Last month I attended two conferences, Gainsight's Pulse Customer Success conference and the CEdMA Training Leadership Conference. It’s always a great opportunity to learn what’s going on in the industry, and I'm excited about three emerging trends:
Customer Success is Greater than the Customer Success Manager Role
Prescriptive Customer Success
Focus on Adoption
1. Customer Success is Greater than the Customer Success Manager Role
When I attended my first Pulse conference in 2015, I was dismayed. With over 2,000 customer success colleagues in attendance, the focus was purely the Customer Success Manager (CSM) role. Having specialized in customer onboarding, enablement, and education for many years, I was surprised by the lack of discussion about existing customer facing services and programs, like Customer Education, Professional Services, and Support.
Last month was my fourth Pulse conference. Pulse has grown to over 5,200 attendees, and I am relieved to see the industry embracing a larger perspective. Pulse kicked off with Alison Pickens, Gainsight CCO, sharing that Customer Success (CS) is greater than the Customer Success Manager (CSM) role. CS > CSM is a key trend for 2018. Other presenters shared this sentiment as well.
From Alison Pickens keynote, Pulse 2018
Why this is important. Customer Success is not the job of one role. In order for Customer Success to successfully engage and enable customers in a scalable way, Customer Success must integrate and orchestrate the post-sales customer journey. Otherwise, CSMs are overwhelmed, reactive, and even the scapegoat for customer churn. Customer Success is everyone’s job, and the CSM is a strategic advisor, not a gopher.
2. Prescriptive Customer Success
Most companies are still in the mode of acquiring new customers, then hoping customers adopt their products. They hope customers figure out how to reach their desired business outcomes, but don’t guide them to success. Instead of using hope as a strategy, it's key to guide customers along their journey with best practices, quick wins, milestones, and deliverables. I emphasized the need to be prescriptive four years ago when I built an orchestrated onboarding journey for customers at Jaspersoft.
From Alison Pickens keynote, Pulse 2018
Why this is important. Since poor onboarding is the biggest cause of churn, we can no longer rely on hope as a strategy. It's our responsibility to ensure customers achieve their desired business outcomes. I presented the orchestrated onboarding journey at the CEdMA Training Leadership conference last month, and highlighted the need for internal teams to break free from their silos. Instead, connect the dots from the pre-sales to the post-sales teams, and then build a seamless customer facing journey, which includes the Customer Education and Professional Services offerings customers need need to quickly reach their goals. Front loading the relationship with prescriptive guidance leads to higher renewals.
3. Focus on Adoption
In the subscription economy there’s a lot of talk about land, expand and renew. A trend I’m excited to see is including adoption in this formula for success. Adoption is a key ingredient which makes expanding and renewing accounts possible. Both Sarah Sedgeman, CCO at Kinaxis, at the CEdMA Conference; and JB Wood, CEO of TSIA at Pulse, emphasized the need to include adopt in the journey: land, adopt, expand, and renew. TSIA calls this the LAER model.
From TSIA blog
Why this is important.
Adoption is important because it pulls together the three key Customer Success trends to focus not just on the technology, but on the customer relationship, especially during onboarding. Thomas Lah, Executive Director at TSIA, emphasizes, "Today’s customers are less focused on product features and more on how the technology will lead them to improved business outcomes.”
Acknowledging that Customer Success is greater than the CSM role is the first step to building cross-functional prescriptive approaches. The orchestrated onboarding journey guides customers to quick adoption of your product, and that leads to expanding and renewing your install base of customers.