As more traditional businesses migrate to the cloud, they are quickly discovering what companies who were “born-in-the-cloud" have known for a while: you have to manage customer engagement to drive adoption, retention, and renewal. It's these three elements that led to the inception and growth of the customer success concept, but what exactly is customer successand what role can other service lines play in its execution? At TSIA, this is a question that is top of mind for many of our members. To provide some insight on how customer success relates to my specific area of research, education services, I'd like to provide an overview of the primary responsibilities of customer success and 7 ways education services can contribute to these activities.
What is Customer Success?
To quote Lincoln Murphy of Sixteen Ventures, “Customer success is when customers achieve their desired outcomes through their interactions with your company." Customer success organizations are described as having one of three roles, known as charters:
- Drive adoption.
- Drive renewal.
- Drive expansion.
They achieve these objectives through a variety of responsibilities, including:
Customer Journey Mapping
A customer journey map is a framework that maps out the stages of the customer life cycle and identifies points at which customer success should engage to drive customer engagement and pave the way for retention and/or renewal opportunities.
As the name would indicate, onboarding is a process to get a customer “on board” by helping them get up and running on the product, solution, and/or service. This process takes place soon after purchase and provides the customer with the instruction they need in order to get familiar with and start effectively using the technology.
Account coverage refers to how much hands-on attention each account, or customer, receives from the customer success team. This can range from 100% coverage for all customers, a focus on high-value customers only, or a tiered structure where customers might receive additional personal care depending on their pricing tier, or might purchase it a la carte as an add-on.
Adoption, Renewal, Expand Selling
While making sure customers are able to successfully adopt the technology is the primary responsibility of most customer success organizations, product subscription renewal and upsell/cross-sell opportunities (known as expand selling) are also areas where customer success can play a significant role.
The most common responsibility for customer success organizations is to monitor and improve the customer experience, as needed. This can be achieved by referencing the customer journey map to assess the customer experience across all interactions with your company, tracking product usage data, and regularly reaching out to the customer to both check in and help them with any issues they might be having.
A customer health score provides a way to measure the “health” of the customer in terms of adoption, retention, and likelihood of renewal. Many organizations use a scorecard methodology to assess the health of customer accounts.
The Role of Education Services in Customer Success
Given all of the responsibilities customer success has when it comes to ensuring the successful adoption of their solutions, the role education services can play to aid this adoption has the potential to be huge, but is currently being underutilized. Below are just some of the ways that education services can work directly with customer success, or in some cases, be affiliated with subscription product purchases as a means of driving customer success:
#1. Customer Onboarding
Education services can keep customer success informed of new offers and services so that the customer success manager (CSM) can communicate this information to customers during onboarding and/or during scheduled check-in meetings. Education services can also directly participate during customer onboarding sessions, as well as the 60, 90, and 120-day calls to provide additional training and education as needed along different stages of the customer journey.
#2. Included in the Customer Success Playbook
Education services can be included as part of the customer success playbook, which is based on the customer life cycle. For example, if the customer is in a pre-deployment stage, training specific to that stage is identified and communicated to the customer. If the customer is in the post-deployment stage, applicable training for that stage is specified, and so on.
#3. Customer Retention Strategies for Both High-Value and Low-Value Tiers
As part of the customer success retention model, education services can develop different offers based on each customer tier. For example, it might be recommended that customers in a high-value tier attend an instructor-led training course, while customers at a lower-valued tier are steered toward a “self-service” option, such as an e-learning portal.
#4. Provide Training with Purchase
Education can be included as part of the initial product deal. Typically, e-learning is the primary education offer included in a product subscription.
#5. Training with Purchase by Tier
Customers tiered by value can receive e-learning, virtual instructor-led training, and classroom training in an education services subscription that is bundled with product. Examples of these bundles are as follows:
- Tier 1 customers - E-learning is free with the product.
- Tier 2 customers - E-learning and virtual instructor-led training are included with the product, and education is valued at 15% of the product deal for ES revenue recognition purposes.
- Tier 3 customers - E-learning, virtual instructor-led training, and classroom training are included with the product, and education is valued at 20% of the product deal for ES revenue recognition purposes.
#6. Bundled Offers and Partnering with Other Service Lines
This is more of a “sandwich” model, in which the customer receives free introductory training, followed by a consulting engagement, followed by more training that is “fee-based,” and is used as a way to ensure a successful implementation. In this example, education services partners with professional services to continue to drive customer success. Typically, when an offer includes different service lines, each recognizes the revenue associated with the portion of work it delivered.
#7. Formal Packages Offered During the Customer Life Cycle
Other types of education packages may be recommended based on a customer's point along their journey map. For example, at an advanced stage of the map, a learning package might include best practices content, access to a virtual lab environment, and a set number of hours with an "expert," who provides coaching to ensure that best practices can be applied on the job.
How to Begin Connecting Education Services with Customer Success
So, what should education services do if it is currently sitting on the customer success sidelines? The diagram below depicts four possible insertion points for education services in the customer success process.
Based on your company's customer success processes and practices, there are likely other insertion points, but this at least provides four possible options to get started. Once education services is included in onboarding, for example, you can move to another point on the wheel. The more points in which education services inserts itself, the better, as it improves customer exposure to education and training offers, and with the help of a customer success manager provides customers an effortless way to connect with the ES organization.
Education helps to drive engagement, adoption, retention and renewal, and it's a great expand selling opportunity for the product sales organization. (Tweet this!) So the question is, why wouldn't the CS organization jump at the chance to ensure that education services is an integral part of the overall customer success process and strategy?