Customer Success Management (CSM) is becoming one of the most important practices for driving customer success throughout the SaaS B2B sector.
While CSM can have a big business impact when it’s implemented effectively, it’s a fairly new management practice, so I want to cover a few key objectives of CSM in this post: what it is designed to do and how it benefits the customer. If you’re a customer, this will give you an idea of what to look for in a vendor; and if you’re a vendor, an idea of what you need to be doing to promote the success of your customers (and yourself into the bargain). In an upcoming post, I’ll share a number of success stories, taken directly from the experiences of Threat Stack customers, to illustrate specific ways that CSM has made them more knowledgeable, confident, productive, and successful.
CSM: A Definition
Customer Success Management is a lot more than the latest management buzz phrase: it’s a strategic approach to management that is integrated throughout the product and customer lifecycles to maximize the value that customers receive from products over time. Once in motion, CSM becomes a cycle of improvement that continually benefits both current and future customers, and builds long-term relationships and loyalty,
A Proactive, Customer-Focused Approach
CSM starts with a proactive approach to working with customers. At Threat Stack, we reach out at key points throughout the customer lifecycle, providing updates and guidance, while learning about areas where we can add value from new features, feature enhancements, ease of use, training, and more.
When developing a product, it’s important not to build one that you think customers want, but rather one that has the features customers actually need, coupled with a high degree of usability. It’s not the number of features that makes a customer successful, but the best product fit for the customers’ specific needs. It is important to narrow the gap between the product and the customers’ needs by drilling down into the particular cloud security or compliance issues they are looking to solve and building to support this through the product capabilities, training, and support.
Contact Throughout the Customer Lifecycle
Maintaining frequent contact throughout the customer lifecycle develops a strong relationship, ensuring that current customers continue to be successful and profitable. Customer Success Management recognizes that each customer’s needs are different, and often a customized approach ensures that each account is getting the most from the product.
Key Steps in CSM
Here are the main steps we use to help customers achieve success:
- Gather Product Feedback: We gather detailed customer feedback about product enhancements and feature requests. Changes in cyber security requirements tend to happen quickly, and our engineering team focuses on the rapid delivery of the most-needed features. For example, when a number of customers reported that they had a critical need to include alert dismissal reasons for audit purposes, our engineers quickly added this capability to enable customer compliance. The two-way relationship set up through CSM empowers customers and contributes to the development of better products in terms of features and user experience.
- Tune to Match Onboarding and Training Needs: When a customer purchases a product, they can be overwhelmed by too much information, slowing comprehension and adoption. In our experience, a more incremental, tailored approach to onboarding produces better results, and therefore, during the first month of adoption, we work with customers to set up their features, answer operational questions, and assist during the tuning process.
- Engage, Engage, Engage: One of the most important parts of a Customer Success Manager’s job is keeping up with each customer, ensuring that they are getting the highest value from the product over time. With the introduction of new features and upgrades, it is essential to keep customers informed and updated, but it’s also important to uncover whether they have identified anything that could be improved. We find that the more a customer uses Threat Stack, the more detailed and insightful feedback they can provide. In turn, this is passed to our Product Management team which evaluates and prioritizes the feedback for inclusion in our product road map.
Things move fast in the cloud. Gone are the days of regular, but relatively infrequent product updates and development cycles. Now, it is possible to capitalize on the cloud to continually reach out to learn about customer issues and to use that information to improve customer success. One powerful approach that is being used more and more to do this is Customer Success Management. There’s really no mystery to CSM: quite simply, it’s an ongoing, strategic methodology that enables companies like Threat Stack to build better products quickly and to help ensure that customers are deriving maximum benefit from these products.
Stay tuned for my next post to hear about actual customers experiences, including specific use cases and problems that were addressed through the effective use of Customer Success Management.