How To Get Started With Customer Success Management

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1 A Forrester Consulting Thought Leadership Paper Commissioned By Gainsight April 2014 How To Get Started With Customer Success Management

2 Table Of Contents Four Actionable Steps To Setting Up Your Customer Success Management Organization... 1 The Subscription Economy Is Here To Stay... 2 Getting Started With Customer Success Management... 2 Customer Success Management Is Good For Business... 6 Key Recommendations... 7 Appendix A: Methodology... 8 Appendix B: Endnotes... 8 ABOUT FORRESTER CONSULTING Forrester Consulting provides independent and objective research-based consulting to help leaders succeed in their organizations. Ranging in scope from a short strategy session to custom projects, Forrester s Consulting services connect you directly with research analysts who apply expert insight to your specific business challenges. For more information, visit forrester.com/consulting. 2014, Forrester Research, Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited. Information is based on best available resources. Opinions reflect judgment at the time and are subject to change. Forrester, Technographics, Forrester Wave, RoleView, TechRadar, and Total Economic Impact are trademarks of Forrester Research, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective companies. For additional information, go to [1-N6R36V]

3 1 Four Actionable Steps To Setting Up Your Customer Success Management Organization strategy, process, data, and people management to do this right. We live in a subscription economy, where the economic value of a customer is realized over time, instead of upfront at the initial sale. This means that the duration of the customer relationship has a greater economic impact on the company s financial health. Being successful in this new economy increasingly requires that companies deliver value to their customers during the relationship instead of just focusing on making the technology sale. In February 2014, Gainsight commissioned Forrester Consulting to evaluate the emerging role of customer success management, and the responsibilities of this group. In conducting in-depth interviews with customer success professionals in the B2B SaaS software space, Forrester found that companies with successful customer success management programs followed four actionable steps when setting up their organizations. Our customer success management organization enables our customers to be successful and drive revenue retention and renewals. VP worldwide client services from a SaaS social commerce company KEY FINDINGS Forrester s study yielded three key findings: Customer success management is an emerging, but critical role in a company s success. In a subscription economy, the economic value of a customer is realized over time, instead of upfront. Customer success management organizations are emerging to actively manage customer relationships to ensure their success. Customer success management has quantifiable economic benefits. Actively managing customers reduces churn, increases revenue, and influences new sales. Setting up customer success management organizations takes discipline. Setting up, hiring, and managing a customer success management organization takes a coordinated effort across four dimensions

4 2 The Subscription Economy Is Here To Stay FIGURE 1 Cloud Technologies Penetrate Enterprises Today, cloud-based computing allows companies to offer their products as services, instead of physical disks, moving the economy away from one of capital expenditures, to a subscription model. Industries like media, entertainment, and telecommunications have fully embraced this model, while other industries such as publishing, computer storage, and healthcare services are moving in this direction. This shift in spending habits, in which goods are repackaged as services, has the potential to fundamentally reshape our economy. This shift is most notable in the B2B software, where a large number of software categories have already made the shift to a subscription business model. The rise of the subscription economy has heralded the age of the customer, where customers increasingly control the relationship that they have with companies that they do business with. 1 Customers have become more demanding, staying loyal to brands only when they deliver value. In the B2B SaaS world, this value correlates to quantifiable business results. What this means is that for companies which provide products and services via subscription, actively managing customer relationships to ensure they are getting value and keep subscribing becomes a critical step in preserving their revenue stream. These relationships minimize customer churn and grow account value. And, as companies grow, revenue from existing customers (recurring revenue) becomes a larger part of a company s balance sheet. In addition to helping companies preserve revenue, the customer success management function allows companies to have data-driven conversations with their customers, which can lead to increased product penetration within an organization based on usage data, as well as presenting appropriate cross-sells and upsells to the customer which are aligned with their business goals. Moreover, the customer success management (CSM) organization, by effectively managing customer relationships, helps ensure client referrals and advocacy. Indirectly, CSM organizations can help increase new business bookings. Base: 1,972 information workers in the US Source: Forrsights Workforce Employee Survey, Q2 2012, Forrester Research, Inc. Getting Started With Customer Success Management Customer success management (CSM) is an emerging role in SaaS software companies, and especially in B2B SaaS software companies. It is a senior role, whose function is to become the trusted advisor to the company, to make its customers successful with the products they have purchased, ensuring that they are realizing economic value from their investments in order to preserve their revenue. Customer success managers tend to have a broad set of account management responsibilities, and work proactively with customers to ensure their ongoing success. Roles and responsibilities for customer success will vary based on the company s growth phase. These phases are: Adoption: When companies are just getting started, they often don t have a lot of renewals coming up, especially if they are on annual or multiyear contracts. As such, customer success isn t yet retention or upsell it s about getting customers to use and get value from your solution. CSM technology in this phase can help identify which customers are successfully adopting the service and prioritizing customer success managers time to the customers that need help.

