What does “success” in customer success look like?
Usually it’s a relatively easy questions to answer - “our customers stick around” (retention) our “customers don’t leave” (churn) “we sell more stuff to our customers” (upsells / crossells).
This is definitely true and improving metrics like this should be key objectives of any CS team. However, churn, retention and increasing the install base are not very effective goals to focus on day to day.
What do I mean by effective goals?
Effective goals are indicators that you can have an impact on in the short term and that motivate changes in behaviour.
For goals to be effective on a day to day basis they need to be leading indicators. They should be related to the overall objective of course but their rate of change should be higher so that you can act on variance and feedback faster.
By contrast, overall retention/churn numbers are lagging indicators and not something you can easily impact on a day to day basis. When they change it’s usually too late to counteract it and you spend a long time digging into why the change even happened.
So what do you focus on instead?
Focus on the levers or inputs.
Here’s some examples of good leading indicators for CS teams but there’s many more depending on how you operate.
1) Team activity
If you don’t interact with your customers, be it in a high or low touch model, they are unlikely to be happy with your service level and that’s not good for retaining them long term.
If you have a team of customer success managers it’s a good idea to measure their activity levels. This should be easy if you are using a CRM and they are logging calls, emails and other work.
The level of interaction needed will vary a lot from company to company and depending on how many customers an individual manages. When you decide on the optimal level you can then have more productive conversations and impact short term behaviour.
2) Weekly or monthly customer usage
Do you know the usage patterns of your customers? How often do they log in? What apps are they using at different stages in their lifecycle?
In the consumer app world, weekly and monthly active users (WAU’s and MAU’s) are critical and there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be the case in the higher touch customer success world.
Discover what good usage is and set goals for the team around this. If you focus in on a high usage on a weekly / monthly basis, high retention will follow in the longer term.
3) Key moments or value points
What are the “aha” moments or key points of value throughout a customer lifecycle?
For example, importing contacts in a CRM. Inviting other users to a collaboration tool. Receiving a monthly report from a payments app. Integrating an external system.
Find the key actions that your customers need to take to be successful and set clear targets around their completion. These kind of goals are effective because you can really move the needle in the short term and focus your conversations on the team around shaping this behaviour.
How to develop your own leading indicators -
The mistake I’ve made and I see others making here is focusing on the negative.
For example - 12 customers churned in Q1 and those customers all churned for xyz reasons and had the following characteristics.
This is great information and definitely worth knowing but when you are trying to develop key indicators focusing on the negative is not productive.
Instead identify the customers who are doing well, who stick around, who give you more money.
What are the characteristics of these customers? How often are the team interacting with them? What do their usage patterns look like? What combinations of tools or behaviours do they share. How often do they run into problems?
If you can zero in on this information your next step is to come up with a profile of your “star pupils”. Then you can share this profile with customer success managers so they understand how to facilitate this type of success.
These kind of goals are what I meant by motivating. You are far more likely to initiate change with smaller actionable goals rather than setting a lofty metric and leaving the execution to vary from person to person.