Introduction

Crossing the Renewals Chasm takes three major steps. The first step is focused on Deployment, mainly a First Year activity, in which you develop a sense of consistency, instead of handing over your customer from one to the next person/organization/process. In contrast, the Nurturing activities described here support your customers throughout their entire lifecycle and address the community and productivity dimensions that you need for the final step, when you present your solution value to customer stakeholders.

Communities

The minute a prospect becomes a customer, they become a part of an exciting community – your customer base. Do your customers even know who else in their vertical is using the same solution? Provide the right infrastructure and create a sense of community. Then, you can leverage your existing customers, spread positive energy, and avoid churn by tapping into this pool of like-minded peers/customers.

Undeveloped: At this stage, your customers are self-organizing, as they hear about each other during sales pitches or in trade shows. You yourself do not facilitate this network in any way.

Emerging: In this stage, you provide a true sense of community. This requires more than a catch-all community platform, in which your fledgling customers are getting lost. At a minimum, you separate customers in deployment from customers in production. Their problems, needs, and perspectives are vastly different. Even better is a further split of implementation stage customers into “Starters” and “Finishers”. Engaged and active members of the more mature communities become mentors for those who are beginning the journey. You can create leaderboards, award badges, etc. to recognize the contributions of highly engaged apostles. This is the type of peer-perspective that the Early and Late Majority customers seek.

Expanding: Recognize the accomplishments of your customers, and celebrate with them. This could be a graduation with the Go-Live or a significant intermediate step. If they are members of the Starter community, wish them well, and formally invite them to become a Finisher. This is a perfect opportunity for your Customer Success team to engage and get to know some of the key players in an account.

Success and happiness are contagious. Share accomplishments to mute the Nay-Sayers. The progression of others is the best “You can do it” motivation for the ones that may struggle and need a positive push.

Conquering: On the flip-side of success are the customers that are struggling. You must check for these warning signs before it is too late. Customers in need of rescue are the ones that:

  • Open many support tickets
  • Become regular attendees in the ‘Ask a Guru’ section, and then become silent
  • Are stuck in the implementation stage
  • Decline in usage

All these metrics can be measured with little effort. Read more in the Productivity section. Not every customer can be saved or should be saved, but before you can save someone, you need a rescue plan and a rescue team. Your Customer Success team can now choose to reach out and attempt a rescue. The reward of these resurrected customers is often the most loyal reference you can develop, as you proved your value and gained the strongest customer commitment.

Customer Example: A solution provider to SMBs implemented dedicated communities for new and established customers and seeded each with targeted content. As a result, the year one renewals increased by 30%, as customers were able to deploy successfully.

Productivity

How do you prove to your customer that they achieved the business value that was outlined in the glossy Sales stage? Whole books have been written about this subject, and each Customer Success vendor has their own framework and preference. Check where your productivity measurement approach fits in.

Undeveloped: If you believe that a quiet customer is a happy customer, you belong in this category. Don’t be surprised if such a “happy” customer suddenly turns into a crisis or results in abandonment.

Emerging: At this stage, you track vital trailing metrics such as the Total Customer Lifetime Value (TCLV), Total Contract Value (TCV), churn, and renewal rates.

Expanding: Instead of the after-the-fact measurements, you can get a better sense of your customer’s health when they are engaging with you. Poll the participants of your “Ask a Guru” sessions, and gauge the satisfaction of individual users. Depending on your service, it may also be appropriate to measure customer satisfaction in the form of Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Effort Score (CES).

Conquering: Cloud solutions provide you with valuable insights into your customer’s activity because you can view their activity at any time. With on-premise solutions, you need to build your own or implement a Customer Success platform. Most Customer Success platforms facilitate a proactive approach to Customer Success and enable you to monitor the health of your customer in real time, as well as develop Benchmark References among customers in specific segments, sizes, or geographies.

What you measure you can also manage. The level of activity and adoption reveal precious insights:

1.) Where is the customer in the Deployment and how long did it take them to get there?; Are they meeting expected timeframes or do they seem to be stuck?

2.) How many users are actively using your solution, and how much value is generated?

3.) How many business transactions were performed and how does this compare against the expectations set during the Sales cycle?

4.)Usage variations and the outliers on both sides of the mean per user, customer, segment

Customer Example: An enterprise software provider measured customer usage and was able to proactively detect over 90% of lingering issues in their installed base, and execute appropriate mitigation plans.

Outlook

You are almost there! The foundation is in place, and now it is time to reap the benefits of your investment in people, processes, and technology to provide a strong Playbook, a solid Onboarding experience, and the supporting Community and Productivity measures. The final step across the Chasm describes how to prove your value and how you should transform your organization to become Customer Success ready.

Andreas Knoeful

Director of Services, NextLabs