How to Ensure Customer Success is a Company-Wide Initiative

Teresa Becker

Customer Success Strategist

If there is one thing customer success professionals know, it’s that ensuring customer satisfaction with a product or solution requires the attention and resources of far more than a single person. While a CSM may be ultimately responsible for retaining and growing his or her accounts, most organizations are on a mission to serve the end customer, and therefore every department – from Finance to HR to Marketing to Product Development – should hold responsibility to some degree for customer success.

The most successful organizations don’t simply have customer success teams; they have customer success companies

According to Esteban Kolsky, if a customer is not satisfied, 13% of them will tell that experience with 15 or even more people and share that they are unhappy. On the other hand, 72% of customers will share a positive experience with 6 or more people. 67% of customers mention bad experiences as a reason for churn, but only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers complain.

In the SaaS industry, recurring revenue from renewals, expansions, and cross-sells comprise significant portions of an organization’s revenue model, making retention a forefront initiative. CSMs center their careers on these metrics, but it can be difficult to convince other teams across your organization to measure their department’s success this way – and more importantly, align their priorities and metrics. 

The most successful organizations don’t simply have customer success teams; they have customer success companies. If you’re ready to make customer success a company-wide initiative, begin with these steps: 

Develop accountability KPIs for each department

As a CSM or customer success leader, you already know how involved other departments have to be with customer accounts. Whether it’s working with sales to develop the perfect handoff process or upsell process, developing a joint customer marketing and success story strategy with marketing, or aligning strategic initiatives and functionality releases with your product team, it’s important to work one-on-one with these individual departments to get everyone on board. 

Take the collaboration a step further by developing KPIs and measurable goals with every department so that they have a clear connection and feel like they have ‘skin in the game’ when it comes to customer success. 

Here are several examples of what departmental quantitative KPIs might entail: 

  • Product: Product time-to-value
  • Marketing: Marketing influenced renewal or upsell dollars
  • Services: Customer Effort Score (CES)

Other departments, such as HR, Finance, and IT, might have more qualitative KPIs, such as: 

  • HR: Attend X trade shows or customer events annually
  • Finance: Net Promoter Score (NPS) of contract and legal process
  • IT: X% investment of Sales budget dedicated to customer success tools and software

Get buy-in from executive team and departmental leaders

Once you’ve developed customer success KPIs for each department, it’s time to present the strategy to your executive team. Ensuring executive involvement is key for introducing customer success as a company-wide initiative. Strategies such as this should be measured and encouraged from the top-down. With your executive team, CEO, and even your board members behind the customer-first initiative, it will be easier to enforce workflows and processes down the line. This will also ensure that customer success – not just new business dollars – becomes a key topic of conversation in quarterly meetings and planning discussions.

Assign an executive to each strategic account

Assigning an executive to each strategic customer account serves several purposes. The practice is becoming more and more common with scaling companies as it: 

  1. Aligns executives with the front-line so they can hear from customers firsthand 
  2. Empowers the CSM to bring the executive into strategic conversations about product roadmap, strategic initiatives, or other issues that need to be escalated
  3. Demonstrates to the customer that their success is an important company value 

Getting your leadership team on board with this plan will create executive contacts throughout your organization that customers can meet with alongside the CSM on a regular basis. 

First, segment your accounts and decide what criteria you will use to determine which accounts will receive an assigned executive. For instance, you may base it on current customer size (either revenue or number of licenses), potential growth opportunities, high touch accounts, and etc. Next, assign a company leader to each account that meets the criteria and introduce the executive early on (much like what would take place in new business sales) via email, phone call, and in-person meeting if applicable. 

Consistent touch points are key so that the customer sees the executive working alongside their CSM throughout the entire year – not just as renewal time is approaching. 

Remember: If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it 

The phrase “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” might have been coined by Peter Drucker, but it’s especially important when adopting new strategies. Neglecting to put a system in place to measure the outcome of a company-wide customer success initiative is the fastest way to ensure it fails. 

Each department must be ready to be measured and held accountable to the goals and KPIs decided upon in the initial stage. Teams should add the KPIs to their current metrics report that reflect the work they are doing to impact the overall customer success mission. These metrics can then be rolled up into a larger customer success report that executives and board members have access to. 

Above all, the most important metric to measure is revenue (renewal, expansion, upsell, etc.) associated with this new strategy. Having measurable numbers in place with clear results will ensure that customer success receives the attention it deserves down the line. 

Ready to take customer success to the next level in your organization?

Customer success is a critical part of any SaaS organization, but it takes a company-wide approach to ensure your customers remain successful. Whether you’re looking to introduce customer success to your executive team or take customer success metrics reporting to the next level, the team at ClientSuccess is here to help. 

Here are a few resources that can also help guide your decision making:

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