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Challenging economic times really put pressure on teams to retain revenue. How can you ensure you’re aligning resources to the right initiatives that will protect and grow your customer base? Thankfully, customer success operations has come to the rescue. By collecting and analyzing data that helps you implement and understand the effectiveness of customer success initiatives, CS operations can tie impact to key business outcomes and the bottom line.
That timely topic got center stage at the Customer Success Festival in Austin during a panel discussion called “Supercharge your ops team to help you grow revenue at scale,” featuring Chris Dishman, VP of global customer success at Totango, and Taylor Hodges, global head of customer success at JLL Technologies – Corrigo.
Whether you have a CS operations team in place or are just getting started with a fraction of someone’s time, Chris and Taylor highlighted five elements of CS operations success.
1. Start with the end in mind
In a tough economic climate, all eyes are on revenue retention. While net revenue retention (NRR) is a key business metric for many companies, Chris shared that customer success operations can also help you get a closer look at leading indicators to tell whether your team is on track to hit the target. CS operations can help you measure and manage Net Promoter Score (NPS), customer satisfaction scores (CSAT), utilization and adoption, and support tickets and escalations.
And while you’re focused on your own business metrics, your entire organization should also be rallied around helping your customers achieve their own outcomes. Chris says, “Your teams should be talking about, ‘What journey do I need to build to get my customer to their outcome?’” Chris suggests that measuring customer health is one of the most important performance indicators to determine whether an account, a segment, or your overall portfolio is healthy or at risk on their journey to success. Look at the inputs, weighting, and results regularly. “Ask if your customer health score is right, is it giving you the insight you need, are you iterating,” Chris says. “It’s not a set it and forget it metric.”
2. Continuously iterate
“Iteration is key,” Taylor agrees. As the pace of change increases, Taylor advises that your operations strategy should evolve with the times. There might be a sponsor change at a customer account. Another customer might undergo a strategic shift. Or, as Taylor says, there might be economic factors that change your customers’ expectations for what outcomes may be possible in current conditions. You need to make sure you’re adapting and measuring what matters.
In addition to digging into the quantitative data, CS operations teams also consider qualitative inputs like user feedback, comments shared in NPS surveys, or even discussion notes from touchpoints with a CSM. Qualitative metrics give you a more holistic understanding of how customers feel about your products or services and the overall experience they’re having on their customer journey. When asked if CS operations should use the same metrics for each customer segment, Taylor said that it may vary based on vertical or industry, product line, or size of ARR.
More than that, other measures of success may fall into your CS operations playbook: Were you able to successfully launch and drive adoption of your CS platform? Is the CS team able to support more revenue with less people or fewer resources? Efficiency metrics are just as helpful to track alongside KPIs like upsell, cross-sell, growing your list of willing references, and tracking customer attainment of desired outcomes.
3. Integrate your data (and yes, iterate)
While all of those inputs paint a more holistic picture of your customer health, Chris warns, “Don’t boil the ocean. Start small and grow, adding additional data sources as and when you need them.”
Taylor adds that data integration requires a clear plan and prioritization: “Ask what will create the most value so you know which sources to integrate first.” If you have a team of one, or CS operations is only a fraction of someone’s job responsibility as you’re scaling your team, then prioritization becomes even more critical. Both Chris and Taylor agree that you can start small, build your business case, and iterate as you integrate more sources and grow your operations.
4. Start somewhere, even if you’re ‘in the red’
Measure what matters, even if you know the numbers aren’t going to look good. “Don’t be afraid or hold back if the numbers are bad,” Taylor says. Start with the small wins and build your case. You need to start somewhere, and if that means you’re in the red, then keep working on wins until you get to the green.
Chris suggests talking with your team about how your customer journey is your product, and that like the products you sell, the journey should evolve based on changing needs and expectations. “It’s not about me and my metric of median days in onboarding,” Chris says. “It’s about the customer’s outcome.”
5. Build trust through tech
Technology and the right CS platform can help supercharge the impact of CS operations by creating a source of truth for customer health. Chris says that tech can ensure no one is left out of the loop. “Giving others across the org visibility into customer health builds trust so you can break down silos,” Chris said. “This helps you keep a pulse on your customers across the portfolio. What are their strategic initiatives? Challenges? How does that help you better forecast opportunities for expansion, preemptively identify and proactively address risk, or shape the roadmap?” Finding answers to those questions requires multiple functions to work together and have shared visibility into the state of each customer’s journey.
While technology can create visibility and foster alignment, Taylor cautions: “Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. You need to take action quickly.”
At the end of the day, CS operations is about ensuring a healthy experience for your customers and helping them achieve unique success. By continuously iterating and focusing on what matters, CS operations can help drive revenue at scale.
In 2023, Totango is taking its show on the road. Visit our events page frequently for future updates of where we’ll be.