3 min read

Core Dinner: Customer Success

Around 1:15 P.M. EST it started. Phones started ringing off the hook. Emails poured in. Automated alerts were sounding and meetings were being interrupted. Users couldn’t log into our platform. Cloud services were down. Web pages wouldn’t load. What just happened?

As a customer success manager, these are the situations we prepare for, so our team kicked into troubleshooting mode and notified our customers. It didn’t take long to realize that Amazon S3 was offline, shutting down many of the systems that SaaS businesses depend on.

Fast forward about five hours to a Cambridge restaurant, where 20 customer success leaders gathered to attend the Underscore VC community dinner. The escalations and excitement of the day had subsided, but we were all still reeling a bit. Talk about a great icebreaker! It was like we were all part of an epic team-building exercise and could now spend the evening figuring out how everyone handled it. War stories were flowing over cocktails as we all bonded over the events of the day. We couldn’t have planned a better segue to a customer success round table discussion.

Days like this are painful for Customer Success professionals, but they serve a very valuable purpose — exercising our processes and systems so that we can take the appropriate actions as quickly as possible.

We began the discussion by going around the table introducing ourselves and explaining our companies’ products / services and the functions within our customer success teams. It was amazing to hear about the varieties of businesses and how we were all evolving the Customer Success organizations.

Most attendees were working through the organizational challenge of whether customer success managers (CSMs) should be responsible for upsells, or if that function should reside with the sales team.

  • Many had recently transitioned upsell to the sales team, taking upsell quota away from CSMs to ensure focus on customer health and adoption.
  • One organization monitored both Gross Retention and Net Retention, which has upsell baked into the model.

There was a great discussion about the “gates” of the customer journey.

  • Many organizations are working on figuring out what activities on their platform lead to successful customers and which lead to churn. One organization performed a retrospective analysis on customers who churned to see what behaviors could have been leading indicators
  • Specific measurable milestones are critical to understand how customers are progressing.
  • Some organizations found that a high level “Red, Yellow, Green” rating after onboarding was as effective as measured metrics.
  • A core challenge in defining the customer journey is a common language within the organization and the industry. Underscore VC created the 4As framework: Addiction, Adoption, Absorption, Adaptation.

Most product organizations develop personas for their end users to define use cases and features that will help them do their jobs better.

  • One Customer Success organization developed their OWN set of personas that categorized the type of user.
  • These different personas have different needs and can serve as a framework to develop programs to assist them. For example, does a particular persona need extra hand-holding or is he/she an optimizer? Your answer can help you better understand the paths you need to develop for your customers.

While everyone had different perspectives on these rich topics, we could all agree on one thing — sharing ideas and best practices among peers is invaluable. Each organization will have to determine how to apply these concepts to their specific business. Many thanks to the Underscore VC team for hosting this event and for pulling such a pleasant and excellent team together for the evening.