Customer success isn't renewals. It isn't upsell or expansion.
It's not onboarding, support, and it's not advocacy.
It's the result a buyer gets when things work out.
When the product they buy meets their needs.
When plans materialize.
It's a result, an outcome, a state of being.
"This is working."
It's not a role, but it does take many players working in concert to deliver it. For instance...
A founder has a vision for solving an industry problem.
Entrepreneurs and executives raise money to fund the vision.
Product managers, designers, and engineers bring the vision to life.
Marketers tell the target audience how we solve their problems.
Sellers bring the product to market.
Services, enablement, and support deliver the product as promised by the go-to-market team. And as intended by the product development team.
Everyone plays a role in customer success. And perhaps the most critical are those far upstream of the post-sales teams we typically think of when we hear "customer success."
A company devises a customer success strategy by answering the following questions:
- Who are our customers? What segments emerge when we analyze our target buyers and current customers by size, industry, goals, spending level, product attachment, adoption, use cases, etc?
- What are they hoping to accomplish? How do they define, measure, and evaluate success?
- Which customers are succeeding/failing right now? What real-time insights, data, and metrics can help us understand where each customer is on their journey?
- What do the laggards need to do differently to succeed? What tactics do our most successful customers use vs. the least successful ones?
- How will we encourage and enable all of our customers to act like our most successful ones? How do we organize and align talent, time, and resources to help customers do the things we know will make them successful?
One of a customer success exec's key jobs is aligning finite resources of the post-sale organization (onboarding, enablement, relationship management, and support) to support the company's growth in an ever-more-scalable manner.
In parallel, there's no avoiding the core functions of a SaaS company that drive growth–maintaining relationships, renewing, upselling, cross-selling, and recruiting advocates, to name a few.
After all, healthy, profitable businesses that retain and grow their customers can afford to continue innovating for customers and adding more value.
As software providers, we measure our success by new sales, renewal rate, expansion bookings, gross retention, and net retention.
But we must be careful not to conflate the delivery of customer success with the work that drives company performance. These are separate matters.
And yet, for SaaS to work, every person and every team in the business must bear responsibility for both.
As I often say, only two types of people exist in a SaaS company: those who are customer-facing and those who support the customer-facing people.
So perhaps it's time each team within the company had two sets of metrics--one for customer success and one set for business outcomes.
Are you doing anything like this today at your company? If so, hit reply and let me know about it.