How Zuora Built a Customer Success Culture Image

How Zuora Built a Customer Success Culture

There is little to argue with in Dan’s post. It’s all sage advice.  I’d like to expand on a couple of the points that I think are most important. I’ve been running Customer Success at Zuora for about 2 ½ years. We are a B2B SaaS company providing a commerce, billing and finance application to businesses offering subscription services to their end customers.  Doing this well is complex for two reasons. First, our service is mission critical to our customers: if our system doesn’t work, our customers can’t operate. And if our system can’t perform some function in the way the customer wants to run their business, they will miss opportunities. That puts a lot of pressure on us. Second, companies in the Subscription Economy come in all sizes and industries. We work with startups through multi-billion dollar global firms. We serve verticals as diverse as cloud, media, telco and finance. We serve B2B, B2C and B2Any. That pushes us to be a lot of things to a lot of different people, and to do all of it well, all the time. So how do we organize to deliver Customer Success in this environment? Dan is spot on with his most important points: […]

5 min readAugust 16, 2019
How to Drive a Customer Success Culture Throughout Your Enterprise Image

How to Drive a Customer Success Culture Throughout Your Enterprise

I recently wrote an article for DM News about building a Customer Success practice.  You can read it here.  Step 1 in that process was “Create and enforce a customer-focused philosophy for the whole company.”  It’s step 1 because it’s the foundation for everything you do to build a true Customer Success culture.  Let’s explore some of the elements that can drive that culture throughout the organization. Why is this important? First of all, let’s establish why it’s important for the Customer Success culture to permeate your entire enterprise.  Customer Success as an organization is actually very similar to a Sales organization.  They bring lots of skills to the table to assist customers, but they cannot ultimately be successful unless the rest of the company fully supports their goals.  It’s not as simple as setting up a team of people and saying “go make sure all our customers are happy.” Every other organization in the company must be bought in to the idea that customer success is a company priority—because they will each be directly or indirectly involved in making this happen.  Let’s take Sales itself as the example here.  Customer Success cannot meet their retention goals if Sales is overselling […]

6 min readAugust 16, 2019

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Knowing the Customer: The 2 Halves of Customer Success Image

Knowing the Customer: The 2 Halves of Customer Success

“Customer Success” is growing.  And not only in buzz.  I see companies investing and building these teams at a fast clip.  When done right, this trend represents a fantastic opportunity for companies to accelerate profitable growth.  But doing it right requires joining two different disciplines that many companies often overlook. First, we need to be honest with ourselves. In most companies, the Customer Success teams are essentially rebranded versions of Account Managers, which in turn are rebranded versions of “Sales for Current Customers.”  In other words, for most companies the “Customer Success” team exists to ensure high renewal rates and drive up-sell/cross-sell opportunities, and often these positions carry sales quotas.  How else can a company justify the investment? The objective of ensuring high retention and new revenue streams is a good one.  But it’s hardly “customer success” (and smells more like “vendor success” to me).  So how should a Customer Success team operate and still manage to meet the objective of accelerating financial growth?  That’s where we need to join two disciplines, both of which involve knowing the customer. The First Half The first way to know your customer involves turning your existing customer data into insights.  For many companies […]

5 min readAugust 16, 2019
3 Approaches on How CSM and VOC Solutions Fit Together Image

3 Approaches on How CSM and VOC Solutions Fit Together

There are a number of ways that software vendors are approaching the space commonly known as Customer Success Management.  Each approach will potentially mesh differently with a Voice of Customer solution. 1. Focusing exclusively on product usage data One of the approaches to Customer Success Management is to focus almost exclusively on product usage data. This approach is often taken by vendors whose origins are in the free-trial conversion space.  In the world where the goal is to analyze free trials for the possibility of conversion, this approach makes perfect sense. Almost everything you know about the prospect has to do with how they are using your product during the trial.  Vendors who started there, and then realized that the same analytics could be valuable to Customer Success in preventing churn, will typically live in isolation from Voice of the Customer software. Both are important in understanding customers, but there is no necessary link between them.  The linkage will often take place in the CRM system where both vendors will try to integrate their data to provide a complete picture of the customer.  In the Salesforce world, that would often mean that there will be two separate custom objects created and […]

6 min readAugust 16, 2019
Should You Charge for Customer Success? Image

Should You Charge for Customer Success?

I get asked a lot of questions every day about Customer Success, most of which don’t have a really definitive answer, simply different choices with different pros and cons.  But to this particular question, I have a strong opinion, and it’s “NO.” Let’s define Customer Success before we go any further.  When I use the term, I’m referring to the group of people at your company that are responsible for product adoption and, ultimately, retention.  Customer Success may be the most common title, but certainly not the only one. A typical Customer Success Manager has a level of product and domain expertise that makes them extremely valuable to customers.  It’s logical then, to debate whether it makes sense to charge for their services.  There are a couple reasons that this is not a good idea: Success with your products is a right  If I buy your product, it’s my assumption that I will either be able to figure out how to productively use it, or you will provide me with the resources to get there.  Charging me for it is not an option.  You have two choices – 1) build a product that’s so easy to use that I can […]

