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Customer Success

The Importance of Setting Your Charter for Customer Success

How to Avoid Internal Chaos and a Poor User Experience

6 min. read
By Stephen Fulkerson
One of the biggest mistakes customer success executives make is undervaluing the power of the charter of customer success. To many executives, creating a charter is a check-box effort rather than a blueprint for success.

Much like a constitution which outlines a set of beliefs, guiding principles, and foundations for how a country or organization will be governed, the charters for customer success have very similar characteristics. They are designed to unify an organization so that everyone is aligned to the roles and responsibilities of the work being performed.  

At TSIA, we view the charter as an agreement that encompasses the mission, goals, roles and responsibilities of the organization while also including the metrics that will be used to measure charter success.  

In this blog, we will highlight common errors and oversights as well as offer suggestions for removing internal hurdles by investing in customer success charter(s), which will result in an enhanced customer experience and a more efficient and effective customer engagement model. If you do not want your Customer Success organization to be the dumping ground for all things, then dial into this material to achieve success.
 

Key Areas to Strengthen Your Customer Success Charter

Charter Development

Customer success executives are moving at a speed that can be mandated or driven by the shiny object in the room – the board room that is. “Improve adoption,” “ increase renewals,” and “drive greater expansions” are the standard marching orders given to customer success executives. With that directive in hand, some customer success executives are on a mission without looking at the foundations and building blocks that will help make sure they can achieve the desired outcome. 
 
When executives send TSIA their customer success charters for review, we will see a charter that is so simple that it appears to only be a marketing tagline with a few words or sentences. How can something so important and so powerful have so few words? For some organizations, there seems to be confusion around the difference between charters, ethos, goals, and mission statements.  

This begs the question, how can an organization like customer success, which is sometimes built from other internal organizations, know how to engage with internal resources and external customers with such little guidance? The direct and simple answer is, they cannot with any level of fidelity, and that’s why some organizations struggle with the charter.  

Charter development has not been performed well and the next generation of leaders are not enabled to properly maintain and evolve their charters. There has been little mentoring or coaching from other executives and as a result, the customer pays the price because now, those internal issues become challenges, the challenges become risks, and the risks result in a poor customer experience, which leads to customer churn. Why? Because there are always two other humans in a garage that are trying to figure out how to take away portions of your business.
 

Customer Success organizations must do better at clearly documenting their charters.

Customer Success organizations must do better at clearly documenting their charters. As many organizations know, customer success breaks glass. When customer success is born out of other departments that previously owned portions of the customer engagement, the charter lays the foundations of defining roles and responsibilities. When done well, it defines portions of the internal process to help thwart internal confusion. The organizations that do this best have signatures at the end of their charters from all executives which helps ensure accountability and proper communications within the entire organization.

Figure 1: Customer Success Charters
84 percent adoption 47 percent expansion 76 percent retention
Customer Success Charter
 

Adoption Charter

Eighty-four percent (84%) of Customer Success organizations across the industry have the charter of adoption. [See Figure 1] Those that have not invested properly in their charter development usually struggle with several challenges.  

First, they do not know where Sales organizations stop and where customer success begins. Other challenges include the handoffs to the onboarding team, professional services, and customer support. Indicators of poorly defined charters are when an organization asks, “who owns...?” or “who is responsible for...?” Process ownership must be clearly articulated in the charter so that everyone knows the “swim lanes” or “lanes in the road.” Otherwise, there will be internal conflict, confusion, and errors that will ultimately result in a poor customer experience.

Another common example of a poorly defined charter or non-existent charter is when the organization asks, “what skills do I need to hire for...?” The answer is that it depends on the charter.  

