How to Scale Customer Success
6 Opportunities for Scaling Your Customer Success Organization
By Phil Nanus
Over the last year, TSIA research has seen an incredible uptick in member questions about how to scale customer success. This question can refer to either their Customer Success organization or overall strategy in helping their customers achieve their desired outcomes with their technology offers. Whether you’re new to the concept of customer success or already have an established function in place, it’s important to consider how your customer success strategy will scale.
In this post, I’ll be sharing 6 opportunities you can take to scale your Customer Success organization.
6 Ways You Can Scale Your Customer Success Organization
As part of my annual “State of Customer Success” report, TSIA Customer Success members have access to additional reference material on the topics listed below, but this overview should give you a checklist you can apply to your own organization to see if you’re prepared for scaling customer success.
1. Operationalizing the Customer Journey: Connect Your Technology with Customer Outcomes
This opportunity for scaling your customer success function is actually the combination of three customer success capabilities: journey mapping, customer success plans, and playbooks. With these elements, you will be able to create time, event, and value-based customer interactions throughout the customer journey, which you can then align with your technology and services.
In turn, this will provide you a better road map to helping customers achieve their desired business outcomes with your technology over their entire life cycle depending on where they’re at in the customer journey.
2. Partners: Leverage Partners to Deliver Customer Outcomes
Enable you partner community to deliver against one or more of your charters of customer success, such as adoption, retention, and expansion. This is one of the capabilities Sales organizations have used for many years to scale their own Sales function, and as such, more companies are starting to do the same with Customer Success.
However, doing so requires a two-way sharing of customer information, such as adoption (how proficient are customers at using the product?) and consumption (how frequently are they using it?). In addition, having a dedicated customer success manager (CSM) just for partners can help ensure that there are no gaps in communication or expectations.
In conversations with TSIA members, the majority of software and hardware companies and their partners acknowledge that there is consistent miscommunication over “ownership of the customer.” The fact of the matter is, the customer doesn’t care who has the ball, they only care about achieving their outcomes. As long as all groups work together for the primary goal of helping customers achieve their outcomes, then this will be a great opportunity for scaling customer success.
The State of Customer Success 2023
3. Analytics and Data Science: Measure Customer Engagement and Adoption
Related to the above opportunity, you won’t be able to track customer engagement or even have those adoption and consumption conversations with partners if you don’t have a data analytics capability in place. Analytics and data science refers to the organizational process on improving customer outcomes by leveraging data. Many TSIA members are achieving great results with analytic capabilities, which involves people, technology, math, statistics, and data.
This data can be collected from all customer-facing functions within your organization, such as Support, and will provide a window into customer health and their satisfaction with your products and services.
4. Low Touch and Digital Customer Success
In early 2018, TSIA had a study about investments in low human touch or digital capabilities that focus on a high-volume customer segment. With scaling customer success being such a hot topic, this is directly related. Resources inside tech companies are finite, so you have to figure out how to deliver the best possible experience for your customers based on the customer touch-points you’re able to provide.
This starts with having a lower touch or a digital capability with an overall segmentation strategy. A common one is a 3-tiered approach with enterprise, mid-market, or SMB where you may have a high touch capability, low touch capability, or a digital capability, where parts of the customer success function are automated. This approach ensures that your finite Customer Success resources are able to more effectively assist customers.
5. Effective Sales Growth: Spotting Potential Upsell and Cross-Sell Opportunities
Because of their “prescriptive” interactions with customers, Customer Success and Services teams are uniquely positioned to spot cross-sell and upsell opportunities with existing customers, which is concept that TSIA calls “expand selling”. By focusing on the outcomes a customer hopes to achieve with their purchase, customer success managers (CSMs) can make recommendations for additional products and services that can help the customer reach their goal more effectively.
That said, it’s important to think collectively about Sales and Marketing costs and how they can be divided between acquisition, expansion, and retention initiatives. Are you paying enough attention to your recurring revenue stream (including retention and expansion costs)? Are you using effective technology options that lead to higher retention and expansion? You will want to balance your entire Sales and Marketing budget to evaluate spend based on customer acquisition, customer retention, and customer expansion.
6. Technology and Technology Trends
Investing in different types of technology that will spur automation and increase efficiencies within your organization is a crucial part of scaling Customer Success. These technological capabilities include but are not limited to consumption monitoring, customer experience analytics, and customer success work management.
At TSIA, we’ve seen a lot of interesting trends in customer success work platforms, as well as a great increase in adoption of those tools. This is why we publish our annual “Technology Stack” reports for each of our research practices so that we can provide insight into the latest technology being adopted across the industry.
You can read the “Customer Success Technology Stack” report here, in which we’ve. Identified 13 separate application categories recommended for highly productive, scalable Customer Success teams and programs. These include core infrastructure technology, productivity tools, and tools to understand and track customer behavior and sentiment.
Learn More About How to Scale Customer Success
These opportunities for scaling your Customer Success function and capabilities are just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll need to have a plan of action for implementing many of these recommendations, which is exactly what TSIA is here to help you with. I invite you to reach out to us today to learn more about how membership in our Customer Success research practice can help you apply these recommendations and put you on the right track to scaling Customer Success and optimizing your current operation.
In the meantime, be sure to watch my on-demand webinar, “The State of Customer Success 2019” in which I go over these concepts in more detail with added context.
May 16, 2019
About Author Phil Nanus
Phil Nanus, is the former vice president of customer success research for TSIA. In this role, he worked closely with member companies to deliver research and advisory programs focused on helping them optimize their customer success organizations and effectively deliver customer outcomes. Throughout his career, Phil has held various positions related to enterprise software and IT services, including global leadership roles in customer success, support, professional services, managed services, and cloud services. Prior to TSIA, he was the vice president of customer success at Infor, where he led a team of Customer Success Managers (CSMs) focused on driving customer adoption of their technology.
Phil's favorite topics to discuss
Topics discussed in this post