Consider these 3 SaaS company scenarios:
A: At the weekly sales meeting, the CSO summarizes the pipeline. There are three newly closed accounts, readying for launch. There is an anticipated 60% closure rate on the warm prospects. There are an additional 15 conversations that have been started, with appointments being scheduled within the next two weeks. The sales team clearly knows their prospects and continues to hunt down new opportunities.
B: The services group meets weekly to consider the current state of each account. They divide them into categories to identify their immediate needs: onboarding, nurturing, crisis prevention, risk of churn, renewal opportunity, etc. A Project Manager assigns and deploys the appropriate resources: professional services where needed, and sales where needed.
C: A Customer Support team is well trained to respond to any and all customer needs as they arise. They are available 24/7 and are technical experts in the platform. They can (and do) respond to any concerns customers have in a timely and professional manner.
Which of these scenarios reflects a Customer Success Team?
If you selected any one of these as a model for Customer Success, you would be wrong. Customer Success is NOT Sales, project management, or customer service. And, because it is not any one of these things, the people who comprise a Customer Success team are not your typical sales, project managers or customer service people. They really are a hybrid. The Customer Success team of today holds their customer’s goals at the center of their operations, and their own sales/growth targets as natural outcomes of those relationships.
In a SaaS business with a strong Customer Success model, the skills of those teams described above are still valued. However, they are enhanced and supplemented to form a Customer Success team that works collaboratively with sales and delivery. Members of a thriving Customer Success team understand pipeline, delivery, and service. But, more than that, they know their customer’s goals and work daily to help them meet those goals. If doing so requires education, they educate. If it requires crisis intervention, they intervene. And, if it requires additional licenses, they recommend them.
In this generation of subscription software, we can no longer expect to simply land an account, and have it grow without continually helping our customer find delight and success in using our platform. Our tool must be an evident resource to them in helping them do their job better and meet their own stated outcomes. The old model of selling and then upselling is presumptuous. The model of responding to their needs as they have them is detached. And the thought that you can simply manage their growth systematically is impersonal.
Customer Success is predictive, rather than reactive. To do so, Customer Success must know their customer’s lifecycles and desired outcomes, and work WITH them to facilitate their success. They must also know the storyline of the account.
Consider Bolstra’s CSM work management flow. The CSM team works between sales and the customer. They understand the full context of the account (it’s lifecycle, health score, and the financial vision of the account). They also fully understand the context into which the platform was sold to the customer, and they are aligned with the customer’s goals, work collaboratively with them, and understand best practices with regard to the platform.
The CSM workflow may have some normal cycles to it, but it is ultimately varied based upon the account. So, the CSM team must always know where each account is in their lifecycle and in their own outcome tracking. This ability to keep multiple balls in the air, and to know the health and wellbeing of each of those “balls” is a special skillset. It’s NOT Sales, and it’s not customer service. It’s really a hybrid of talents and a broader understanding of the full context of the account.
To say that Customer Success is a strong pipeline is clearly restrictive. To say that Customer Success is strong project management/delivery is just short-sited. And, to say that it’s just about customer service is truly a reactive, antiquated approach. So, the answer to which of the original scenarios best represents Customer Success – D: none of the above.