As Customer Success increasingly gains traction as a growth engine (in SaaS and beyond), B2B companies that are built on recurring revenue models are seeking ways to organize their Customer Success delivery. But what Customer Success Management means to to these companies varies widely. When SaaS executives are asked “What constitutes Customer Success Management in your organization?”, answers vary with any combination of the following:
- Account Management
- Renewal Management
- Concierge Support
- Expert Services
- Training/Adoption Facilitation
- Customer Marketing
Therefore, we must investigate further.
As a SaaS company that sells to and collaborates with Customer Success organizations, we recognize the vast disparity in how B2B SaaS companies charter and lead their teams. The big questions to which executives are seeking answers include:
- What will our customers deem valuable and expect from our Customer Success team?
- What (and how many) resources do we need to deliver the services?
- How are teams chartered/managed?
- What skills does the team need to have?
- How will their performance and success be measured?
- How will the function be funded?
It’s clear that there’s support for the concept of delivering value that is defined by our customers’ attainment of success, but it’s equally clear that we, the B2B SaaS industry, don’t have a single standardized vision for how to do this.
One size (and shape) of Customer Success does not fit all.
Consider how Hubspot defines Customer Success:
an organizational function that helps customers get maximum value out of a product or service, while working closely with sales, marketing and product to achieve that goal.
This function varies in how it’s chartered.
In some cases, this “function” is really an enterprise-wide approach or discipline, while in others, it is clearly defined and delivered by a team of humans with specific expertise. And, in still others, it consists of automated technology that delivers valuable content to customers. Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) refers to the organizational discipline approach as the “Big C” Customer Success, and considers it more of a customer growth function. If the function aligns with a business unit, it can be either a high-touch (a.k.a. human) or a low-touch (tech or a hybrid) approach. This depends upon variables such as business outcomes being managed, the complexity of the solution, and the capacity of the customer (amongst others). Whether the CS function is “Big C” or “Little c”, high-touch or low-touch, leadership is still vital to its effectiveness.
The leadership of this function varies.
As with any business objective, strong leadership is vital to successful attainment. SaaS Customer Success Management is no different. As the industry seeks to nail down where and how to manage the delivery of customer success, we work with leaders with just as many different titles as there are charters. Our executive sponsors are Chief Customer Officers, Chief Revenue Officers, Chief Sales Officers, Chief Marketing Officers, Chief Operating Officers (and VPs in each of these areas). Regardless of titles, they all share the same objective of retaining and growing their loyal customer base. They approach this objective differently, and they measure their successes differently, but they unanimously recognize the importance of their existing customers and are actively defining the best approach to balancing the value OF their customers with the value provided FOR them.
The approach of this function varies.
All Customer Success leaders are looking to find the way to deliver real value to their customers. Defining what constitutes value to customers is the first step and requires answering the following:
- Do customers simply need to be able to get your software configured and their data integrated for value attainment to be evident?
- Or do they need ongoing technical assistance to grow with the software?
- Or do they need industry expertise to help them maximize the value they glean from your solution?
Figuring out what your customers need from you forms the basis for defining your approach to operationalizing your Customer Success function. And perhaps equally as important, it forms the basis for figuring out how to self-fund your Customer Success model.
Our visions may differ, but we can learn from one another
So, our Customer Success teams don’t all look the same. That’s ok. Our software solutions don’t either. The more we engage with Customer Success professionals, the more we learn about how they are fine tuning their approaches to boost retention rates and strike that elusive balance between what they provide their customers and how they fund the delivery of those services. What continues to be clear about the function of customer success is that there’s no universal approach to doing it. One shape doesn’t fit all, nor should it. But, as we continue to prioritize developing this function within our organizations, it becomes increasingly valuable to learn from one another about what works and what doesn’t.