5 3 FIGURE 2 Maturity Model Successful CSM takes a coordinated effort across four dimensions strategy, process, data, and people management to do this right. Companies that have reported success with this role all followed four basic steps in establishing and maturing this organization. STEP 1 ARTICULATE YOUR CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY Your customer engagement strategy defines the tiers of customers that are important to your business, frequency and type of engagements that you want to have with each tier, and business outcome that you want to achieve. Base: Source: Forrester Research, Inc. Retention: Once you have a sizable base of customers coming up for renewal, you ll start focusing on reducing churn and maximizing the probability of customers staying with you for a long time. Here, CSM technologies help you identify renewal and retention risk early and take the right action at the right time. Expansion: As companies move toward the growth stage and get ready IPOs or other exit events, they often start to introducing multiple product lines or taking a land and expand strategy. Customer success teams are charged with identifying expansion opportunities, and CSM technology can help flag the right time to engage a customer in an upsell/cross-sell conversation and what message to deliver. Optimization: Mature customer success organizations can become large. Some companies have hundreds of customer success managers or account managers. In these stages, businesses often want to scale costeffectively, by automating processes and increasing the leverage of customer success teams, in terms of the number of accounts a given customer success manager can address. Transformation: While most SaaS companies aren t here yet, the long-term opportunity is for customer success to be strategic to your business and to your clients. At this stage, CSM technology can help the customer success manager add value in every interaction through data and best practices. Start by defining your customer tiers. Not all customers have equal value to a company. Strategic accounts, at the top tier the customer pyramid, are the ones with high lifetime values or are strategically important to the company from a marketing or a PR perspective. On the other hand, value accounts are accounts at the bottom tier of the customer pyramid, which are of little strategic importance to the company based on their revenue potential or company profile. All companies interviewed in this study started on the path to CSM maturity by examining their customer list, defining tiering criteria, and categorizing customers by tier. Next, articulate your customer engagement strategy. Maximizing the value from each customer tier demands a strategy that balances achieved results with organizational effort. Companies interviewed had CSMs dedicated to a small number of high-touch strategic accounts, where they were strategically embedded at all levels of the organization, working closely and frequently with executives as well as end users to help realize the value of their investments. CSMs who were dedicated to commercial accounts touched these organizations less frequently, and did not penetrate the organization as deeply. At the bottom tier of the customer pyramid, CSMs used the style of one-to-many communications to engage with these accounts. They relied on communications instead of personalized phone calls, and best practice education was typically done though webinars, newsletters, and forums. Then, assign the right number of CSMs to available accounts to drive the right business outcomes. CSMs for strategic accounts manage a handful of accounts and are tightly measured by the financial success of each

6 4 account. CSMs for value accounts manage a much greater number of accounts, where the measure of success is often a churn goal. It s a math problem: How do you deploy the right amount of people to manage the correct number of accounts? VP customer success at a SaaS file management company STEP 2 FOCUS ON THE RIGHT PROCESSES FOR CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT The processes that you use to engage your customers in each customer tier must be consistent, effective in meeting your customers needs, and agile enough so they can be changed to support your customers as they grow and evolve. For all customer tiers, these processes encompass: Relationship activities and tactics to make customers successful. The goal of the CSM organization is to make customers realize the economic potential of their product investments. As a result, CSMs at larger companies do not typically have the responsibility for onboarding, professional services, or customer support. However, they are often viewed as the front door to a company, responding to customer requests at all levels, and helping a customer connect with the right role within a company to get their question answered or issue resolved. Relationship activities run the gamut from quarterly business reviews, health checks and executive discussions for strategic accounts, to check-ins for value accounts. Best practice education. These activities focus on communicating best practices via webinars, white papers, and newsletters, to personalized, one-on-one user benchmarking and coaching for strategic accounts. Managing at-risk customers. CSMs identify customers who need attention either due to a shift in user communication or product usage patterns. CSMs follow mitigation processes with these potentially at-risk customers to identify core issues and remediate them. STEP 3 ORGANIZE AND HIRE FOR SUCCESS In order to be successful, CSM organizations must be supported at the executive level and have a clear measure typically a retention measure to which they are goaled. Forrester found that CSM organizations typically reside in three company organizations: sales, operations, or customer support. Each of these organizational alignments has shared characteristics: CSMs within a sales organization. In this organizational model, CSMs work hand in hand with field sales personnel on shared accounts. CSMs are typically responsible for the ongoing success of accounts, FIGURE 3 The First Step To Customer Success Management Is To Articulate Your Engagement Strategy Source: Forrester Research, Inc.

