The Future of Customer Success Management: A Look Ahead

Customer Success Managers

We are super excited to be co-hosting an event with Mikael Blaisdell, one of the pioneers of customer success management.
We consistently hear from our customers and prospects that they would like to meet other customer success management professionals so we decided to partner with Mikael and make this happen!
We will start in San Mateo/San Francisco Bay Area on Thursday evening, April 5th in San Mateo, CA from 7-8:30 PM.
The second event will be in the Boston, MA area in May, followed by another in Seattle, WA in July.  Meetings in other cities are being scheduled.
What to expect? We look forward to mingle and discuss what will the future of customer success management look like?  What will drive the customer success manager role to develop and mature?  What do people see as best business practices in Customer Success Management?  As teams and programs mature, what levels will be a part of the progression?
Mikael Blaisdell, Publisher of The HotLine Magazine, will also be presenting a visionary and provocative look at what the future might hold.

The sessions are free, and open to all CSM professionals and SaaS/Cloud company CxO’s.  Advance registration is required, and space will be limited.  To register, please click here or put the following in your browser:  http://forumsf040512.eventbrite.com

The Future of Customer Success Management:  A Look Ahead — SF Bay Area CSM Meetup

Mikael Blaisdell:  The HotLine Magazine

Sponsored by: Totango Inc.

Thursday: April 5th 7-8:30

Auditorium; Keynote Systems Inc.
777 Mariners Island Blvd
San Mateo, CA

Advance registration for this FREE event is required, and space is limited.

Use this link to register: 
 http://forumsf040512.eventbrite.com

Agenda

  • 7:00 Doors open for registered attendees; 
Refreshments & Networking
  • 7:25 Welcome
  • 7:30 – 8:15 Mikael’s Presentation and Q&A
  • 8:15 – 8:30  Totango Customer Engagement Tips

Come have a snack, meet your fellow CSM professionals, and stick around for some customer engagement tips from yours truly.

The Need To Know for SaaS Businesses

The need to know

In the traditional software market, it has often seemed that the only thing that a vendor felt they really needed to know about a given customer was how to get their signature on the initial contract.  The bulk of the profit to be realized (and the source of the Sales’ commission!) came up-front from the sale of the perpetual licenses.  After that had been accomplished, the barriers to switching were presumed to be high enough to keep the customer tied to the vendor for some time.


In the SaaS/Cloud sector and business model, there is no burst of up-front profit, and the barriers against churn are much lower.  It can take many months, in some cases as long as a year or even more to recoup the customer acquisition cost.  A customer who elects to end the relationship before that point can instantly turn what appeared to be a highly profitable deal into a dead loss.  As a necessary result, the Customer Success Manager at a minimum must know a great deal about the customers’ business, and especially about the customer’s expectations and usage of the vendor’s application, in order to have any accuracy of insight about the real status of the relationship.

Looking for Answers


The beginning of the quest for knowledge is in determining what you need to know in order to function as an effective CSM (Customer Success Manager).  What drove the customer to engage with your company and application?  How does the customer measure success?  Are they tracking their own progress towards those success goals and objectives?  Are their individual users appropriately moving up the adoption curve of the application’s feature set?  All of these core questions must be reliably answered, and on a continuing basis, but the need for knowledge doesn’t stop there.

Some of the answers will come from conversations with your customers.  Others will be provided by your application feature usage monitoring resources – but here, too, you have to know what to look for.  Which features are core to the application. such that there is something very wrong when a customer is not using them?  If your monitoring tools haven’t delivered enough data to use in this regard (or even if you think they have!), go talk to the Support team reps.  Ask the customers themselves what they consider to be the must-have features.  What does the Sales team report as customer hot-buttons?  How do prospects talk about their expectations?  What does Marketing say about competitive analyses of the opposition’s products?

Are You Sure?

What you don’t know can very definitely hurt you in the game of keeping customers and increasing per-customer profitability levels.  So can what you think you know.  Cross-check the data and responses you get to your inquiries from different directions.  If there is conflict, dig deeper.  Why would some customers or respondents think that a given feature was vital and others not?  Look for patterns, and matches with verifiable customer behavior.  Look, too, for what doesn’t fit – and ask why.

About the Author

Mikael Blaisdell, The Hotline MagaszineMikael Blaisdell, publisher of The HotLine Magazine, brings 30+ years of experience in the strategy, process, people and technology of customer support, retention and profitability to the emerging profession of Customer Success Management. He is also the moderator of the CSM Forum on LinkedIn. Read moer about The Customer Success Management Initiative, sponsored by Totango.

 

 

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What Do Customer Success Managers Need?

Customer Success Manager

The research of The Customer Success Management Initiative is revealing that while many SaaS/Cloud companies are hiring individual Customer Success Managers, or even establishing entire teams of them, there is a wide range in the understanding the role. Given the lack of clear cut definitions, lines of authority and accountability, it’s no surprise that there would be an equally broad range in how the individuals and teams are equipped. After all, if your job is only about writing up case studies and customer references for use in marketing collateral, a telephone, laptop and perhaps a reasonable travel budget may be entirely sufficient. But if you’re truly charged with the responsibility for keeping customers and increasing their spending with your company, you’ll need much more.

A Question of Ownership

The first item on the CSM wish-list ought to be a clear charter. Who is to be responsible for what? What authority does the CSM role carry with it? Holding a professional (or anyone, frankly,) accountable for something over which they have no real operational control is a recipe for failure and turnover.

A “fire-fighter,” a customer retention specialist brought in only at the last moment to try to save a failing customer relationship, may only need to have the authority to make concessions within a determined range so that they know what they can and cannot offer to the customer. Their engagement will probably be of limited duration, and their performance metrics are likely to be based mostly on deals saved/lost statistics. However, if the customer retention manager’s responsibility also includes early detection of at-risk accounts, then Senior Management needs to provide appropriate access to data and tools to enable that aspect to be accomplished.

More than CRM

It’s an unusual company in this day and age that does not have a Customer Relationship Management system installed and in use. Unfortunately, in too many companies, the CRM system is really only about automating the Sales and Marketing functions, with a module or two for Case Management over in the Support group, In reality, there are three separate systems: Marketing, Sales and Support — that are designed and built for just those functions as individual activity areas. CRM systems are typically not designed for the Customer Success Manager, who needs to analyze a range of interaction data to detect patterns that indicate the actual health of the ongoing relationship between the customer and the company in time to do something about it when necessary.

An appropriate CSM system, for example, would alert the manager that a particular customer, one who perhaps represents 40% of the overall yearly corporate subscription income, was no longer using a key module of the product. This is not about a decline in simple logins and licenses, but in the usage of certain specific features of the application. Such a capability, vital to ensuring that a new customer is properly proceeding up the adoption curve, becomes even more important as a means of detecting an established customer that has started to disengage. To enable that insight, however, requires that you know which features of your product to track. That’s a subject for another day.

 

About the Author

Mikael Blaisdell, The Hotline MagaszineMikael Blaisdell, publisher of The HotLine Magazine, brings 30+ years of experience in the strategy, process, people and technology of customer support, retention and profitability to the emerging profession of Customer Success Management. He is also the moderator of the CSM Forum on LinkedIn. Read moer about The Customer Success Management Initiative, sponsored by Totango.