The HotLine Magazine Archives
For The Profession of Cloud/SaaS Product Support
Cost justifying a customer success management team's budget can be a challenge, especially in the beginning. The key tasks of the first phase of a CSM team’s development are to understand and categorize your interactions with the customers (type, duration, volume, cost & effectiveness) and to begin to define the statuses of the customer relationship health measurement graph. You have to be able to use this data to prove the truth of that old adage "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Ultimately, you need to show that you are directly associated with an income stream and that you are making a strategically significant contribution to the company's overall profitability.

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One of the most well-represented sectors in the SaaS/Cloud lineup is the general group of technologies to automate and assist companies with everything up to the execution of a sales contract with a customer. The category takes in a range of functions and often goes by a variety of labels: Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Business Intelligence, List Management, Business Analytics, Marketing Automation, Sales Force Automation (SFA) etc. There are lots of on-demand tools for “Hunters.” But what about systems for effectively managing the ongoing customer relationship? Where are the products and technologies for the “Farmers?”

While there are a few vendors beginning to advertise Customer Retention Software, most of the offerings appear to be still primarily focused on marketing and sales to new customers. However, as the pressure fromWall Street increases on SaaS/Cloud firms to improve their profitability and valuation by increasing customer retention and the predictability of their recurring revenue streams, and as Customer Success Management teams proliferate, the market for tools is set to expand. Here is a beginning list of what will be needed in a basic customer retention manager's technology suite:

Customer Engagement / Application Adoption Monitoring

In the research of The HotLine Magazine over the past several years, the lack of customer adoption of a application's feature set has been consistently reported as one of the primary indicators of churn. Awareness of that factor is rapidly growing, and Customer Success Managers have accordingly started to track feature usage as closely as they can. For companies whose applications weren't designed themselves to track actual usage of specific features and functions by customers, there are currently five vendors who can provide that capability, and more are on the way. Application feature usage tracking is an absolute must-have for a CSM team.

Customer Health Dashboards / Operational Status Monitoring

Apart from tracking usage of key features and functions, there is much more that needs to be known about your customer relationships in order to maximize retention. Simple Green-Yellow-Red indicators on a display, especially where there is no understanding of the definition of these status levels, are often worse than useless. As the initial Implementation and Training phases are rolling out, the CSM team needs access to the project management system reporting in order to keep an eye on the customer's progress and to compare it to the ideal for that value tier and/or type of customer. (If the implementation is not being done by a professional team, yours or someone else's, that's a significant warning sign in and of itself.) Add the Case Management System of the Customer Support team to the toolbox as well, and be sure that the support reps can set status alerts visible to the CSM team if problems are not able to be speedily resolved. If more than one customer is affected by a bug, all should be automatically included in the tracking.

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Customer Lifetime Value is one of the essential management metrics for any SaaS/Cloud application vendor.  CLV is what remains after the CAC, Customer Acquisition Cost, and the CRC, Customer Retention Costs, are subtracted from the revenues of the relationship.  The actual duration of that relationship, therefore, is of paramount importance — far too vital to be left unattended. …

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A common thread throughout the research of The Customer Success Management Initiative has been the interest in members of the growing CSM community to meet other professionals and to learn what is being done in their companies and groups.  Curiosity is high, and questions abound.  What will the future of CSM look like?  What will drive the CSM role to…

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