Defining the Customer Success Organization

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Customer experience has always served as the primary foundation for customer success. However, as this key differentiator becomes increasingly critical throughout today's competitive market, many brands have begun to establish dedicated customer success teams that are specifically tasked with creating the most engaging experiences possible.
Customer Retention

Customer experience has always served as the primary foundation for customer success. However, as this key differentiator becomes increasingly critical throughout today's competitive market, many brands have begun to establish dedicated customer success teams that are specifically tasked with creating the most engaging experiences possible.Here, we speak with Mike Saldi, chief customer officer of Preact, to determine what defines the customer success organization and how these emerging teams will impact experience in the years to come:

1to1 Media: What defines the customer success organization? What role do these teams play and how do they fit within the context of the overall company?

Mike Saldi: Customer success teams are responsible for ensuring new customers have an engaging, profitable experience with your product. Customer success begins at the point when a customer starts paying and lasts through the years that they continue as a customer. Customer success teams are the "unicorns" of the corporate world--they are technically savvy enough to onboard and train new customers, yet personable enough to build deep personal relationships with executives and end-users alike, and they are able to nurture the interest of customers such that they continue to explore and engage with your product. Customer success is an executive level function, typically reporting to the CEO, but sometimes reporting up through sales or a chief revenue officer. They "own" onboarding, training, and monitoring of customer health over the years of their use. Customer success teams are able to influence marketing and sales to ensure continued brand engagement (the former) and to ensure new customers are a good fit for the product (the latter).

1to1: How can customer success teams differentiate themselves from customer service? How do their responsibilities differ?

MS: Customer service is all about responding to customer requests. Customer success is focused on proactively engaging with customers to solve their issues before they even reach out (or cancel their service). Customer success has full visibility into customer behavior and sentiment, and uses this information to diagnose a struggling customer or individual user. Customer service answers inbound phone calls, emails, and support tickets. Customer success is typically a different function, though they may report up to the same person, and uses personal outreach or automated communications to usher customers down the best path for using their product.

1to1: How can customer success teams measure their impact of both business and revenue? What should their overall goals be from the start?

MS: The ultimate measure of customer success is churn rate and upsells. But these are often longer-term metrics measured across years or quarters, or across months for high volume businesses. To account for this, customer success looks to near-term metrics to act as proxies for churn and upsell. Metrics include customer health scores (how healthy is my customer on a scale of 1-100), time to on-board (how many days it takes to get your customer up and running), and percentage of customers engaging with each key feature. Driving improvement in each of these near-term metrics sets customer success on a course to drive down customer churn and drive upsells.

1to1: What are some critical tips for helping these customer success teams adapt and find their place within the overarching organization?

MS: Customer success is a new discipline and still needs to establish its value to the enterprise. That means customer success teams need to clearly define their mandate and tie it closely to the metrics that matter, which means both churn rate and the near-term metrics that serve as proxies for churn. This approach will help customer success avoid the "cost center" label and be appreciated for the strategic role they play. They are the central advocates for the customer--the most important asset the company has. This must be quantified and the relevant investments made to ensure customer retention. Customer success teams must fight for their seat at the revenue table, so to speak.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION