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Fireside Chat: The Customer Success Organization


As the person leading the Customer Success organization, you’re responsible for ensuring the customer is achieving maximum value from your products and services. Every day, you’re watching for signals that a customer is at risk for defection, or overseeing renewals, performing Quarterly Business Reviews, and much more. Some of you may even be asked to support the customer onboarding process or customer satisfaction survey program. And leading customers to success in these areas in no easy task.

Whether you’ve just landed your first Customer Success role or have been leading the department for several years, a fresh perspective on the state of the industry is always enlightening. This is what motivated Satrix Solutions’ Founder and President Evan Klein to interview Kevin Capp, the CEO and Founder of CustomerSuccess.Pro. His consulting company helped small to mid-size companies grow profit by implementing customer success best practices. Here is a transcript of their conversation:

Customer Success Departments Must Listen to Voice of the Customer

Evan Klein: What do you think is the single most important role of the Customer Success department?

Kevin Capp: Listening to the customer is the single most important role of the Customer Success department. There is no other team in the organization that has this responsibility and there is no other task that is more important for guiding future operational decisions.

While surveys are a great way to listen to the customer, there are many other opportunities. Customer Success Managers (CSMs) should always be listening for feedback during their calls, quarterly business reviews, and daily interactions. When appropriate, CSMs should ask probing questions to uncover customer needs. Other methods for listening to customers include webinars, conferences, social media, and other channels.

Sometimes silence is just as telling as a verbal response. For example, a customer’s willingness (or not) to be an advocate is a point of feedback. Monitoring customer usage of the product is another form of feedback from the customer.

The level of executive sponsorship at the client is another variable in their message to you about how much they value your service. Obviously, a Customer Success department can’t be successful if they don’t use this feedback from the customer to drive their plays and actions, but it all starts with listening.

NPS is an Important Customer Success Metric

What are the Key Performance Indicators you believe Customer Success leaders must monitor in order to provide strategic value to the organization?

In my mind, monitoring one KPI is not as important as interpreting the results of all the KPIs. No one KPI will solve all your problems and save all your customers.

Customer success needs to monitor many different metrics like Net Promoter Score, churn, net revenue retention, product usage, etc. But the most important thing the CS team can do is to help the organization understand what the metrics mean and direct what actions should be taken.

I often see clients make the false-positive mistake when interpreting their metrics. In other words, they think the data is telling them something (positive or negative) when the change is simply noise and randomness in the data.

Using correct calculations of the metrics is the first step to fixing this issue, but the second step is to use control charts and correlation tests to know if a statistically significant change happened.

The third step is to help the organization take effective actions when a significant change is detected.

Be an Advocate for Customers

How can customer success best drive customer-centric behaviors across the organization?

Prioritizing resources to best help the customer is an ongoing and challenging activity in any company.

Customer success can drive a customer-centric behavior across all departments by being the voice of the customer in company meetings. This is not an easy role because it requires questioning if current practices and priorities are the best for the customer. I’m not suggesting the customers’ needs should always win, but it should be the role of the CS team to advocate for the customer since the customer isn’t there to represent themselves.

I remember a time when a client of mine was producing monthly reports for all their customers at the same time. This made sense from an internal resource perspective, but our surveys uncovered some customer frustration about this lengthy timeline. Since the reports covered the whole previous month and were not sent out until the middle of the next month, the reports were not available for important customer review meetings.

The customer success team helped the operations team understand why the reports are important for the client and needed sooner. Without this insight about the customer, the operations team would have thought they were continuing to do a great job of meeting the customers’ reporting needs.

Consider a Customer Journey Mapping Exercise

For companies looking to establish a customer success strategy, what advice can you share?

Creating a winning strategy starts with the customer.

I always start by asking companies to review their most recent customer survey results with me. It is impossible to create a strategy for improving customer success without involving the customer.

The next step is to map the customer journey and create plays that address negative (and positive) customer interactions.

The process of building the customer journey map is always very enlightening for a company because it requires everyone to look at their internal processes from the perspective of the customer. Using this different perspective often produces unique inspiration on how the new strategy will result in better customer success.

I highly recommend using an impartial, third party to lead the organization through the creation of the journey map so one department doesn’t dominate the process.

Maximize the Success of the Customer

Tell us more about your Reduce Churn Framework.

Our Reduce Churn Framework is a methodical process we used to implement world-class customer success programs.

The world is becoming more complex every day and the information available on the Internet can sometimes lead companies down the wrong path for their specific needs. We use a proven methodology to ensure companies implement the correct amount of customer success to drive maximum profit.

Many companies make the mistake of thinking they can solve customer success by hiring some customer success managers. Adding more staff to the company payroll doesn’t fix the internal alignment and culture required to generate the biggest impact.

Our experts guide the company through the framework in a timely manner so the result is a strategy that maximizes the success of the customer while adding value to the company’s bottom line.

More About Kevin Capp:

Kevin has implemented numerous customer success divisions for multi-million dollar companies and filled the role of VP of Customer Success at several tech startups.

During his 25 years working in technology and customer success, Kevin has received many recognitions and awards. His leadership experience was featured in a 2012 book “Leading the High-Energy Culture – What the best CEOs do to create an atmosphere where employees flourish.”

CIO Magazine awarded Kevin the prestigious CIO100 award in 2011 for his innovative work in customer service technology. In 2007, he received an MBA from the world-famous University of Colorado Executive MBA program.