Totango Blog: Your Guide to Managing the Customer Journey

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3 Things Customer Success Management Is NOT

What is the best way to manage your customers? It’s the billion dollar question that subscription businesses want to know. As customer success continues to grow, it is important to take a critical look at common management frameworks and evaluate how well they work for customer success. Here are three that are definitely not it:

Customer Success is NOT Pipeline Management

With over 40% of Customer Success professionals coming from traditional sales and account manager backgrounds, it is no surprise that many customer success teams model their practices around the traditional sales process. While it might seem like a good idea, this framework quickly breaks down when dealing with customers instead of prospects.

Following this model, a customer success team might build a renewals pipeline to prioritize their customers according to their contract date. As Guy Nirpaz mentions in Farm Don’t Hunt, “The problem with this approach is that by the time a customer gets into the pipeline of renewals, they have often already made the renewal decision.”

Customers will churn at all stages of their customer journey. A disproportionate amount of churn happens during onboarding, and you can expect more churn if you strictly follow your renewals pipeline. Regardless of contract date, you must engage customers and provide real value to continue the relationship.

Customer Success is NOT Project Management

To be clear: Customer Success Managers DO manage projects (e.g. campaigns, technical integrations, etc), but the practice of customer success cannot itself be managed as a project. Why? Because one of the main tenets of customer success is to use routine programs to create a customer relationship without an end date.

Projects have a defined scope and resources. The goal is to achieve the project requirements before a specific end date. Customer journeys do not map well to this structure. Loyal customers could have leadership changes that bring them back to onboarding or risk of churn. nurture programs are often very routine, and upsells do not strictly happen at contract renewal.

Project management works great for software development, sales expansion, and more, but it lacks the long-term horizon to use as your framework for Customer Success.

Customer Success is NOT Customer Support

Customer support, as a business function, offers an avenue for customer escalations to be tracked and resolved. In this practice, the trigger for the team is the escalation. Customer success works differently, Nirpaz explains, because “Escalations are expensive, frustrating, and cannot be planned for. With Customer Success we do not want to react – we want to be proactive and impact long before escalation is needed by the customer.”

The triggers for customer success are metrics around engagement, product adoption, and more. Customer success teams proactively monitor this data using solutions that help prioritize, manage and scale their activities. Your customer success team should be building programs and frameworks that are predictive and proactive, helping minimize customer escalations before they happen by providing real value throughout the customer journey.

What is Customer Success?

Customer success is a portfolio management exercise. Your goal is to maximize the value of the portfolio, rather than focusing on contract date, projects, or escalations.

Using a portfolio approach for customer success means tracking the key customer metrics necessary to plan and execute a strategy to optimize the aggregate yield of your portfolio. Your team will have a better understanding of the right programs to prioritize and in turn will turn your team into a strong revenue generator for your business.

To learn more about this philosophy on customer success, read Farm Don’t Hunt by Guy Nirpaz. Not only does it feature a new framework for customer success, it also offers over 20 best practices around onboarding, renewals, and more.

Kevin Garcia

Kevin is the Marketing Manager @Totango focused on digital, brand, and product marketing. He helps companies simplify their customer success operations and deliver real value to customers. Prior to Totango, Kevin was a PMM @GoodHire, the fastest growing employment screening solution in the US.

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