In March of 2007, I started The HotLine Magazine to address the impact that the shift to the Cloud was having upon the organizational structure and process of the entire technology market. Seven years later, while companies are still struggling to understand and to adapt to some key aspects of the change, the corporate landscape has some striking new features. The end of the traditional model front-loaded sale of perpetual licenses meant that Customer Retention could no longer be something to be taken for granted or considered as just a desirable option. The sale is never final. No longer are the bulk of the profits from a given sale taken up-front. There is always another renewal to be earned, an income stream to be kept flowing, and neither can safely be assumed until just before the old contract runs out. The rules of the software game have changed.
For companies that want to thrive, renewal and expansion of customer relationships is a year-around issue. Increasingly, that means someone has to be formally designated and authentically accountable for the company’s portfolios of customers. That role, in many companies worldwide, is called Customer Success Management.
The Profession of Customer Success Management
By whatever name — Client Success, Customer Advocacy, Customers For Life, Customer Relationship Management, Customer Care/Support — the emerging profession of retaining and maximizing profitable customer relationships is growing worldwide at an exponential rate.
Over in The Customer Success Management Forum on LinkedIN, the steady influx of new members seen for the past two years has suddenly skyrocketed. While the titles vary widely, there are two common points. The first is that the old organizational model of taking the profit from a technology sale and leaving the burden of getting value from the purchase on the customer no longer applies. Having a team dedicated ensuring customer adoption and success is not optional for a company that wants to prosper over the long term.
The second key point is that there are no standards yet for this new era and profession. Though two companies may have the exact same titles and job descriptions for their teams, there can be and frequently are strategically significant differences in how the roles are defined, measured and compensated.
Customer Success Magazine
Back in 2007 when The HotLine began, there were few sources for information about the strategy, process, people/organizational structure of the new role. While some companies did have CSM slots in their organizational charts, the title or descriptions of the function were all but unknown in the media. By the fall of 2011, there were a steady stream of CSM job descriptions beginning to appear on LinkedIN and on SaaS corporate websites. Recognizing the growing shift, I changed the name of the SaaS & Support Forum on LinkedIN, which at that point had about 300 members, to be The Customer Success Management Forum — and the membership immediately started growing at 100 new members per month. Now at the beginning of 2014, the Forum has over 4,000 members and the monthly rate of incoming new members has increased to 450+.
The history of The HotLine Magazine shows a similar rapid acceleration. In less than a year, the magazine had developed a considerable reach as readers came from all 50 states and over 70 countries. Today, it is read in over 140 countries and in more than a dozen languages. But where once The HotLine was a sole voice, now there are a number of other publications that also offer ideas, innovations and insights about the profession and practice of customer retention and relationship management. Some of them are published by customer success technology vendors, others by senior members of the profession.
While the articles of The HotLine will remain accessible as an Archive, it’s time for a new focus — and a new name. Welcome to Customer Success Magazine, a new doorway into the growing worldwide community of Customer Success Management professionals and resources. Please join us here at CSM and in The Customer Success Management Forum on LinkedIn, and in the activities and resources of the Customer Success Association.