In a previous article, John Kelly of CustomerLink explored why CSMs should be mindful of their customer's definition of success. In this installment, John outlines a systemic process that leads to customer success at scale.
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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.
A B2B Customer Success process typically includes:
- Acquisition of the right customer that represents a good fit for your product.
- Onboarding to get your customer started and receiving value quickly.
- Adoption to 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 other departments not only increases the value but also increases the stickiness of your solution in an organization.
- Renewal of the subscription.
It's no secret that your customer acquisition strategy can significantly influence success and renewal. Unique use conditions can absorb a lot of Product Management, Engineering, and CSM effort trying to meet customer expectations.
When the outcome isn't successful, it can result in a waste of valuable resources and harm the morale of the CSM team.
A collaborative relationship between Customer Success and Sales can help avoid customers with misaligned needs that result in a poor fit.
Onboarding is the initial activity to get your customer using your product so they can begin to receive value. Look for risks early on and address them immediately to get your user 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 a personal interaction between CSM and customer. In a high volume environment, technology is used to create content that is 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 monitors usage data and automatically triggers alerts is key to managing onboarding, especially at scale.
Adoption aims to maximize customer value by extending the number of active users and increasing the feature usage of your 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 any correlation between feature adoption and Net Promoter Scores so that you direct extra effort into championing the features that unlock value and lead to renewal.
Identifying and empowering 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 includes 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.
Subscription renewal is the ultimate goal of Customer Success.
This process should include the option 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 up-sell 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 large number of tickets not getting resolved would be a risk factor.
- Low NPS or CSat scores.
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.
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About the Author
John Kelly is the Managing Director of CustomerLink, a technology and consulting services firm based in Europe that helps companies of all sizes to understand, measure and improve Customer Success.
You can connect with John on LinkedIn.