The Top 5 Customer Success Topics of 2016

Burke Alder

Customer Success Strategist

customer-success-leader-tips-vp-customer-success

2016 was a busy year for customer success leaders. A growth in innovative technologies, creative engagement strategies, and interdepartmental collaboration revolutionized the role of customer success. New education materials, thought leadership, and programs brought a jolt of urgency and creativity to the customer success landscape.

It’s now possible for customer success leaders to know what their customers want before they ask for it. To plan workflows and campaigns for unparalleled engagement. To position Customer Success as a foundational pillar of an organization’s success. For these achievements to be reached, however, customer success leaders must have the right tools at hand to perform at the highest level.

So what did we learn in 2016?

We sorted our blog by the most popular viewed posts and the following topics emerged. We summed up the posts with a link to the original content and what to remember for 2017. Enjoy!

Top 5 Customer Success Topics of 2016

Here we’ve outlined the 5 biggest customer success topics of 2016, plus what you should remember heading into 2017:

1. Steps to Build an Internal Quarterly Business Review Process for Customer Success

In order for customer success teams to continue to grow proactively, organizations should implement Quarterly Business Reviews, or QBRs. QBRs help teams, from sales to customer success, highlight what went well in the past and pinpoint where processes could be improved upon. These meetings are often a structured ‘meeting of the minds’ where key stakeholders discuss strategy and ideas for the future quarter.

For customer success teams, internal QBRs are a chance to discuss challenging customers, outline business plans and goals, and learn from fellow leaders. The internal QBR is a way to ensure Customer Success Managers (CSMs), executives, and others are fully aligned on action plans, goals, and other critical metrics.

What to remember in 2017

Make sure you have a process in place! Whether or not your process is a formal QBR, it’s extremely important to take historical data, events, and processes and use them to shape future strategies. Your entire customer success department should be involved to discuss any changes in workflows, brainstorm plans for improvement, and celebrate any big wins.

Learn 4 steps to build out internal QBRs for Customer Success

2. Compensation Plans for Customer Success Managers

For any competitive customer success team, compensation plans are a source of interest and focus. Here, ClientSuccess CEO Dave Blake discusses three popular CSM compensation plans and his thoughts on each.

  • Base Only: pure base salary with no bonus or variable component. This model provides no incentives to CSMs to perform at the highest level, and is often a mistake.
  • Base + Bonus: base salary with a small bonus structure, in which CSMs are measured against a handful of key objectives – both individually and/or as a team. This is a step towards aligning CSM goals with overall company objectives and values.
  • Base + Variable: base salary with a variable component to not only reward for performance, but also to provide more upside for over-achievement against targets. This is the best model to truly reward for achieving their goals.

Here are some questions customer success leaders should think about when choosing a compensation plan for CSMs:

  • Does this plan incentivize the CSM with a small variable compensation plan that’s not too similar to a more leveraged sales compensation model?
  • Does this plan focus the CSM on their primary responsibility of retention while still rewarding growth efforts such as expansion, upsells, or cross-sells?
  • Does this plan align sales and customer success to ensure they are collaborating effectively across their shared book of business

What to remember in 2017

As a customer success leader, there will always be questions about compensations plans and renewal goals. It’s important to remember that compensation plans can change easily with minimum disruption to your team. Keep in mind that the best course of action is one that aligns the goals of your entire company with your CSM’s goals, ensuring everyone is working towards the same end. This makes it easy to know when people are on the right track or not.

Learn the 3 most popular CSM compensation plans

3. Customer Success vs. Customer Support

While the terms ‘customer success’ and ‘customer support’ are often used in similar contexts, the roles they describe are vastly different. Customer support is a group who work towards solving product issues or providing product guidance for customers. Customer support is often more reactive, working on an incoming ticket system from customers.

Customer success, on the other hand, is a real-time, proactive sales approach that consists of building relationships with existing customers, understanding their goals, and helping them reach these expectations. Customer success teams are hands-on, and help customers throughout their entire customer journey.

What to remember in 2017

These two functions are both crucial to the success of any organization. Oftentimes, these two roles work side by side, and this can often lead to higher customer satisfaction rates. Both customer success and customer support teams are on the front lines of customer interactions, and it’s important to remain professional, attentive, and engaged throughout the entire process.

Learn more about Customer Success and Customer Support teams

4. Best Practices to Build a Customer Success Journey Map

For new customers, building a journey map is critical. These maps allow customer success leaders to identify where customers are at in their journey, what they should have already accomplished, and what they still have to complete. Here are 5 best practices to build a customer success journey map:

  • Use an outside-in approach
  • Define the handoffs
  • Focus on the key moments of truth
  • Share with customers and give them insights
  • Measure and optimize the journey map

What to remember in 2017

Focus on the entire journey! Every single touchpoint matters – and not just in the first 90 days. It’s important to realize that successful customers are hopefully in for the long haul, which means they will reach and pass specific milestones over months and years, not days. It’s up to customer success leaders to create this seamless customer experience that makes customers feel valued and respected, not rushed or pushed aside. Developing this long term relationship will help lead to renewals and upsells down the road.

Five best practices to build a customer success journey map

5. Strategic Questions a CSM Should Ask That Might Just Save a Renewal

And now to the big picture item in every CSM’s pocket: renewals. While customers and CSMs should interact often, high-level, strategic conversations are the time and place to discuss the heavy-hitting topics. These conversations are a chance to get out of the ‘in-the-weeds’ conversations and focus on long-term strategies.

You may be thick as thieves with your customers, but how do you really know how they’re feeling? Asking strategic questions during these high-level conversations can help uncover and even save potential renewals:

  • What made you decide to partner with us?
  • What’s one thing we do better than others you partner with?
  • What’s one thing we could do to create a better experience for you?
  • Do you refer our company to others?

What to remember in 2017

It’s important to have these difficult conversations with customers. While it might be awkward at first to ask these questions, it can actually deepen your relationships and uncover hidden pain points. Often these strategic conversations can lead to team-wide education opportunities and new best practices being formed.

4 strategic questions CSMs should ask to save a renewal

What was your favorite topic of 2016? What customer success tips should others keep in mind for 2017?

eBooks:

5 Ways to Surprise & Delight Your Customers

Customer Success as a Culture: Customer Success Leaders Edition

Blog Posts:

Customer Success in the C-Suite—Aligning the Board and Exec Team

The Four Fold Mission of Customer Success

Learn more about how ClientSuccess can help your company develop a strong customer success methodology and strategy with easy-to-use customer success software by requesting a 30-minute demo.

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