Introduction

Over the last decade, most of us have transitioned in some form or fashion to cloud based services. With this evolution came the need to transform the traditional service and support industry beyond the break/fix, professional services, and classic high touch model. While all three serve important functions, they’re not enough to ensure that your customers are going to be successful in this new age.

Business basics have not changed; when you are in business, you need the right margins to be successful, and customers that see value in your product. If there is no profit, there is no capital for reinvestment, and investors will view your company as a liability.

Customers no longer simply renew their contracts – they consider all their options, as there are more product and service offerings than ever before. This is especially true for SaaS products (vs. on premise solutions) which inhabit a market flooded with competitors itching to outperform their peers in service, customer experience, and price.

The traditional sales and service model has thrived successfully for many years, providing good margins and standard processes when facing any errors. Despite working for so long, standard offerings simply aren’t enough to capture the market anymore.

Transformation

With the advent of cloud based solutions, mobile apps, and web tech support, conventional help desks and professional services don’t hold up. Recognizing the need for high touch/relationship-based services, companies invested in developing tactics for customer engagement. However, many gaps still existed.

These gaps are neatly filled with the advent of Customer Success managers. CSMs neatly occupy the void between sales and support teams, by following up with existing customers and ensuring that they are using the product in the most productive fashion. While sales teams scout for new prospects, and hone in for the kill, CS teams focus on retaining the customers already acquired. In customer success, CSMs manage the full customer profile, so they’re able to be proactive, unlike customer service professionals.

Bridging the Gaps to Achieve Desired Outcomes

Many companies are still struggling to understand the mechanics of SaaS, let alone an unexplored function like Customer Success. Naturally, adding a new piece to the efficient service delivery model puzzle is a lot to process.

The confusion stems from the fact that there is still a lot of gray area in the definition of Customer Success. Unlike the established functions of technical support, professional services, and finance (amongst many others), Customer Success means different things to different people. An additional barrier to absorption is that the CS team is often incorrectly viewed as an unnecessary cost to a company, versus as an investment into the customer lifecycle.

Customer Success is a new approach to managing customers and their experiences with your product from the beginning to end of a license agreement. Churn, renewal rates, active user stats are all “outcomes” of the customer experience, and are influenced by the actions taken by your Customer Success team.

But, We Have Tech Support…

The challenge in justifying the need for CS teams is the reasoning that renewals are guaranteed, and having tech support is sufficient to ensure them. However, tech support is a reactive function, and even if you have a solid product and established customer relationships, renewals are not as guaranteed as they used to be. Tech support doesn’t track usage and adoption, and field teams are too busy with new sales to keep track of the old ones. Thus, Customer Success bridges the gap between support, sales, and professional services teams, attending to previously subscribed customers and assuring their continued business.

Think of the investment in CS as a long term benefit. Your competitors have an edge if they have an established Customer Success team, as they are working full time on keeping current customers and setting targets to take on new prospects in your territory. Since it’s easier than ever for customers to move from one platform to another – they’re no longer tied down to your product – unless your Customer Success professionals provide the appropriate incentives and opportunities for growth. In my next post, I’ll discuss how Customer Success fits into the framework of a company, and the most effective strategies for establishing a new CS team and allowing it to thrive.

Vipul Samat

Vipul Samat

Director, Customer Success & Tech Services

Over his 18 year career, Vipul has experienced enterprises ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies. He is now the Director of CS at Ellie Mae, with previous experience at Indix,Brocade, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and Netscape. As a Strategic Advisor to Strikedeck, he provides expertise in a variety of functions, ranging from CS and high touch programs, to traditional support centers around the globe.