This year, for the first time, our Growth Index revealed that Customer Success done right is a key booster on the revenue rocket, with fast growers investing 6x more in the Customer Success function than their slower growing counterparts. And it's not only the investment dollars that distinguish fast growers; it's also their customer-centric practices and disciplines that yield exceptional results on critical metrics like retention, NPS and time to value. As shown below, 2019 fast growers retained more logos and gross dollars than slow growers did and enjoyed best-in-class net dollar retention, indicative of keeping and growing their customer base. Similarly, their NPS scores exceeded slow growers across revenue stages.
So, what is it that these fast-growing heroes do that sets them apart from mere mortals? Here's a list of the top 5 Customer Success factors:
Process is a Superpower
Customer Success teams often brag about the love they lavish upon their customers, yet it’s those that keep a level head that inspire long-term customer advocacy AND grow the quickest. They work from an established framework of known success factors that benchmark health, engagement and satisfaction at each stage of the customer journey. This predictably monitors customer progress, and prompts action when results stray from the expected course. In addition, fast growers have a knack for artfully weaving their value proposition with their customer's revenue and process improvement goals. Conversational intelligence leader ExecVision, for example, co-authors a program brief with their customers that formalizes product goals in alignment with organizational objectives. For companies looking to improve contact center performance, this typically includes reduction of rep ramp time, increase in qualified leads, and standardization of a repeatable coaching discipline.
Likewise, PathFactory, forgoes traditional NPS, in favor of an alternative approach where customers rate the product's influence in meeting their goals over a six-month period, efficiently flagging outliers on the churn/retention continuum. All of this, the sum and substance of long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships.
Churn Prevention is Half Their Cause
Churn is the kryptonite of growth-stage companies, and Customer Success heroes wage war on it daily by scanning their universe for looming retention threats like those described in the below eight questions.
However, companies with a progressive approach to success realize that maintaining a singular focus on churn is like waiting for the bat phone to ring. Fast growers understand that the ultimate payoff comes with the ability to proactively affect business outcomes through successful use of your product. And by successful, I mean full adoption and attainment of its intended potential. This validates ROI, reinforces use cases, and delivers an overall favorable experience that sets the stage for advocacy. It also means advancing beyond a tactical churn prevention mindset, approaching customer success holistically, so that retention is the bi-product of ongoing good health and the foundation for which renewals, expansions and new use cases are based.
Even Heroes Need a Hand from Automation
As companies mature, diversify product set, and/or push upmarket, their average deal size increases. And at some point, a tail of lower value customers emerges. Fast growers aim their high-value resources at high-gain accounts, while taking a low-touch and high-automation approach to tend to the rest. Customer Marketing plays a critical role here, too, developing relevant, engaging content and engineering touch points based on expansion opportunities. And they do it by profiling their most successful customers as a baseline for adoption, advocacy and content/journey mapping, across verticals and use cases in this segment.
Data Drives Their Utopia
A steady, relevant stream of customer data funnels through Customer Success and fast growers know how to collect, distribute and leverage it through feedback loops (check out our recent Product Commercialization webcast to hear more on how to establish the right feedback loops). The structure and stage of your company will determine what functional team is best suited for ownership, but it’s the fast growers who proactively channel it for purposes of acquisition, retention and product road-mapping. They also view it with a critical eye, prioritizing the feedback from the most profitable customers, who close and on-board the quickest, and articulate your product's value through the achievement of their own company initiatives.
They Leave the Selling to Iron Man
Fast growers ensure their Customer Success teams maintain laser focus on experience, health and gross retention. And it’s through this attentiveness, expansion opportunities are often surfaced… and promptly passed to the Sales team for pursuit and close. While the idea of carrying a new business quota can be appealing to some CSMs, it often detracts from a regime geared to customer health.
The CSM profile that best serves growth-stage businesses is one whose inherent talents align with the motions detailed earlier in this post, versus those energized by chasing the close. That said, Customer Success plays an important role in the account review discipline, in which scorecard performance is leveraged with the sole purpose of engaging the customer in candid discussion. You’d be surprised how often these conversations reveal the latest shift in priorities, routinely affirm reasons for buying your product and occasionally, foreshadow the winds of organizational change. It's usually an opportunity to learn something you didn't know about the company, the buying team or their workflows, and always a time in which the customer shines as the star on their journey with your product.
For more top-line and bottom-line characteristics of fast growers download our 2019 Growth Index.