7 5 measured by churn rates and revenue expansion. They may handle renewals, but they are not responsible for new sales. Our goal is to help coach and get our customers to a point of stability and success with our product. Senior VP of sales from an SMB marketing and sales solution CSMs within a customer service organization. In this organizational model, CSMs have the responsibility of a trusted advisor, with a goal of achieving a high level of customer satisfaction for retention. These CSM organizations tend not to be responsible for renewals, revenue expansion, or new sales. Many companies have their CSMs on variable compensation plans, tying the variable component to renewals or growth of the install base. Sales maintains the overall business relationship and executive relationship. We are responsible for client satisfaction are they using the product properly and happy with it. Associate VP of global client success from a talent management company CSMs within an operations group. In this organizational model, CSMs own the existing customer, and their compensation is based on retention measures. The scope of their responsibilities is varied. In some organizations, CSMs own the accounts which, as one interviewee said includes upsell, renewal, and retention. In other organizations, CSMs are responsible for identifying crosssell and upsell opportunities for sales to close. In all cases, they are in charge of getting the customer to see the value of [our] software. Companies must hire the right profile of person. CSMs are account managers with domain expertise who can work at all levels of an organization to make their customers successful. The main traits in a CSM include: A passion for serving their customers. CSMs are relationship builders and able to form consultative relationships across organizations. They must have good organizational and listening skills, be proactive about identifying customer issues, and able to resolve conflicts. Product expertise. CSMs must have an in-depth knowledge of the products that they support, or, as one interviewee puts it, They will lose credibility. This doesn t mean that they need to code or need to troubleshoot. But, they need to understand the product details and be able to connect their customers to the right technical or functional resource within the company to ensure a customer success and a high level of satisfaction. Domain expertise. CSMs are responsible for product adoption, and do so by coaching their customers on best practices. Some organizations go as far as hiring seniorlevel business consultants who have deep domain expertise. STEP 4 ACCESS THE RIGHT DATA TO DRIVE THE RIGHT CONVERSATIONS financial, product usage, and support data, supplemented by targeted customer feedback, are at the heart of understanding and managing your customer s health and propensity to churn. This data allows CSMs to have strategic, consultative conversations with their accounts to help solidify relationships and ensure ongoing success. This data is used in the following way: Product usage data. This data is used to monitor the breadth and depth of product usage within an organization. CSMs can track, for example, the number of provisioned users versus the number of active users, and then use this data to initiate conversations with the inactive users to understand the barriers they face in using the product. CSMs can also use this data to understand whether products are being used according to best practices. Financial data. CSMs monitor product usage and compare it to the products and services the customer has purchased. They use this information to engage in datadriven conversations at renewal time to quantify the economic value that the product is delivering. They can also use this data to justify increases in seat counts, or pertinent cross-sells and upsells. Support and customer feedback data. CSMs monitor ticket counts and customer feedback to understand whether their customers are facing significant challenges in realizing value from their solutions. CSMs can use this data to proactively flag customer distress and intervene with actionable remediation plans. Operational data must be pulled from various sources within the organization, and synthesized in a way that insights can be easily presented to all customer-facing personnel, which include the CSM organization. Ideally, alerts should be able

8 6 to be set so that CSMs are able to proactively engage with customers prior to a drop in health scores. Customer Success Management Is Good For Business Being successful in a subscription economy increasingly requires that companies actively manage their customers during their engagement relationship instead of just being focused on making the technology sale. This means that they have to involve themselves with the success of their customers. This shift of focus requires a customer success organization whose mission is to proactively engage with their customers and help them realize the business value from their applications. Successful operations correlate to increased retention, increased revenue, and increased advocacy, which can positively impact new sales. Many organizations have mature customer success management organizations, which were methodically implemented with a clear focus on customer engagement strategy, process, organizational alignment, and data needs for the role.

9 7 Key Recommendations Customer success management is an emerging, yet important role that drives quantifiable returns: actively managing customers reduces churn, increases revenue and influences new sales. Your customer engagement strategy is key to success. Not all customers are equally important to a company. Start with categorizing your accounts into strategic tiers, and articulate the engagement strategy for each tier. Organizational alignment of the CSM group is still in flux. Some CSM organizations are aligned with a sales organization. Others are part of an operations or customer support organization. However, in each case, all CSM organizations have the same high-level goal: managing their customer s success in order to preserve revenue. In all cases, ensure that the CSMs roles and responsibilities and measures of success are clearly defined. Find the right profile for a CSM. A CSM is not a salesperson, nor a support person. CSMs are not account managers responsible for maximizing revenue from an account. They are trusted advisors with deep domain and best practice expertise who can work consultatively with their customers to ensure success. Arm your CSMs with the right data. CSMs rely on accurate and up-to-date financial, CRM, and usage data to monitor and measure the health of their customers. Make sure that CSMs, as well as all customer-facing personnel, are able to easily get to the data that they need in order to have the right conversations with their customers.

10 8 Appendix A: Methodology In this study, Forrester interviewed 13 SaaS companies in the United States to evaluate the business impact of customer success management. Survey participants included senior customer success management decision-makers. Topics explored included the definition of customer success management, the business benefit of customer success management, operational responsibilities of customer success management, how customer health scores were measured, and challenges and risks faced in setting up these organizations. Respondents were offered a copy of this report as a thank-you for time spent on the survey. The study began in February 2014 and was completed in April Appendix B: Endnotes 1 Source: Technology Management In The Age Of The Customer, Forrester Research, Inc., October 10, 2013.

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