3 min readAugust 16, 2019
How to Develop a CSM Candidate Profile Image

How to Develop a CSM Candidate Profile

You’ve decided to fund a Customer Success Team for your company, and have determined what the model should look like.  Now what? Aside from developing a strawman for the organizational structure of your customer success team, one of the most important things you can do is to develop a candidate profile.  The customer success team will be the primary lines of communication with one of your most valuable assets – your customers.  So it’s imperative that you get these hires right the first time.  In order to do this, you need to document a clear and concise list of the key responsibilities for which the CSM will be accountable. I recommend that you review this list with other key departments within your organization such as Customer Support, Professional Services and Training to ensure maximum integration and minimal overlap.  Once you have the key responsibilities finalized, step back and think about what skill sets are required in order to most effectively and efficiently complete each of the key responsibilities.  You will most likely find that many of the responsibilities have overlapping skill sets.  This process will help bubble up the most important skill sets to look for when reviewing resumes and interviewing […]

4 min readAugust 16, 2019
2 Models to Help You Hire the Right Customer Success Manager Image

2 Models to Help You Hire the Right Customer Success Manager

Asking the question “what should I look for in a CSM?” is like asking “what kind of person do I need to fill my Sales role?”  Any answer other than “it depends” is either naïve or based on a set of assumptions.  So, let’s start by talking about the different ways a Customer Success organization can operate. Although this is ultimately a spectrum, I’ll discuss the two ends of the spectrum as if they are completely distinct and you have to choose one or the other.  I would suggest that you do think long and hard about which model best fits what you are trying to accomplish, as that will drive a number of decisions including what kind of person you will hire. Model 1 – CSMs as Air Traffic Controllers  One of the challenges that is very prevalent in, but not exclusive to, SaaS companies is the confusion customers often have because of the number of different people who touch them, especially early in their lifecycle.  In the most extreme case, a customer could interact with as many as a dozen different individuals (even counting Customer Support as only one person).  Their life as a customer obviously starts with […]

7 min readAugust 16, 2019
More Than Dollars: What is Customer Success Worth to Your CEO? Image

More Than Dollars: What is Customer Success Worth to Your CEO?

Customer Success is More Than a Team of People: When looking at an investment in Customer Success, it’s first worth clarifying what that investment really entails.  It’s much more than getting budget dollars for additional headcount. Customer Success Management isn’t just a person (or group of people), it’s a function consisting of people, process, and tools/technology to deliver value to your customers. By delivering that value, you will see tangible results as your customers will: Stay with you longer (resulting in lower churn / higher lifetime value, or LTV) Want to buy more from you because they see value (resulting in higher LTV and Annual Contract Value / ACV); and Act as advocates and references for future customers (resulting in lower Customer Acquisition Cost, or CAC) A plan for Customer Success investment, therefore, should consist of more than just hiring a team or adding people to a pre-existing team. The plan you deliver to your CEO should: quantify the results you’re trying to achieve; indicate how you’re planning on measuring those results; and articulate how processes, people and tools/technology are going to help you achieve them. Likewise, what you ask of your CEO should be more than dollars to support additional […]

6 min readAugust 16, 2019
3 Ways to Justify Customer Success to Your CEO Image

3 Ways to Justify Customer Success to Your CEO

Customer Success is not an option in a recurring revenue business. It is not a nice-to-have. And it’s not something you do because you want your customers to like you. It’s something you do because it generates growth. That’s right, growth. In the recurring revenue world, growth comes from three sources: 1. Increasing new business bookings 2. Reducing churn rates 3. Increasing contract values from existing customers Note that #2 and #3 are the direct result of an effective Customer Success organization. They will not only provide insurance for your existing revenue base but will grease the skids for upsell and cross-sell to your install base. The second law of thermodynamics basically states that the natural tendency of things is to move towards chaos, not order. I think this law applies to customers as well. Left to their own devices, the natural tendency of all customers is going to be towards churn. Think about some of the most common causes of churn: Your champion leaves the company The customer is never properly onboarded or trained New features and functionality aren’t adopted The ROI of the solution is no longer recognized (or never existed)   None of those reasons are fixed by the […]

5 min readAugust 16, 2019
Pulse 2013 Revisited: Key Takeaways Image

Pulse 2013 Revisited: Key Takeaways

The Customer Success movement kicked off at Pulse 2013 and continues to grow stronger every day. In this webinar, discover the most crucial learnings from our inaugural conference; dive into the key takeaways that should be applied in any organization with a recurring-revenue business model. Join Dan Steinman, Gainsight’s Chief Customer Officer, as he reflects on the inaugural Pulse 2013 conference and shares the key takeaways for Customer Success. Customer Success or Sales – which is more important? How can we defend ourselves against churn? How can I turn customer data into action?

1 min read
VCs Want You to Take Customer Success Seriously Image

VCs Want You to Take Customer Success Seriously The recent Pulse conference, which took place on May 30, 2013, was designed to provide multiple lenses into the world of Customer Success.  This included a panel of CEOs offering their insights, along with a view from the CIO and also one from the CFO.  But one of the most interesting, and anticipated, sessions was the VC panel.  For anyone involved in technology anywhere in the world, it matters what Sand Hill Road thinks and, on this day, one of the discoveries was that the subject of Customer Success was as near and dear to Sand Hill’s hearts as it was to the audience’s. Aaref Hilaly from Sequoia, Ping Li from Accel, Roger Lee from Battery, and Byron Deeter from Bessemer were the panelists and shared their thoughts on a variety of customer success-related subjects including churn, retention, valuations, and what is discussed behind the doors at board meetings. A number of very interesting statistics were shared as part of the conversation.  For example, there was consensus agreement on what constitutes world-class with regard to retention.  With enterprise customers, 95% seems to be the magic number and on the SMB side, 85% is considered very good.  In both cases, the $$ retention, which includes both renewals […]

6 min readAugust 16, 2019