Customer success results from planning and dedicated team collaboration of one company’s customer care, customers services, sales and technical support.

Customer Success Defined – 6 Areas of Customer Success Planning

By: Garrt Schultz 

Accelerated Customer Value
Confusion in the pre-post sales services world. A new label appeared a couple years back and a host of pointy haired managers have flocked to the new, improved, model. I am referring to:

Customer Success

Customer Success has caused quite a stir. Loyalty, retention and churn, life-time-value, NPS and CSAT are, apparently, all addressed and remediated by Customer Success. It causes old-school technical support, customer service, customer care, and customer advocates to shake their heads in frustration “How much time have I wasted before I discovered Customer Success” Yet:

Lindsay Smith, of Amity, discusses “What’s Still Holding Customer success Back in 2017” ‘…some organizations have merely switched out the terms customer service, customer support, and/or account management for customer success without a fundamental shift in team goals and objectives.’ ((

Teresa Baker, Customer Success Strategist of Customer Success, says ‘…it seems common that the phrases “customer success” and “customer support or service” are often intertwined. After all, they’re both about serving the customer and ensuring they’re finding success with your product or service, right?’((

While I was researching this piece, this tantalizing statement popped into my inbox: ‘Customer success is a varying discipline. It can mean different things in different organizations’. As William Shakespeare wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. ((

Let’s look at what all the pre/post sales services labels mean. For those of you in the front trenches, those Technical Service agents who sneeringly tell me “Oh no Garry. I am not a tech anymore. I am a Customer Success Engineer.”, have patience for Shakespeare was right; you are still a tech.

Before breaking out each term, let’s be clear that the focus of all these functions is the Customer. In the Harvard Business Review (HBR), Dixon, Freeman and Toman wrote ‘…loyalty has a lot more to do with how well companies deliver on their basic, even plain-vanilla promises than on how dazzling the service experience might be.’ (( From that simple statement, focusing on satisfying the customer is the core strength, regardless of what label one hangs on it. In Kick-ass Customer Service ( a far harder hitting idea comes from February 2017 HBR;

‘Consumers want results – not sympathy’

Keep your apologies and just answer the question the customer asked with a minimum of fuss (frictionless customer experience) and effort (Customer Effort Score). This applies equally to B2C and B2B. It is so simple, but now, back to semantics…

6 Areas of Customer Success PlanningWhat does it mean when we hear;

Customer Success positioning – there are teams and individuals that wear the label ‘Customer Success’, the term itself is a holistic product philosophy. This is what Lindsey Smith is referring to in the quote above. It is more than the label de jour; it is a philosophy and requires more than a signage change. It requires cultural change. The crux of Customer Success is to deliver assistance in whatever-it-is-the-customer-is-trying-to-achieve. It is holistic in that, like Agile, like UX/CX/DX*, Customer Success is the responsibility of every corporate citizen. Key Performance Index (KPI) metric is Net Promoter Score (NPS). Using Microsoft’s Excel as a product example; a corporate-wide philosophy of Customer Success will ensure that Excel will become the preeminent spreadsheet tool in the world.

Customer Success team – the first customer success teams emerged in B2B sales/support organizations. The mandate was to ensure that the Customer was getting the most out of the product. If the product was a SaaS platform to run a business, the success team ensured the end users were reaping the benefits of the entire platform and that the platform was meeting, if not exceeding, the business objectives that drove the original sale. KPI’s pivoted on life-time-value, product penetration, and retention. Using the Excel model example; the customer success team ensures the end-users were taking advantage of pivot tables, macros and the many other advanced features of Excel ((

Technical Support (TS) – in some organizations TS has been rebranded customer success but… a rose is a rose is a rose. Technical Support personnel typically handle issues with the operation of the product. KPI is CSAT + Root Cause Analysis (RCA) driving product improvement. Using the Excel model example; TS is the right team to address Excel if it crashes when a certain macro is run.

Customer Services (CS) – Customer Services or Customer Support. Typically, CS agents handle soft, non-technical, issues with the product. Shipping or order issues. Occasionally a TS team is label Customer Support, but as the pay scale (more on this later) differs between TS and CS this is becoming less frequent. KPI is CSAT + RCA focused on fulfillment/usability. Using the Excel model example; customer has ordered a physical version of the product and is having issues with delivery. CS can help remedy this.

Customer Care (CC) – a board brush label that has a strong component of customer advocacy. Philosophically a CC agent can handle any issue a Customer may experience and offers the customer a one-stop solution. Or, at minimum, can transfer the customer to the right person. Organizations that have adopted the CC approach often also have Triage agents and Universal agents. KPI are CSAT + RCA. Using the Excel model example; the license code is not accepted due to a corrupt registry entry (a little TS and a little CS).

Inside Sales (IS) – less technical skill-set and more sales type. IS agent assist prospects with the buying decision, convert tire-kickers into closes, may carry a quota and receive commission. KPI is Sales + CSAT. Using the Excel model example; if the customer is unsure if Excel can deliver the charts and graphics they need to present their data. The IS agent takes the customer thru Excels excellent presentation graphics, assists the customer with the online cart and/or places the order themselves. NOTE – if you have a TS agent that shows IS traits, give them a bonus and treat them well. Techs that can sell are worth gold.

To pull it all together consider:

Adopt the Customer Success philosophy where all teams are focused on the customer and how they positively engage with the product and your organization. Build a CusSus team to focus on marquee and high-value accounts. Rollout a TS team for tricky technical issues, the brightest and most presentable are the talent pool feeding the CusSus team. Deploy an IS team for inbound closes and outbound seeding and cart-abandon mediation. The IS team acts as a pool for the Account Execs and CusSus team if they have the wherewithal. Deploy an Universal agent model CS team for soft issues and less-tricky technical issues. These personnel act as a pool to TS and IS functions.
And there it is. A customer centric, high advocacy, clearly mapped career path, engaged personnel, pre-post sales services organization – Accelerated Customer Value.

Please Contact ApexCX for all your customer experience needs.

Apr 17, 2017