If you are hiring for a resource to help with adoption, that skill is different than if you are hiring a resource to support motions of commercial charters, such as sales expansion and retention. If I’m looking at hiring someone to help with motions of adoption, that points me to someone who has previously performed work that aligns with the charter of adoption. Finding a customer success manager with skills in all three charters can be challenging.
However, if you know that you have hired someone with skills in adoption but they have no skills in commercial sales, then you know you have to provide training to help develop that skill for the customer success manager (CSM). Charters are critical as they frame your conversation about actions and when the motions of the charter are done well, they frame your conversation about charter performance.
 

TSIA Benchmark data shows that 61% of the industry can report metrics back to the performance of their charter in granular detail.

TSIA Benchmark data shows that 61% of the industry can report metrics back to the performance of their charter in granular detail. In the charter documentation, the organization should clearly outline which metrics are going to be used to measure the motions of adoption. This will give all internal employees situational awareness about how adoption is being measured and what their role and contributions are to the capture of those metrics.

Retention Charter

The latest TSIA benchmark data shows that 76% of the industry has charters of retention in customer success; which is fantastic. [See Figure 1]  When organizations have the charter of retention, it becomes clear when their charter requires updates and attention.  

Common challenges we see are when there is a lack of clarity on who owns the renewal process; this should be clearly defined in the charter. Additionally, if you are trying to figure out when the customer success managers handle the renewal versus a renewal specialist, that reveals it has not been defined in the charter.
 
Lastly, when organizations ask when a CSM should own the renewal process versus a sales representative, that too should be clearly outlined in the charter. All of these questions usually align with the complexities of your technology solution, but at the end of the day, these are examples of what should be documented as lanes of the road so that customer success managers are not the face of poor processes that reflect negatively on your organization.  

Expansion Charter

TSIA benchmark data shows that 47% of the customer success industry has included ownership of expansion as their charter. [See Figure 1] This continues to grow each year, and we believe it will break the 50% mark in 2022.
 
With that in mind, the youthful experience in motions of expansion is apparent when organizations are asking, “who owns lead generation?” The answer to that question is, “it depends on your charter.” Customer success aligns perfectly to help with lead generation, but if it is not in your charter, internal teams will not know how to proceed. We even see that customer success is taking on responsibility for low-complexity upsell more and more frequently.  
 

Customer success aligns perfectly to help with lead generation but if it is not in your charter, internal teams will not know how to proceed.

This represents an incredible opportunity, as companies who task their Customer Success organizations with closing upsells grow their subscription revenue more than 10 percentage points higher than those who do not. However, when it comes to upsell and cross-sell, this also presents additional challenges, especially when the lanes in the road are not well defined between sales and customer success. These activities must be spelled out in the charter defining the role and responsibilities of each organization and how far they can go before the activity is transitioned to another resource or department.
 

Recommendations

Customer success executives must take time annually to revisit their charter. It is a living document!  As the Customer Success organization matures, other departments will likely try to make customer success the dumping ground of anything they don’t know what to do with.

If your charter(s) are well defined, you can now push back indicating that the actions in question do not align with your charter; therefore, you cannot assume that work and responsibility without negatively impacting the charter. Remember, organizations that do charters well get other customer-facing executives to sign the charter. Those signatures demonstrate an agreement of the mission, goals, responsibilities, roles, swim lanes, hand-off processes, and the metrics that will be used to measure charter success.

Remember, organizations that do charters well get other customer-facing executives to sign the charter.

Remove the internal chaos by investing time in the foundations of customer success. When there are internal problems in your organization, or internal confusion as to who does what, there is risk for a negative customer experience.

Invest the time into developing your charter so that you can articulate and ensure the Customer Success organization drives additional value and growth in your customer base. Do not waste time spinning on internal issues that can be resolved by developing a charter that removes confusion and drives delivering customer satisfaction. What you tolerate becomes the standard! Make sure your standard is investing in a charter that sets you up for success… customer success!

Want to discuss how to improve your charter or receive some examples to help get you started? Contact your Member Success Manager for assistance. Not a TSIA member yet? No problem! Contact us today to learn more.

 June 10, 2021

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