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Customer Success: A broad-brushed approach with a stencil

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Customer Success is not a one-size-fits-all discipline. Each customer is different – and so are their needs and expectations. In the world of land-and-expand where upsell and recurring revenue is the critical metric, a SaaS company can struggle dealing with the varied needs of different customers, at the same time trying to scale the business.

Rob Bernshteyn (@rbernshteyn), CEO of Coupa wrote this excellent article on Forbes advocating a shift in the mindset of customers in what they should expect from their SaaS vendors.  He posits that “Customer success with Software as a Service is not so much about individual attention as it is about a philosophy of scalable product development and delivery that codifies best practices that all customers can benefit from.

We agree with Rob completely around the fact the customers are better served by the “collective best practice” emerging out of the broader customer base. As you can imagine, a best practice, by its very nature, works only when tailored to sub-segments and/or cohorts. Given that customers come in different shapes and sizes, taking a broad-brushed approach will essentially mask the nuances related to specific customers that need special attention. The approach that works with General Electric might not work with Paul & Shannon’s Hardware store around the corner. Bernshteyn himself makes that point later in the article where he asks vendors about their philosophy of codifying best practices and understanding the types of customers.

Given that, how does a SaaS company accomplish both these objectives? Move away from an approach where individualized attention is required for each customer to a personalized best-practice approach applied to cohorts. It is possible to do just that, but to accomplish it we believe companies will need a robust platform that can provide a rich stream of insights. SaaS vendors can then take those insights and “program” personalized engagements.

In the last 4 years, we have worked with a variety of SaaS companies from different verticals, that have successfully deployed automated or semi-automated engagement plays with their customer base, based on the characteristics of the cohort/segment of customers. Starting with mapping the Customer Journey to provide the necessary context of customer lifecycle and where they are headed. A robust Customer Engagement Score and an overall Health Score affords an accurate qualifier to further target the campaigns they would run.

Customer Success requires a closed-loop engagement with customers right from the time they become a customer through on-boarding all the way to renewal. Not  having infrastructure to provide visibility of the engagement across the lifecycle will preclude SaaS companies from leveraging what might be a best-practice that could benefit the larger community of customers.

Omer Gotlieb

Omer Gotlieb, Co-Founder and VP of Business Development of Totango, has been recognized as a top influencer and mentor in the customer success space. As the SVP of Business Development, he is taking Totango to the next level. He speaks frequently at Customer Success events, both locally and internationally, sharing valuable insights and experiences. Prior to Totango, he was the VP of Product at MTS, Director of Client Services at AtHoc, and other customer-facing roles at Addwise and Netvision. His specialities include churn management, business intelligence, and performance management.

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