Steve Willmott, Customer Success Manager, Dun & Bradstreet
How Customer Success Managers are critical in the new engagement model
Customer Success Manager is one of those job titles which can be met with scepticism. It can be perceived as insincere or fashionable marketing jargon. When I sense that reaction I quip that I'm simply a victim of my own job title. Do customers really believe that their supplier really cares about their success?
Lots of businesses today selling services and products to other businesses, particularly those selling SaaS solutions with subscription based commercial models, actively market and promote Customer Success. They often talk about customer centricity or putting customers at the heart of everything they do, front and centre or putting the customer first. They talk about being externally focused rather than internally focused. They talk about being a business partner and being a trusted advisor to their customer not just a supplier. But what does this really mean and how does that become a reality? The single most important step is to provide your customer with an effective, passionate and committed Customer Success Manager to manage the relationship with the customer at the point of consumption of your product and service. The traditional role here is one of Account Manager but often traditionally this role is working to ensure the success of the supplier. It is often a commercially focused role, carrying a commercial sales target and perceived by the customer as looking to sell more within the business, not working directly with the customer to ensure their success.
Ultimately if your service or product provides commercial value and makes your customer more commercially successful, they will probably renew their subscription and continue to buy your product or service providing that success translates into ROI beyond the cost of your product or service. If you truly help them to be successful and make their success a reality they will promote and recommend your product or service to others both inside and outside their organisation. It will result in an increase in customer satisfaction, net promoter scores, referrals, retention, new opportunity all of which contribute directly to shareholder value. A challenge here for a lot of businesses is how to directly measure that success. You have to divert from the tradition - hire account managers and put them on a quota and simply measure their target quota against their salary. Customer Success can be just as easily measured by retention rate and upsell (portfolio growth), referrals and opportunities, usage and adoption growth, Net Promoter Scores and tangible locked in ROI against customer objectives and success measurables.
An initial sale will always be conceptual or theoretical in terms of value. A customer does not realise success and return at the point of sale. A Customer Success manager works with the customer to make this a reality, translating features and capabilities into tangible business benefits and value. A Customer Success Manager is a consultant, not a trainer. A Customer Success Manager asks questions and builds relationships with key stakeholders and users to understand the customer's business, objectives, goals and challenges. A Customer Success manager demonstrates that the company he/she works for values their customer's business and then works with them to ensure that they add value to the customer's business. In many respects a Customer Success Manager is an employee of the customer not their employer.
Customer Success Managers can work very well alongside commercial account managers who drive strategy and work with senior stakeholders and network to find more stakeholders and opportunities, whilst the Customer Success Manager can focus on helping end users to cement the business value and benefits. The Customer Success manager becomes a trusted advisor and a consultant and in that sense is never perceived as a salesperson simply looking for new opportunities and upsell. Of course this is still implicit in the role, but new opportunities and upsell will be the natural result of the success of this role through referrals and demonstrated value, not simply conceptual value.
Another vital ingredient in the recipe for success is the Customer Success Manager acting as the voice of the customer within their own organisation. A Customer Success Manager will be uniquely positioned to relay feedback and ideas for product and service enhancements linked to clear use cases generating value and benefits. This can help to drive a meaningful and relevant product roadmap based on real rather than perceived customer needs. They act as a liaison with first level support functions to ensure issues and service tickets are appropriately addressed and escalated. The Customer Success Manager understands the customer and reported issues in operational context so helps to build a contextual support relationship rather than a transactional support relationship.
So this is how and why the role of a Customer Success Manager is critical in the new customer engagement model in the new technology and B2B service space. A successful Customer Success Manager will ensure your business succeeds by ensuring the success of your customers. Make sure you have a successful Customer Success Team.