The Future of Customer Success Scenarios in SaaS

If I asked you to picture the dream Customer Success scenario, you’d probably envision a company that is:

  • Understanding your top clients’ key business issues and helping them achieve targeted results.
  • Streamlined with customer communication, from sales to implementation to CS to marketing.
  • Constantly iterating away from sub-optimal product experiences based on client feedback.
  • Proactively mitigating churn, upselling and cross-selling based on strong client relationships.

Now step back into reality. Chances are you’re struggling to align cross-departmental client communication, only building a new product when something is broken or drives quantifiable revenue and questioning how to reduce churn and sell more product. How do you get to this seemingly mythical future state? The two trends we’ll discuss today are central to CS’ ability to thrive and achieve its own goals.

Internal Understanding and Alignment

While Customer Success has been central to my entire career, in terms of business history it’s relatively nascent. Those working in technology before this decade still may not understand what it means to work at a Success-minded company.

Consider this example: There’s an annoying product experience during setup that drives six, 10-minute support calls per month. Additionally, when sending post-implementation surveys, the sub-par experience is reported an additional five times per month. Since this is during implementation, there is no attributable churn. Product estimates fixing this experience will take a total of twenty-four hours. A company that is not customer-driven doesn’t fix the issue. Why? One hour of support time per month and no churn means you’re looking at a two-year payback in time. Now factor in salary differences and you’re likely three plus years from a positive ROI.

Customer Success professionals must continue to advocate for their role. In the aforementioned example, the solution is as simple as allotting a certain amount of development hours each month to CS requests. The challenge is gaining initial buy-in, which you should be able to influence in time through discussions with Product and leadership.

Automation

Your clients at the lower end of the market likely don’t desire a similar level of attention as those at the top end. If this seems counter-intuitive, look at this scenario: You purchased three screen sharing software licenses for your team to run client training webinars at one hundred dollars per year. You’re happy with the product, can pull usage reporting and have no need to expand. Would you want to sit through a thirty-minute QBR and set goals with this product for future quarters? That recurring call would be a poor use of time for all involved.

So how do you ensure the lower end of the market is successful and won’t churn? Automation. If you do this correctly, you not only help the lower end but you also free yourself up to spend more time with top revenue clients. This is easier said than done and if you’re at a loss with where to start, follow the four guidelines below:

  • Align business systems. Does your CRM ingest product data? If so, it is the right data? Think through the lifecycle events at which you’d want to automate an outreach and brainstorm a plan to integrate.
  • Don’t automate until you do it manually a few times. It’s easy to make changes when a process is manual, so use the opportunity to gain key learnings.
  • Automation isn’t accomplished in a quarter. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start with what’s simplest and expand over time.
  • Adding automation does not mean ignoring clients. Find creative ways to solicit important feedback at scale, with surveys, product feedback tools, engaging emails, etc.

The future is extremely bright for Customer Success and I’m looking forward to seeing where the industry heads. With increasing levels of internal alignment and automation, we can start to explore the additional impacts our increasingly important roles can have. As more companies start embracing the customer-based mindset, I’m expecting more sales opportunities to surface from the CS realm. A growing influence on the bottom line will drive more leadership buy-in and create a long runway to explore new ways to help clients succeed.


Scott Berry is one of the co-founders of the Chicago Customer Success Podcast. He is currently the Director of Customer Success at VS Networks.

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