We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher and scientist is well known for his work in many different domains, and has been immortalized by his many piercing insights into human psychology and behavior. He was also the tutor of an even more famous man – Alexander the Great. So, what can Aristotle teach us about Customer Success? Quite a bit, it turns out.

In my previous posts, I wrote about how a Customer Success Automation platform can build on a data science-powered core to make customers success professionals productive, predictive and proactive. I will now turn that around, and examine how a company should get started on building a customer success discipline into its organization. If you already have a customer success organization, I hope you find will this post useful to validate what you have already done. (As always, feedback welcome!)

“As in other departments of science, so in politics [and customer success], the compound should always be resolved into the simple elements or least parts of the whole.”

Customer success is not a monolith, and a big bang approach will not work. In order to setup an effective customer success organization, you need to start with the relevant elements that comprise the operational aspects of customer success. There are three key elements that you need to focus on:

  • Data
  • Process
  • People

These factors are not listed in order of priority. Neither are they mutually exclusive. You will need to act on them simultaneously, and iteratively. But when they come together, you will have all the elements to put together a world-class customer success organization.

Let me explain.


“Choice not chance determines your destiny.”

To which, I would add, making intelligent choices based on real data improves the chances of a good destiny.

I have covered the importance of data at length in my previous post, and will not belabor the point here again. The reality is that data is siloed due to an explosion in the sources of useful (though not necessarily relevant) data, a proliferation in the number of systems in use in your organization, and the syntactic and semantic differences in the representation of data across these systems. Unless you can bring this data together in real- or near real-time, and take a holistic view across the data and over time, you are likely to miss some valuable insights. Therefore, it is critical that you take control of your data.

In the context of customer success, there are broadly three categories of data that you need to focus on:

  • Customer operational data: This pertains to your day-to-day interactions with your customers. It resides in a variety of systems – CRM, Support, Help Desk, Knowledge Base, Community, even emails. Depending on your business, it may even reside outside – in social media and other online channels.
  • Customer metadata: This pertains to firmographic and demographic information about your customers – firm size, revenue, employees, products, M&A, industry, geography and more – that you would not normally associate with your day-to-day interactions. It is easy to underestimate the importance of this data. For example, M&A activity may seem far removed from your contract, but it may mean challenges or opportunities in the future. Chance, as they say, favors the prepared mind. And having the data is the precursor to being prepared.
  • Product data: This is your customer’s primary interface with you, and is a very reliable predictor of the state of your relationship – current and future. Usually, this data is buried deep in log files and web logs, understandable only to the engineers and geeks in your company. Extract it, translate it into English (or your preferred language), and you will be amazed by the insights in there. Insights, that in this case, were hiding in plain sight.

Once you have the data, you need to establish the metrics that will allow you to measure your current standing and progress towards your goals. Examples of metrics include license utilization, product usage, support issue resolution rates. Make sure these metrics are coherent, comprehensive, consistent and lend themselves to continuous measurement. In a future post, I will touch upon important metrics that matter to customer success.

To Be Concluded
In my next post, I will cover the two other factors – people and process – that are critical to setting up a new customer success operation.

Stay tuned.