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Is there a trade off triangle for customer success

StevenForth Founding Partner | Expert ✭✭✭

I have been thinking a lot about tradeoff triangles recently. One classic is the project management triangle of Cost-Time-Quality. I have been reading Software Engineering at Google: Lessons Learned from Programming Over Time. In chapter six Leading at Scale there is an interesting example of a trade off triangle for search optimization that Google uses to manage search latency: Latency-Capacity-Quality. For higher quality search results you need to add more capacity or accept more latency. The three have to be kept in balance.

In a lot of our design work (we design skill and competency models and value and pricing models and then connect these to help define strategy) we often have to manage trade offs to Simplicity-Depth-Breadth.

Is there an established trade off triangle for customer success? What would the three vertices be?


  • PatrickCarmitchel
    PatrickCarmitchel TSIA Administrator | admin

    This is a very interesting question given that the definition of Customer Success varies substantially from one company to the next. My immediate reaction reference how TSIA research defines the goal of Customer Success:

    The goal of customer success is to enable effective adoption of technology and services, which can lead to contract renewal and more revenue from existing customers through upsell and cross-sell. - Phil Nanus

    In this quote, Adoption, Expansion and Renewal would represent the tradeoff triangle IMHO.

    @Kerri Wienbeck and @Jaime Farinos, I'd be interested in your take on this topic.

    @Phil Nanus is conducting research inquires across hundreds of companies at various stages from establishing Customer Success to scaling, monetizing, optimizing, etc., so I'm sure he'll have something to say... hopefully I didn't misquote him above 😉

  • StevenForth
    StevenForth Founding Partner | Expert ✭✭✭

    Thanks @Patrick Carmitchel. That one is worth exploring. I wonder if this is a trade off triangle though as I think these three things are mutually reinforcing.

    Adoption drives Expansion and makes Renewal more likely.

    Is there more tension (trade off) between Professional Services - Automated Services - High Touch Services.

    Professional Services wants revenue, so it does not want too many Automated or High Touch Services.

    High Touch Services are expensive and not scalable but can have a big impact on Adoption and drive learning.

    The goal is to find the right trade offs between Professional Services - Automated Services - High Touch Services that lead to success with the three goals of Adoption - Expansion - Renewals.

    I need help thinking through this, and a white board, and I think it may be worth exploring other possible trade off triangles.

  • StevenForth
    StevenForth Founding Partner | Expert ✭✭✭

    Scaling - Monetizing - Optimizing could be another candidate trade off triangle. There is tension between Scaling and Monetizing. I am not completely sure I understand Optimizing here. What is being optimized? This may be a question for @Phil Nanus

  • Phil Nanus
    Phil Nanus Member | Guru ✭✭✭✭✭

    Customer achievement of business outcomes

    Customer experience

    Supplier ROI

  • StevenForth
    StevenForth Founding Partner | Expert ✭✭✭

    In his excellent book Thinking in Services Majid Iqbal proposes a pricing model in which Price, Value and Experience interact. He does this to help quantify the value of Customer Experience in pricing a service, but one could also think of this as a trade-off triangle.

    Price - the higher the price the lower the value, the higher the price the higher the expectations for user experience

    Value - the better the customer experience the higher the value, the the higher a price can be charged

    Experience - the lower the price the more tolerance for a substandard customer experience, the lower the value can be

    I think I will try to tease out the interactions of different trade-off triangles for pricing success.

  • PatrickCarmitchel
    PatrickCarmitchel TSIA Administrator | admin

    @Steven Forth I do like this approach for a tradeoff triangle with regard to pricing success. Customer Success is a much more complex thing as you can see in the strategic level of the three factors proposed by @Phil Nanus above.

  • steve tennant
    steve tennant Member | Scholar ✭✭

    @Steven Forth The Tradeoff Triangle is an interesting idea. I like Customer Business Outcomes and Customer Experience that @Phil Nanus proposed, maybe Customer Effort as an alternative to Customer Experience but those are in the same neighborhood. Other dimensions that come to mind are Technical Complexity/Simplicity (which drives effort and service delivery skills, and customer experience) and the High Touch/Automation dimension you proposed (which drives effort and simplicity).


  • Carlos Alves
    Carlos Alves TSIA Administrator, Moderator, Founding Member | admin

    Maybe this:

    • Customer Effort (barriers, how hard is to use it; adoption)

    - Customer Experience (consistency on usage and across the org touchpoints)

    - Customer Success (outcome-based goals)