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What are the 1st Steps Towards Establishing a "Customer Success" Structure?

Chris Wright
Chris Wright Founding Member | Scholar ✭✭
edited May 2020 in Customer Success

For organizations without "Customer Success" departments, what are some easy first steps to move in that direction (versus upheaval of entire org or conflict with Sales)?

Best Answer


  • Chris Wright
    Chris Wright Founding Member | Scholar ✭✭

    Thank you Thomas. Appreciate the response and insights!

    And I like the suggestion of getting foot in the door by focusing first on large complex customer accounts where we can prove the concept and get buy-in from our Sales partners...

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

    Hi @Chris Wright - There is an 8 minute webinar on a CS maturity model. Focus on Phase 2 vs. Phase 3 and 4. In phase 2 there is a matrix managed CX or CS initiative which is often focused on Voice of Customer. This helps cement the Customer culture in your company. It starts to get 'real' in Phase 3 and 4.

    Biggest insight - You must go top down instead of bottom up when you hit Phase 3. Customer Success will break glass, and if you don't address the conflict up front you are pushing the hard conversations further down the line.

  • StevenForth
    StevenForth Founding Partner | Expert ✭✭✭

    Customer success does need new skills. How are people helping management and HR understand the new skills needed for customer success? Customer success is very different from customer support but not everyone can articulate the difference.

  • StevenForth
    StevenForth Founding Partner | Expert ✭✭✭

    Reading @Phil Nanus above, I am interested in how people are using CX to improve CS. And having written that, I am reminded of the fellow who insisted we have NAMs (Non Acronym Meetings).

  • David Perrault
    David Perrault Founding Analyst | Expert ✭✭✭

    @Chris Wright I recommend you first try to agree the scope of what Customer Success might be for your company and its end goals. Once this is established, it will provide you the foundations of how you want to structure it and operate it.

  • Doug Caviness
    Doug Caviness Member | Expert ✭✭✭

    In addition to the TSIA resources, another good primer on the topic is the book, 'Customer Success' by Nick Mehta, which I've found really helpful for creating a shared understanding across internal silos.

  • Kirill Markelov
    Kirill Markelov Founding Member | Scholar ✭✭

    Hi Chris, what we did as first steps

    • we took one big account where we felt increasing difficulty to renew managed contract
    • we agreed on the root cause being no effort done internally to increase and demonstrate the value
    • we drawn customer success journey with the customer
    • we placed RACI on our side of the journey and (surprise!) a lot of "R"s went to customer success manager which we didn't have
    • we brought decision-makers around the table and gave them 2 options: we invest in CSM for this contract or we lose X amount of business on next renewal cycle
    • we got it and already at that point had a good idea of what this person will be doing

    I am oversimplifying here, but advice from Thomas to focus on large and complex accounts was really helpful for us.

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

    Hi @Steven Forth - The most common CX/CS intersection is what we refer to as 'Operationalizing the Journey'. This combines two practices. The first is execution of the Customer Journey Map. The correct way to think about this is an Outside-In approach by interviewing customers that represent certain personas and understanding the moments that matter for the part of the journey that you are mapping. That is the 'CX' portion. There are many traps here, but the most common one that I see is the company doing this internally and not interviewing customers.

    The CS portion is then mapping success plans and playbooks to the journey. Within CS, we often see success plans and playbooks that are generic. This means that you can literally shift those to any CS organization in the world. Think about running a QBR or responding to a Promoter/Detractor NPS survey. While those are critical plays - the ones that will move the needle are specific to your customer's journey, and your customer's business outcome.

  • StevenForth
    StevenForth Founding Partner | Expert ✭✭✭

    Thanks @Phil Nanus that makes a lot of sense. What I often see when I look at customer journey maps is that they skip over value delivered to the customer. I think a good customer journey map needs to look at how value is communicated, delivered and recognized (by the customer) at each touchpoint. Does that make sense? Ibbaka is currently reviewing and revising its own customer journey maps and it has been a revealing and sometimes sobering process.

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

    @Steven Forth - generally yes, and I agree. There are many pitfalls. Here are some...

    Mapping for mapping's sake

    Not doing anything with the CJM

    Executing inside out versus outside in

    Trying to map everything (all personas, segments, lifecycle stages, technologies, etc) all at once