Companies have an opportunity to shift from focusing on customer experience (optimizing touchpoints around a product or service) to becoming a business of experience (solving for human needs around a purpose).

Customer Success Organizations (CSOs) will be at the heart of this transformation, igniting and carrying the flame of customer obsession and serving as a key driver of growth.

Among companies that already have CSOs, there’s a growing push to expand and extend the function across the customer base. To understand the challenges associated with scaling the customer success function, we interviewed Customer Success leaders. Their qualitative input revealed a trio of challenges – and point to some critical next steps.

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“It’s difficult to quantify the positive effect that satisfied customers have on the business – especially when other teams are also driving similar results in terms of sales, product adoption and churn reduction.”

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Challenge 1: Proving value within

“How do you calculate the value of customers who don’t leave you? How do you calculate the value of customers who continue to purchase because they have Customer Success versus those who would’ve purchased anyway?”

The leaders we interviewed reported that it’s difficult to quantify the positive effect that satisfied customers have on the business. That’s especially true when other teams within the company are also driving similar results in terms of sales, product adoption and churn reduction.

Respondents honed in on the benefits of top-level leadership support – namely, a CEO who’s invested in Customer Success, believes in its value and integrates Customer Success principles throughout the business. That kind of C-level leadership sets up CSOs for empowerment and success.

When CSOs have a clearly defined purpose and role that’s fully endorsed by the CEO, they are better positioned to secure the resources needed to optimize experience and advocate for customers.

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Challenge 2: Finding the right talent

“It all comes down to having the right people doing the right jobs with the right attitude… We need an organizational development team to help train and develop our staff internally to become trusted advisors.”

The primary role of a Customer Success Manager (CSM) is to be an advocate and trusted advisor for the customer. The CSM has a special relationship with the customer and is therefore considered the “expert” on the customer’s business goals, needs and preferences.

The leaders we interviewed generally agree that CSMs must be flexible and agile to meet the needs of different customers. What’s more, CSMs need not only business acumen but also the ability to understand technical aspects of operations.

Finding talent with this combined skillset is not easy. In fact, nearly all respondents said it’s a challenge – if not the top challenge – in their CSO. In addition to targeted hiring, many propose training initiatives to ensure all are aligned to best support the team.

Challenge 3: Flipping the script on engagement

“Too often, you don’t hear from your customers unless something is wrong. Not everybody lets you share in their successes. They just want you to hear when they’re mad. And so you’re typically spending your day putting out fires, and that’s always challenging.”

Like support teams, CSMs get involved when a customer has an issue. Reacting to challenges takes time away from helping customers realize value. If the urgency of the customer’s needs isn’t recognized – or if support teams are unresponsive or unable to help solve an issue – the customer’s experience is further degraded.

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CSOs recognize the need to flip the script. To minimize reactivity, CSOs are creating strong customer health models with proactive outreach based on predictive analytics. Companies are continually refining their health models to understand customers’ actions, sentiments and propensity to renew. While quantitative, data-driven inputs continue to be a priority, qualitative input is also key to driving personalized experiences.

Proving value to the company and customers
A strong, close relationship with the CSM drives positive customer sentiment. The customer feels that the CSM is their advocate on the inside. There is frequent, meaningful contact and a high level of trust. The CSM demonstrates an understanding of the customer’s specific business goals and needs and how their services can help them achieve success.

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CSMs must be able to deliver on promises. They must be accountable in making customers happy – from knowing whose expertise inside the business to leverage to deeply understanding customer problem areas to being transparent about processes and lines to success.

Now CSOs must scale the CSM role for more comprehensive coverage. To overcome the trio of related challenges that our interviewees illuminated, consider the following:

  1. Build a company culture that recognizes the importance of Customer Success, invests in the function and ensures the CSO is “plugged in” with the rest of the company.
  2. Take the time to scale appropriately by building a balance of team members who bring both business and technical acumen.
  3. Anticipate needs or issues that the customer may have, reach out proactively and remain transparent about how your CSMs will drive success.

Learn more about what it means to become a business of experience and how nurturing customer value is the new growth mantra.

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See more on Customer insights.

Doug Carter

Senior Manager – Strategy & Consulting, Customer, Sales & Service

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