited about.