Customer Success - Is IT CRM ?

With over 28 years of experience Piyush is not only a successful investor and businessman who set-out to fix customer success issues in the industry, but also an amazing author who has published a book named `Helping Customers Win'.

Mid-2019, I met a Turkish company CEO, my former classmate, and mentioned what I was `up to' those days. I had just launched a Customer Success (CS) management platform back then, so the CS topic came-up. His first reaction was, aren't there a lot of CRM vendors already?'The CS space appeared undefined, and there was a lot of explanation needed. Since then, executives are more aware of the customer success solution as a category, yet it has a long way to go.

The concept of customer relationship management (CRM), suggest that it covers customers' entire life cycle. Most CRM vendors did not build CRM platforms to cater to all this inclusive needs. CRM functionality is currently limited to supporting the sale of products and services. Leads are collected through marketing automation systems and transferred to a CRM platform after initial nurturing traction. In CRM, warm leads are converted to opportunities and then tracked, monetized, and reported to senior management till they are closed, either as won or lost. So, what happens after an opportunity closes? CRM systems do not manage the account after this stage.

Customer success platforms make more effective and integrated operational AND communication systems with the customer experience at its core!

Desired Business Outcomes
Customer success interaction starts from the sales phase and partially from marketing. Each interaction that is from discovery, product demonstration, proposal development, and contracting is an opportunity to impress the customer and provide a superior customer experience. In this phase, the customer success standpoint and expected outcomes supported by key performance metrics are documented clearly in a customer success solution and shared with the customer contacts, sponsors, influencers, and decision-makers. With clear expectations a few undertakings like supportive documentation, product implementation, user on-boarding, adoption, and ongoing renewals become much easier.

Customer Success Practices Post-Sale
Representatives from customer and vendor sides, including the customer success manager (CSM), negotiate given constraints and then build project plans keeping desired outcomes in mind. Continuously updated documentation with audit trails set up projects for success. Lessons learned from both successful and unsuccessful deployments pave the way for the next successful one. The vendor's senior management and customer sponsor review plan provide guidance and handle escalations.

Building and configuring a solution is only half the battle. Popularly called the on-boarding activity, getting it out to the end-users is the other equally significant undertaking. Marketing is an important skill when engaging with this large user community. CSMs leverage recorded verbal and written mass communication pieces to continually emphasize the solution's importance and benefits in collaboration with the customer's core team of project managers, influencers, and champions.

Prep For Renewals
Only when a product is woven into the fabric of an organization and translated into a naturally understood value, it finds adoption. Vendor CSMs juggle multiple responsibilities to reach this goal.

Maintain relationships with customer product champions engaged throughout the implementation process

.Serve end-user needs and address their feedback promptly
.Celebrate end-user success with the product in all possible forums
.Make customer contacts, the hero in their respective groups and organizations
.Work with customers to document case studies, record videos, and prepare presentations
.Look for winning techniques that help customers be more productive, effective, and successful at their jobs
.Ensure end users have access to up-to-date training materials.
.Help them spread the word and get you more license revenue.

Quarterly Business Reviews(QBR)
CSMs schedule quarterly business reviews(QBR), meetings for the whole year based on the nature of the business, customer-specific situation, and availability. They request customer contacts to collect adoption metrics and send out adoption assessment questionnaires before these meetings. Then, they use this combination of actual or extrapolated quantitative and qualitative data to create a perspective that is a hypothesized value talk track on the adoption before the quarterly business review meeting.

As a CSM, handling multiple customer relationships or as a group leader supervising multiple CSMs, overseeing your entire organizations' recurring revenue is not an easy responsibility. Periodic reporting of usage metrics, project status, and end-user feedback is an essential component of CSM's obligations to provide adequate visibility to supervisors and other stake holders on the vendor side.

Bringing IT Together
Vendors have deployed customer relationship management (CRM), project management, support desk, email campaign, and survey tools to manage some of these needs. The challenge with these piecemeal steps is the lack of an integrated system with a holistic view to create a seamless link across these products. Given the magnitude of this information, a customer success software solution helps streamline this data set. Customer success platforms make more effective and integrated operational & communication systems with the customer experience at its core! So, to round out my conversation with my former classmate, customer success management is not CRM, at least given the way CRM platforms are architected.