Here are the 4 Steps to Customer Success
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Here are the 4 Steps to Customer Success

3 minute read
Tom Murphy avatar

The hottest job title in marketing right now may be "Customer SuccessOfficer," though there remains some debateabout exactly what that means.

For example, it's fair to ask: Is customersuccess management  different from customer support or  customer relationship management?

Obligingly, Forrester's consulting arm  issued a paper entitled "Howto Get Started with Customer Success Management." It should serve as ahandy primer for those who want a state-of-the-art interpretation of thisemerging marketing strategy.

The paper, sponsored by Gainsight -- a big fish in this still-small pond -- evenprovides a nifty, four-step process for building a customer success program thatwill be a revenue-generation operation instead of an extension to existing costcenters.

The Recent Past

First, it's important to understand where this is coming from. Forrestertraces its roots in the trend towards a subscription economy, where the value ofa customer is defined in the long-term revenue generated by subscribing toa service instead of buying a packaged product.

Think software, music or webservices. Or think about it this way: you buy a TV, but you pay the cablecompany hundreds of dollars every year to watch it. It seems like there are moresubscription services every week — and there are.

"Industries like media, entertainment and telecommunications have fullyembraced this model, while other industries such as publishing, computer storageand healthcare services are moving in this direction," states the white paper (registration required). "This shift in spending habits, in which goods are repackaged asservices, has the potential to fundamentally reshape our economy."

The report later explains that customer success management lets companieshave data-driven conversations with customers that can lead to moresales, add-on services and generally higher revenue. Hence, customer servicemanagement or CSM has won a large following in software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, andparticularly in B2B SaaS vendors.

Learning Opportunities

Trusted Advisors

What is a customer success officer? 

It's a senior role, whose function is to become the 'trusted advisor' to the company to make its customers successful with the products theyhave purchased, ensuring that they are realizing economic value from theirinvestments in order to preserve their revenue."

In otherwords, it helps customer find the return on investment (ROI) in the services and, thus, encourages themto buy more.

CSM can help subscription-based companies find new customers, increase salesto existing customer, optimize customer processes, and, eventually, add valuefor their clients.

Forrester studied companies with strong CSM programs and found they tended tofollow four steps:

  1. Articulate: The first step involves defining the tiers of customerswho are important to the business, the frequency of contacts desired with eachtier and the business outcomes desired.
  2. Focus: The idea here is to ensure the processes used to engagecustomers are consistent across tiers and still agile enough to supportcustomers as they evolve.
  3. Organize: Forrester said successful CSM organizations have strongsupport at the executive level and clear metrics by which they are judged,usually based on customer retention. It said CSM efforts typically reside inthree different departments: sales, operations or customer support.
  4. Data: The fourth step requires access to the right data to help drivecustomer conversations. This data may highlight such things as product usage,financial considerations and customer feedback.

Title image by Anky / Shutterstock.