Natero, aquired by Freshworks, was a platform that helped Customer Success Managers reduce churn, increase expansion, and manage more accounts. Before the acquisition, we sat down with CEO, Craig Soules, to get his thoughts on how Customer Success Managers can deliver real value. Read our interview:
Evan Klein: How has the Customer Success industry changed since Natero was first founded in 2012?
Craig Soules: The popularity of Customer Success has exploded in the last few years. The title of “Customer Success Manager” wasn’t ubiquitous back in 2012, but today it’s the third most promising job of 2018 according to LinkedIn.
Most subscription-based businesses now understand the importance of successful customer outcomes, and companies are addressing Customer Success much earlier than before. A few years ago, Customer Success might have been an extension of the sales function or a rebranded support team. Today, it’s more of an established role that’s recognized as a unique discipline.
What Customer Success metrics / key performance indicators are most important to your customers? What do you advise they focus on?
Individually, we see Customer Success Managers focusing on their customers’ health scores. Specifically, they’re looking at objective metrics like product usage, feature adoption, Net Promoter Score, and so on. They may also evaluate subjective inputs like customer fit, relationship strength, and sentiment score for example.
As a whole, SaaS executives tend to focus on Customer Success metrics like retention trends, expansion rates, and Customer Lifetime Value.
For CSMs, the importance of specific metrics often depends on their customer segments. For example, high-value accounts can command more face time and personal attention. So, KPIs like stakeholder activity, relationship strength, and sentiment score may be important considerations. On the other hand, lower-value accounts require a more data-driven approach to help prioritize at scale, such as feature usage, NPS results, and daily/weekly/monthly activity trends.
Depending on the business model, CSMs may manage both high-touch and low-touch customer segments. Therefore, it’s essential to have a clear strategy, defined processes, and effective tools that can address the needs of their entire customer portfolio.
Where do you see most companies struggle when it comes to leveraging customer success data?
SaaS businesses capture more data about their customers than ever before, yet this data isn’t always easily accessible, leaving Customer Success Managers in the dark when it comes to customer activity and interactions. Or, the effort it takes to pull this data together means that CSMs don’t have the time to keep up with all their accounts.
Customer data silos.
We often see companies struggle with data silos across their business. Customer data can reside in a lot of systems such as CRM, finance, support ticketing, email, survey tools, analytics, and more.
Inconsistent customer data.
More often than not, these disconnected systems reside within different departments of an organization. And each department can have different conventions when it comes to tracking customer-related information. As a result, customer data often lacks consistency across systems, making it challenging for Customer Success teams to tie their data together and make it actionable.
Undefined KPIs and processes.
On the other end of the spectrum, we sometimes see companies who might have their data in order but lack well-defined KPIs and don’t have a clear way to tie their data to their Customer Success processes. In these cases, until success KPIs and processes are defined, no amount of data in the world is going to help.
How does Natero recommend companies collect VoC? How important do you feel VoC is in understanding the health of the account?
We’re agnostic about how companies capture their voice of the customer. We most often see our customers using NPS, CSAT, CES, and surveys to collect customer feedback. VoC can be a leading indicator, and we think Customer Success teams should have the ability to incorporate these metrics into their customer health scores and early warning alerts, and we’ve always made it a priority to integrate Natero with many popular VoC tools.
But a VoC tool is only part of the answer. Companies also need to develop a VoC program that will consistently incorporate customer feedback into their Customer Success processes. There are a lot of key questions that need to be addressed first, like when to measure, what to measure, how to measure, and so on.
What is the one best piece of advice you would you offer to companies looking to build a world-class Customer Success operation?
Start by defining your ideal customer profile, product use case, and subsequent customer journey. Identify the traits, needs, use cases, and outcomes that your successful customers have in common. If done in collaboration with your sales team, the ideal customer profile will help ensure your business acquires the right kind of customers from the start.
Next, map your entire customer journey into manageable phases such as onboarding, adoption, expansion, and renewal for example.
Only then can you build an informed process that delivers value to your customers. At this point, you might even consider tools like Natero to streamline customer data collection and scale your Customer Success processes as your business grows.
About Craig Soules
Craig is the CEO of Natero, a uniquely data-driven Customer Success platform for B2B SaaS businesses. Natero helps Customer Success Managers reduce churn, increase expansion, and manage more accounts.
Natero is the only Customer Success Management software to combine predictive analytics, customer intelligence, and workflow management in a unified platform. This next generation solution helps B2B software providers prioritize, automate, and scale their Customer Success processes.