The CS Trend
A cursory look at Google trends shows interest in “Customer Success” is growing. One of the most common questions that I hear when speaking with founders about Customer Success is, “When’s the right time to invest in a Customer Success program?”
Having an accurate pulse on your customers and their needs is no easy feat. As you scale your business, it becomes downright impossible without the right tools, processes, and team in place. I’ve worked with and advised many companies that have built great Support organizations. Some have even referred to or renamed their support organization as Customer Success. I’ve heard founders and sales leaders boast of the great relationships that they have built with their customers, how they could reach out and ask a favor, pull in a renewal, or serve as a reference to other accounts. These are all amazing feats . . . However, favors and relationships can only scale so far. Without building out a formal program that blends key data points aligned to your specific business with the human touch of people dedicated to being an internal advocate for the customer, you are going to have a difficult time trying to scale your business.
While I have yet to find a one-size fits all solution, I have been able to identify three useful indicators which I believe may be universally helpful in determining when your company should invest in Customer Success.
Customer vs. Friend
How do you tell the difference between your friends (who supported your product early) and customers? Here’s an easy test: Would you feel comfortable asking a paying customer to personally lend you a hundred bucks? If that answer is, “No,” they’re a customer, not a friend, and should be treated as such. It’s much easier to ask a friend to give you another chance if you’ve dropped the ball. A customer will likely be much less forgiving if they’ve had a poor experience with your product or services. If your customers aren’t your friends, you should consider having someone dedicated to Customer Success. The hundred bucks test is very useful in sussing out a false sense of a friendship with a customer.
After a Key Account is Lost
Even the most successful startups lose customers. That’s going to happen to you (if it hasn’t already), regardless of how great your product is, and how flawlessly your team executes. It’s all part of the learning curve of building a new product and company. The trick is learning from failure. Some people call this “failing forward.” When a mistake happens, take action to help ensure that you do not continue to lose customers over the same issue(s). Having a dedicated Customer Success Manager who isn’t thinking about their commission, being defensive, or worried about what the board might say has a distinct advantage: They are only there to do what is best for your customers, and in that, building trust that will go a long way.
When a Spreadsheet is No Longer Useful in Tracking Customer Engagement
Similar to my hundred bucks test, I usually say, “If you’re investing in CRM, time to pony up for a CSM (Customer Success Management software).” To some of you, investing in Customer Success concurrently with CRM onboarding may sound a bit too early, or you may simply not have the budget to do so; however, (from my experience) at the very least, it is crucially important to start consider building out functionality in your CRM and your product that will support KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for tracking customer health. Then, when you do invest in Customer Success, you aren’t faced with the time and resource hurdles required to align the two. There are many customer KPIs to track, and having a Customer Success platform is a very useful tool, something that I highly recommend when the time is right. This topic just happens to be one of my future articles, so stay tuned.
In short, a good Customer Success program, no matter how new and small, will:
- Allows you to learn from the mistakes that were made and provides unbiased feedback
- Save accounts from leaving, and possibly bring back churned accounts
- Be proactive to customer challenges (rather than reactive or defensive)