Properly equipped and led, a Customer Success Management team has access to a wealth of information about the customers they serve. Which customers are proceeding up the desired adoption curve? Who are the “power users?” What is the potential for increasing the value that the customer is receiving from their investment? What are the early warnings of an at-risk customer relationship, and which responses tend to be the most effective in getting things back on track?
Defining the right data to be gathered is the essential first challenge facing every CSM team as they seek to develop beyond reactive fire-fighting into higher levels of effectiveness. Having access to data and making appropriate use of its potential, however, can be two very different things. The generation of customer data begins at the very first point of interaction between prospect and your company. What gives that raw data meaning and real economic value is connecting it to the growth and maintenance of top tier income streams. The data of Customer Success Management is a key; turning it into a strategic contribution to overall corporate profitability requires vision and leadership.
Moving the Point of Customer Success Engagement
The reality of the SaaS B2B market is that you’re going to have to address customer retention at some point in the process. The longer you wait to take action, the less effective you’re likely to be and the more it will cost. To increase effectiveness by moving the point of initial engagement for the CSM team earlier — from somewhere near the end of Adoption, where most groups typically start to be involved — first to OnBoarding, then to Sales, from there to Marketing and finally to Product Design — you have to have the data to make your case, to prove your worth in dollars and sense terms. How do we get from here, where most CSM’s are in firefighter mode, to where we can be much more effective?
I think that the starting point is cost data. What are your customer retention costs? What are the costs of the various CSM activities, and how effective are they in increasing retention? Take a really bad code-red example, plus one from the midrange, and then one from your ideal customer group. Compare the costs, and then propose a business case wherein if you didn’t have to do those reactive tasks, or at least not at that level, what would be the profitability picture?
The CS Data Analyst
There are a few CSM teams that have a formal position of Data Analyst in their org charts — and I know of some others that are working to create such a position. Every CSM group has this function to some degree, of course, even if it’s only something that the senior CS exec does as time permits — but the need is critical, and it frankly takes a different skill set. If you’re a CS data analyst, I’d like to interview you. If anyone has developed a job description for the role, I’d love to have a copy. Please give me a call, or use the Contact form here to reach out via e-mail.
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(An earlier version of this article was originally published in The HotLine Magazine.)