Not too long ago I attended an Underscore.VC community dinner. It was a great opportunity to share stories with other folks from the Boston SaaS and technology community. We also were able to learn and share Customer Success management tips.
I’d like to take the opportunity to share some of the discussion with you. Here are a few key questions that you should ask yourself to improve your SaaS Customer Success Management process today.
Understand where the upsell lies
Where should the responsibility for upsells should lie? Are customer success managers (CSMs) responsible for upsells? Should that function should live with the sales team?
There is no single “right” answer to this set of questions. At the same time, it’s definitely an important point to consider. The answer partly depends on the size of the company. In a larger company, customer success management might run upsells through one division and onboarding through another. Sales might just be in charge of new business. In a smaller company, there might be a few people who wear many hats. The lines become blurred.
Many of the businesses involved in the Underscore.VC discussion had recently transitioned upsell responsibilities to the sales team. They decided to take the upsell quota away from CSMs to ensure a laser sharp focus on customer health and adoption.
One CSM organization also monitored both Gross Retention and Net Retention, which has upsell baked into the model.
Most SaaS companies know that they should develop personas. Personas allow you to better understand the makeup of your audience and how you should deal with specific groups of people.
In CSM organizations, personas are important for defining use cases and features that will help them do their jobs better.
Different personas have different needs. Each one can serve as the beginning point for developing questions that will result in a framework for customer success programs. For example, does a particular persona need extra hand-holding or is he/she an optimizer? If the answer is “extra hand holding”, that’s the starting point for a new program.
The better customer success management understands your customers, the easier time you will have forging the customer success programs they need.
Clarify the customer journey
What turns a prospect into a customer? What turns a customer into an active user? What turns an active user into a loyal supporter?
The key to understanding the answers to those questions is to map out the “gates” (or stopping points) in the customer journey.
Many organizations with whom I spoke are working on figuring out what activities on their platform lead to successful customers and which lead to churn. One suggestion was to perform a retrospective analysis on customers who churned. You can then see what behaviors could have been leading indicators. At that point, of course, it’s up to you and your team to understand what changes can be made to lead to a more favorable result.
Specific measurable milestones are critical to understand how customers are progressing. A high-level “Red, Yellow, Green” rating after onboarding can also as effective as measured metrics. Whichever way you choose to measure progress, you must be consistent and commit to checking the status of your customers on a regular basis.
One other core challenge in defining the customer journey is defining within the organization a common language for customer progress. For example, without an industry standard to depend on, Underscore.VC created a “4As” framework: Addiction, Adoption, Absorption, Adaptation.
Continue to improve Customer Success Management
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