I’ve been on both the receiving and offering end of efforts so can speak to both. In the Software as a Service business especially, if that is how the platform is offered, the vendor should have a team supporting how the platform is deployed, adopted and maintained. Moreover, the team should be focused on helping the customer maximise their investment in the technology by helping to achieve the business outcomes the technology was purchased for.
If they don’t, that should already be a warning sign that they are not a mature vendor. If they do and you are comparing vendor offerings, use these notes as a basis for evaluating them on this aspect of their offering. Bear in mind that these notes apply to enterprise B2B scenarios, technology platforms and customer success teams.
If you are unsure of what customer success is, there is a primer on this page.
They should have an approach to customer success. It need not use or have become a renown and universally accepted strategic framework. If anything, it should be lightweight, iterative and intended to grow usage/adoption and value outcomes over time. It should drive growing organisational maturity in terms of platform capabilities and ever increasing value delivery.
It should focus on users and use cases and prioritising them as well as identifying key measures of success. These should be tracked periodically with the support of the customer success manager.
Broadly, the methodology should have an envisioning stage, identifying overall goals then those specific to priority uses cases for any given period. KPI’s should form part of this.
Then an execution part where users are supported in adopting the features, functions and workflows specific to the priority use cases.
Finally, an evaluation stage where progress is tracked against goals. This then feeds back in a loop to target improvements for the next phase of planning and execution.
The approach is very agile and borrows from lean startup methodology which is the way some of the worlds greatest technology products and companies are grown successfully.
Deliverables that a Customer Success Manager and the vendor are committed to
Note that some of these are ideal states or options and just because a vendor does not offer them fully, does not mean they will not do a good job for you. Each option or state will have to be weighed up in priority terms you set. You could create a weighted scoring mechanism as many customers do to aid decision making.
Usage, Adoption and Value Delivery
- Success strategy development support that leads to a clear vision, plan and outcomes
- People will have a clear understanding of the purpose of the tool in the organisation
- Plan covers all the right use cases and workflows and it is communicated clearly
- A path is created for users to be inspired, educated and efforts can be scaled
Insight Reviews (monthly)
- Progress tracking against planned usage and adoption and business outcomes achieved
- Success and best practice sharing from global customer base
Business Reviews (quarterly)
- Use case and KPI reviews and outcomes evaluation
- Recommendations on best ways forward
- Platform roadmap reviews
- Provide a window for the customer to product teams and vice versa for special needs to be communicated and usage insights to be shared that drive further product development
- Access to the right stakeholders on both sides (senior executive engagement, special interest stakeholders, etc.)
- Access to other customers on reference calls, on Customer Advisory Boards, at customer meetups, etc.
Customer Support and Services
- Learning material and clear documentation that is constantly updated on a central and easily accesible repository
- Professional services around adoption and change management enabling user/data driven behaviour change
- Clear customer support commitments around logging issues, response times, etc.
- Onboarding help and guidance including and especially in-product and also ongoing user support
- Planning and tracking capabilities
- A way to plan user activities (plan elements and outcomes targeted) and track and correct where necessary, ideally with automated tasks – feedback loops for administrators and users to see progress and take remedial action where necessary and/or have automated
- Robust analytics and reporting tools to track usage and activity that the customer (administrator and end user) can access
- A means to correlate activity with business outcomes – especially for administrators or those responsible for the platform to be able to feed back to relevant parts of the business
Is the vendor asking for your commitment
If they are not, chances are they don’t understand all of the dynamics needed to drive success. These often take the form of:
Senior exec stakeholder/s:
Its important that the technology has a mandate from the top. A stakeholder that communicates the need for users to be in the platform and why its important
Someone or a team who’s core responsibility is developing a good success strategy and execution of it (supported by CSM). The person/s will also support users and report to business executives in terms of making sure main targets are met. At least a single person should be dedicated to the task full time. In larger organisations with many users it’s a core team. They should have commitment to pursue deep knowledge (through training) with time available to support the platform and be committed to it.
Someone who is responsible for the maintenance of the platform from a technical point of view, adding users, configuration, SSO, etc.
Super users who are extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the platform and are willing to spend time outside of their normal jobs to support the core team and users with driving adoption and value creation for the company.
What else, any I missed?