As I read through the posts about the “Five Organization Models of Customer Success,” I noticed that the different models were categorized by a company’s stages of growth, product complexity, or customer type. The question I kept asking myself was, how a Customer Success executive will know which model is right for them and when it is time to evaluate a different model for their company?
The answer to this question can be found by asking yourself: Is my team living up to the expectations of my customer? If your customer hasn’t directly told you “Yes”, then the answer is “Probably Not” and change is most likely on the horizon. But if you have received that resounding “Yes,” you aren’t in the clear yet.
So the question now becomes: “What do my customers expect, and need, from the Customer Success department to be successful?”
There are leading and trailing metrics many will instinctively begin to analyze for the answer to this question like Churn %, Customer LTV, and more. The problem is that these don’t tell us which model is best for my customers – they tell us whether or not the one we chose is working.
Customer Success starts with understanding the Customer
To start, each of the 5 models should be evaluated at different stages during the evolution of your company. The firefighter Customer Success Manager (CSM) is the ultimate beginner model for a start-up or middle stage company looking to start a CS department but that will change... right?
As a CCO, VP, Director or Manager we need to not look only at what makes sense for our company internally but also ask, will this change ultimately provide the best chance for my customers to succeed? Answering this question will lead you to the model that’s the best fit at the right time.
The best exercise is to call customers and sit down with CSMs and listen to what they have to say. They give us the answer by exposing the challenges they are having doing business with our company or, for CSM’s, helping customers to be successful. NPS surveys are great but for many small and medium size businesses they generally come too infrequently to keep up with the pace of much needed adjustments.
Customer Success is unique to your customers... and your company
Throughout the evolution of your team, you may find it best to have two models running in parallel that work together to provide an optimal experience. A team of Firefighter CSM’s may take customers through an onboarding process while Service Oriented and Partnership CSM’s take a very proactive role with late stage customers that are established and looking to build upon a solid foundation.
Overlay roles are also a great way to ensure that a large team of CSM’s have the appropriate knowledge and resources to serve their customers as well. Depending on your departmental structure you may have access to product managers, technical support, professional services and more that you can leverage for support on the front lines.
The needs of your customers are not linear and are constantly changing with the evolution of your product, the industry you are in, and the companies you compete with. If you’re not at the top of the list for great service in your industry someone else will be soon and leverage it to offer your customers the experience they’ve been looking for all along and they will most likely be willing to sacrifice features, functionality, or even pay more for it.
As Customer Success evolves, your understanding of it must also evolve
One of the most exciting things about a career in Customer Success is the need for ongoing change, cultivation of new ideas, constant self-evaluation and Customers to keep us honest.
More often than not, you’ll probably find that at the time you made the shift to a new model or restructured your CS department you must immediately go back to the drawing board and start the evaluation process all over again.