SaaS companies may have brought customer success (CS) to the fore.
Still, enterprises have found a place for this newcomer function in helping customers realize value from products, churn less, and expand efficiently.
The trend started in the mid-2000s when the SaaS model spurred a shift in thinking. Previously, customer sales and acquisition were crucial growth elements. Suddenly, retention was a core issue. After all, when products are utilized month-to-month, it’s simpler to switch providers, and customers who don’t realize quick value gains find they have little reason to stay and grow with the companies they initially chose. Losing customers slows growth, so high-growth companies focus on ensuring customers get what they need from their products post sale.
Increasingly, enterprises are competing with SaaS startups focusing on after-sale customer success. Enterprises are also swept along in the changing customer expectations of post-sale support, which has helped nudge more enterprises toward the model. And it’s no wonder: A Deloitte study shows half of customer success teams realize 10% or higher up-sell and cross-sell revenues and a rise of over 20% in customer satisfaction ratings. Forrester links CS teams to a 24% improvement in customer retention.
However, while the value is high, creating a Customer Success function for enterprise teams isn’t as simple as it is for startups.
First, enterprises have long-established business models and goals. They also have a mature organizational structure with stakeholders across functions, making mass alignment elusive. What format should enterprises build to serve their customers’ needs best within an existing system and operations? Are onboarding, success planning, adoption, usage optimization, and advanced customer support required? How can they align? What are the basics of setting up a new team for success?
Multiple questions can confuse a planning session, even as they reinforce the need for a project road map for enterprises looking to initiate and grow a robust Customer Success function.
We wrote an ebook crash course to dive into the deeper details about each of these best practices, so you can avoid the pitfalls of a new CS function built from a plan that doesn’t fit your enterprise organization. These basics will get you thinking about the first steps for your enterprise CS function.
1. Align Internally
Enterprises are large. They’re mature. And they have multiple stakeholders and functions, most of which have been driven by years of siloed thinking to realize their goals. Dropping a CS team into this arena does not provide the tools to realize value best. What helps? Some broad alignment upfront.
Here are some preliminary steps to get teams in sync:
- Start with critical functions and build communication channels: Some departments will need to plan for ongoing collaboration with CS and realize new capabilities. Having CS available to generate customer success data can guide customer targeting for sales. For product, CS usage data can help teams develop features that improve lifetime retention.
- Prioritize support from executives: Big-picture thinkers need to know that CS metrics align with business goals. Allies may already believe that customer happiness is a company benefit. Still, CS teams can start their journey by persuading naysayers with quantitative data and nuance, showing executives how organizational goals connect to CS.
- Get clear on company identity: CS teams can help develop the architecture needed to realize more business value across all functions. But first, they’ll need to solidify company goals to gather the correct data and translate it into business intelligence. They’ll also be able to identify content creation gaps and develop ways to fill them. These benefits will flow to other departments for better overall focus.
2. Develop a Cross-Selling, Multiple Product Mindset
Because new enterprise CS teams are dedicated to driving customer outcomes with data, they have a more complicated job than their counterparts at less mature, single-product companies. After all, multiple products mean multiple kinds of data, sometimes about a single client but with a multifaceted journey. These customers often have many product needs, disparate goals, and several points of contact.
Start by developing assets that foreground immediate value for a primary product and need, while planning for expansion.
- Use an onboarding architecture that prioritizes client value as early as possible. Don’t focus on the entire suite of features or products right away.
- Utilize thoughtful in-app milestones, reminders, and hints to help clients engage.
- Look at multiple product strategies using the customers’ short-, medium-, and long-term goals. Then, create additional, individualized customer journeys using utilization and engagement data to structure a road map, content, and product planning to bring it all together.
3. Focus on Expansion With Metrics
The multiple product map you create is the key to expansion because it helps you anticipate how to help more customers achieve value at various stages. It also represents a data challenge involving many other departments and key performance indicators (KPIs). Here are some ways to keep expansion at the heart of burgeoning metrics:
- Prioritize Net Revenue Retention (NRR) as the umbrella metric that encompasses multiple components of success, from onboarding to churn and expansion. It’ll help you share a single source of truth across departments and keep teams fixed on a common goal.
- With everyone focused on the North Star of NRR, now get granular: let your CS team identify the most important metrics to use when considering how to develop expansion best—product usage, account growth, number of upsells, surveys, overall relationship, time to value, and more.
- Combine KPIs with customer data. Look to your customer database for clues about when clients typically upgrade and expand.
4. Create a CS Ops Function for Maximum Productivity
Multiplying the power of CS teams without adding complexity and headcount is crucial to helping more clients. A new team needs:
- Standardized processes
- CSM onboarding
- Content creation, data analytics, and reporting
- Management for the CS tech stack
When growing a team beyond five customer support managers (CSMs), inefficiencies indicate the need to streamline operations. Do you see disorganized data and distrust in CS-generated reports? Do CSMs spend too much time on manual processes across their tech stacks because systems don’t integrate? Then look at onboarding and standardize defined, vetted ways to handle tasks.
These problems indicate it’s time to optimize the CS tech stack, get CSMs working on high-priority tasks, and define processes with integrated systems. A CS Ops leader is the best person to navigate thes
5. Prepare to Scale
Committing to CS Ops comes with a big bonus: an integrated system with robust, accurate reporting and an overhead view of client metrics. Reports build trust rather than detract from it, and that data helps teams get ready to scale efficiently. They’ll be able to see a wide range of customer metrics and make moves at the right time and the right point in the customer journey.
Here are the best practices to position your organization to scale CS work:
- If you have a CS team, you need a CS tech stack. It should be built for CS, with the right data to make decisions, iterate, and improve customer success metrics (and then report them accurately).
- A scalable CS tech stack should offer insight at all stages of the customer journey, even with multiple products.
- Metrics should be automated so CSMs can focus on relationship building. It’s not about eliminating high-touch activities, but making the best use of them.
- CS teams should be supported—by their tech stacks, team members with a range of skills, and stakeholders. Metrics to monitor outcomes should be incorporated into training and updated processes so teams continually get guidance to grow.
Growing a CS Function From the Very Beginning
The landscape is changing. Sales or Account Management once handled what now requires a proactive approach to customers. This shift in the product and business landscape is overall positive; customers are now front and center, able to assess their own needs and get support as they move toward greater success. However, multiple customers, products, and goals can complicate what once seemed like a monolithic customer journey.
Today, there are multiple journeys. A new CS function needs adequate scaffolding to start untangling them, learning from them via data, and applying those insights toward client success. They’ll need to assess baselines, identify expansion goals, and start building internal buy-in for their efforts. A large organization’s Customer Success function can look like a tangled road map with many journeys and considerations. But while our customers’ situations are different, our mission remains the same: providing clients with a personal, data-based journey toward success.
Want to dive deeper? Check out the Enterprise Customer Success Crash Course.