An Overview by
Jim Tuohy

It is evident that Customer Success is gaining tremendous momentum from the impressive turnout and high level of engagement at the Pulse Conference. We had the opportunity to speak with numerous executives and keynote speakers about the future of Customer Success and found that although overall sentiment is bullish, there are many challenges to address moving forward. The following is a summary of five key takeaways:

1. Emphasis on Customer Success Continues to Grow

We expected a large turnout this year at the Pulse Conference, but we were amazed by the magnitude of attendee growth. It is a testament to the growing emphasis on the topic that attendance doubled over the previous year and included vast cross-functional representation. We observed representatives from a number of different business functions, including sales, support, and services, which is a perceptible sign that companies are recognizing the value of approaching Customer Success holistically.  With the shift toward subscription models continuing and Customer Success maturing, we are very excited to see the field continue to grow.

2. Customer Success is Not Exclusive to SaaS

Despite the copious SaaS presence at the conference, there was growing, albeit nascent, representation from on premise software providers. The “Nuances of On Premise Deployment” session explored the subtle differences in deploying Customer Success within a non-SaaS world. While the crowd agreed that the fundamentals of Customer Success stay the same regardless of deployment method, there was a good discussion around how to tailor the Customer Success operating model to an on premise environment. In order to recognize Customer Success benefits for on premise deployments, the fundamental metrics for measuring Customer Success, and the actions taken as a result of those measurements, must be tailored specifically for on premise solutions. Discussions will continue to expand around the complexity of implementing Customer Success initiatives in companies with broad product portfolios, which encompass SaaS and on premise solutions. It was great to see all of the work going towards Customer Success for on premise models, but the industry has a ways to go in order to fully define the operating model for on premise providers.

3. Journey Mapping Upfront is Critical

Customer Success, at its core, is about the customer experience, and a journey map is a great framework to use to facilitate a discussion around the desired end-to-end customer journey. The journey map should show the customer’s unique perspective during each step of the journey and assist with identifying customer pain points and gaps to address to achieve the desired customer outcomes. When defining your Customer Success operating model, consider journey mapping early in the process to ensure your organization stays focused on the ultimate goal—driving the desired customer experience.

4. Building the Business Case Relies on Proper Metrics

Customer Success is still in its early stages, and thus, companies are still trying to figure out how to build the business case. There is agreement at a high level that metrics such as customer retention, CSAT, churn, etc. are critical, but there is continued debate around the nuances in measuring them. It is important that companies identify the unique metrics that are most applicable to their business as well as the best approach to measuring them. Some questions raised during the conference include: Should churn be reported on a per product basis or in aggregate? Should churn be calculated with upsell included or using number of customers? Should customers who switched products be counted in the churn rate? Conversation around metrics will continue throughout this year, and we expect best practices to be created as Customer Success matures.

5. Cross Functional Alignment is Still a Challenge

Cross functional alignment is an area in which companies continue to struggle. We expect this to be a popular topic of discussion moving forward as companies learn from their initial Customer Success implementations and also develop unique best practices. Some of the common best practices discussed for getting functions aligned include identifying and agreeing on common goals, using journey mapping as a tool to gain alignment on desired customer outcomes, and determining the metrics that will be used to measure success early in the process.

Customer Success is still a maturing field, and many of the topics discussed at Pulse will continue to be defined throughout the year. Best practices will be developed, but there is no one-size-fits-all model, and identifying a unique approach to Customer Success presents a tremendous opportunity for all tech companies.

If you would like to discuss these takeaways in greater detail, feel free to contact me at JTuohy@waterstonegroup.com.

For the printer friendly PDF, please click here.

About the Author
Jim Tuohy

Jim Tuohy is a Principle at Waterstone. Jim advises clients on a number of issues ranging from post-sales operating model design, customer support and professional service strategy development, revenue growth strategy, and new product design and launch. He has worked with clients across a variety of technology sectors, including enterprise software, hardware, and telecommunications.