Agile Customer Success Management is a profit center. It is NOT customer support with a twist. It is NOT account management in the traditional sense. It IS an opportunity to fully engage your customers in getting the most out of your solution. If you believe that your solution will help your customers generate revenue, increase margins, and/or eliminate (or minimize) risks in some way, then it’s incumbent upon you to facilitate this realization for them. This doesn’t mean that you hand them the keys to your incredible platform and congratulate them. It doesn’t mean that you facilitate a perfect implementation, and then become “available” to them as they use your software. And, it doesn’t simply mean that you “check in” with them to see if you can help them gain greater value from your system. Since it’s more than all that, you need to know how to deliver customer success right, and do so in a profitable manner. Let’s consider a three step approach:
Your Solution Isn’t Just your Software
1. The first step in monetizing customer success is understanding that your solution isn’t just your software. With every SaaS offering comes a promise of some version of revenue generation, risk reduction, and /or increased margins. While your software is your innovative way to deliver on these promises, you started with a deep understanding of a problem that you believed you could solve. Understanding the problem you set out to solve at a comprehensive and expert level is at the core of being able to monetize customer success.
- Consider Bolstra. We are an Agile Customer Success Management solution. Our platform supports CSMs and Executives in managing accounts and understanding where every customer sits in their lifecycle at all times. XaaS companies are chomping at the bit to be able to do what our platform can provide them. We know that Customer Success Management starts with defined customer lifecycles, the engagement models that support each stage, and the capacity required to deliver. Our customers want all of this. We understand that our customers need both our platform and our expertise in this industry to fully realize the value of their own Customer Success teams.
Anticipate and Identify your Customer Needs
2. Understanding the problem and the role your platform plays in the solution is the first step. The second step in monetizing your own Customer Success is anticipating and identifying all that your customers will need to gain full value from your solution. This includes what your platform provides, and what it doesn’t. Nobody knows your space like you do. Your experts have a deep understanding of the problems you set out to solve. Your product is a big piece of that solution, but it’s not all of it. You know that, and you also know how to augment your product with expert services to be able to facilitate a complete resolution to your customers’ issues. Just as you document what your platform can do and how to use it properly, you need to document those services which you anticipate your customers will need to move the needle within their organizations.
- For us at Bolstra, we know that our platform facilitates work management, illuminates lifecycle status, and provides deep insights into the health of all accounts. However, we also recognize that many of our clients need help to get to a state where they can optimally benefit from the power of our software. They often need help designing and building their customer lifecycle, understanding the capacity of their team, creating a menu of expert service offerings for themselves, and determining the formula they want to use in evaluating the health of their customers. We are experts in these areas, as well as our platform, and identify these services as essential to our customers in being able to reap the full benefits of our solution.
What to Include in the Original Sale
3. Once these services are defined, it’s a matter of determining which you will include in your original sale. Will you charge for implementation? Will you provide a set number of hours of expert services? Will you package up tiers of expert services that customers can purchase? Whether you offer one time gigs, subscriptions, or retainers to your customers is up to you, and will depend upon the nature of the services you can provide. If your services will be supplemental education in the form of workshops (teaching them to fish, if you will), then one time offerings may work best. If your customers will require more regular consulting, (because of their own capacity, or because of the complexity of the solution), then perhaps subscriptions or retainers may work best.
- Our expert services are offered in two ways: as part of a package purchase of licenses, and through a menu of offerings. New customers receive a set number of hours per month with their subscription (the number of hours depends upon the package they purchase), which can be used in any way they would like – though we often mutually agree upon early priorities. Additionally, we offer most of services through ad-hoc consulting engagements and workshops.
Understand How Your Customers are Using your Solution
4. Finally, once you have your service offerings up and running, you gain a fuller understanding of how your customers are using your solution – platform and services. This knowledge serves as the basis for decisions about features and offerings as you grow your organization. You may opt to operationalize or automate some of the service you’ve been providing into your platform if that makes sense. Or you may reveal more streamlined ways to facilitate your customers’ optimal usage.
Monetizing Customer Success is the linchpin to making Customer Success work. Many think of Customer Success as the panacea for reversing churn trends. And, it is that. But, it’s more than that, as well. Whether it’s your CSMs or other industry experts within your organization, those resources have skills your customers need. You know those needs before your customers do. Finding the right formula for defining and offering those services is the key to monetization. Now that you understand why you must become your customers’ “go-to” for your solution in its entirety (not just the platform), let’s get gritty with how to build your professional services offerings.