Who’s afraid of the big, bad feedback?

TLDR: I regularly speak with companies that are interested in starting a Net Promoter Score℠ (NPS®) feedback program. I sometimes see a strange phenomenon: People offering various objections to getting started.

This comes as a surprise , given how easy it is to get started. A simple survey question for customers to answer, and a standard way to calculate the NPS score itself. So what gives? Continue reading

Overcome the 3 data “gotchas” when building a Customer 360

So.… you’re thinking about a Customer Success or customer analytics solution for your team. And you know that the quality of the data you integrate into your Customer Success system will determine the benefits you get from it.

I’ve seen three common “gotchas” in customer data quality. Spend some time on these upfront and you will greatly accelerate your Customer Success system time to value.

Get your data from the “systems of truth”

So much of deploying a Customer Success system is accessing useful customer information as it lives in source systems.

Follow a simple premise:

  • your best financial data is in your financial systems
  • your best support ticket data is in your support CRM
  • your best usage data is in your back-end and/or your clickstream tool
  • and so on…

Beware of using copies of data or derivative data that you get from a system other than the source. I’m talking about you, Salesforce CRM. Too often, in order to put things into Salesforce, the data is somehow aggregated or manipulated to the point where it loses its detail and accuracy. Bypass Salesforce and go to the truth.

Pay attention to “data curation”

Data that is machine-generated is great, if only because it’s inherently accurate. Think usage data, for example.

However, a lot of your customer data is input by you, the vendor. This data is “curated” by your employees. Some curated data is very accurate, because there are strong incentives to make it so:

  • support ticket data is generally good because status and backlog are closely inspected by the head of support
  • revenue data from the finance team is good because it drives financial reporting. Nobody wants to report inaccurate data to the Board or the Auditors
  • sales opportunity can be good if there’s strong VP Sales inspection and/or commissions are driven from opportunity records

Conversely, beware of data that must be maintained but for which there is no incentive to do so. The result is a lot of missing data or inaccurate data. Some examples:

  • account fields in Salesforce like Tier, Stage, custom fields
  • support ticket fields like “reason code”
  • anything else where the data isn’t closely inspected by leaders all the time

If you really want a field of data to be accurate, work to create the incentives and inspection that would make it so. Or, forget it and focus on the art of the possible.

Keys must join your data

The elusive “Customer 360” enables a Customer Success Manager to know exactly how a customer is doing.

By definition, a Customer 360 is created by joining data from various sources like your Sales CRM, Support CRM, usage data, billing data, survey data, etc. This means you need a “key” to match up those records to a common customer record. A key is unique identifier, often a long string of letters and digits. For example, an Account I.D. in your Salesforce in instance looks like this: “999bb7c9999f27d11d09a5e”

Done well, you would know that a support ticket created by “MegaCorp” is the same company that has a sales opportunity under the Account name “Mega Corporation” in Salesforce CRM. Why? Because they share the Account I.D. in common.

Do you care about the people in your customer base? Then you’ll need to associate those people and their data to their respective companies. One approach is to embed account I.D.’s into your user / contact records. Or, use email addresses to match the URL domain at the company for whom they work.


Nobody’s data is perfect. And never will be. However, you will probably need to invest in data quality in order to maximize the benefits of your investment in the Customer Success team and the tool they use. Pay attention to the three gotchas and you will remove most of the impediments to success.

Quantifying the benefits of your Customer Success team

TLDR: I’ve been reflecting on the business value that Customer Success leaders are trying to deliver to their companies, as well as how to explain what my startup Bluenose does to enable the same. While Customer Success started off as a way reactive way to battle churn, the discipline is quickly evolving, so it’s increasingly important to be able to quantify the benefits of Customer Success.

We came up with a simple framework to quantify the benefits of Customer Success by describing the sources of value: impact and reach. So, the mission of Customer Success is to maximize the value that comes from each. The diagram below outlines a few Customer Success activities that fall into certain segments as it relates to impact and reach. The upper right quadrant is the ideal state for a modern Customer Success organization.


Key question for quantifying Customer Success value: For the customers that you engage, what is the impact you’re making?

I’d argue that the impact ranges from low to high as you move from being reactive to proactive.

At the reactive end, Customer Success teams are typically “fighting fires” by triaging valuable customers who are threatening to churn. In fact, hiring firefighters is often the genesis of the Customer Success team.

The impact is low because once you’re in “save mode” you’ll save some customers but not all; some are so dissatisfied they can’t be recovered.

As your Customer Success team becomes more proactive, you can generate more value in three ways:

  • Reduce churn by spotting and engaging at-risk customers sooner. There will always be customers at risk; the challenge is to engage them soon enough that you can fix what’s making them unhappy before it’s too late.
  • Increase upsell and expansion revenue by ensuring widespread product adoption in accounts that you engage
  • Create advocates in the customer base that accelerate your new customer acquisition.

What’s needed to become more proactive?

  • An Early Warning System that uses data to spot at-risk customers and drives interventions to prevent churn.
  • A customer journey. Each customer should be measured according to the stage of the journey they’re meant to be in. If they’re not in those stages, what customer touches are triggered to get them there?


Key question for quantifying Customer Success value: What percent of your customers are you impacting?

As SaaS vendors grow, their customer base often stratifies into tiers, such as Tier 1/2/3 where Tier 1 customers are the largest contracts. Customer Success teams are often created to protect revenue in these Tier 1 customers. This of course makes sense given the revenue at stake. However, servicing customers with your people is an expensive endeavor. Thus, the Customer Success team will often get stuck only serving Tier 1 customers because of the people cost.

Sometimes, we see Tier 2 customers served, but with a “coverage model” of one Success person to 50, 100 or even 300 customers. You could argue that with this ratio, the role is all about customer “saves” and not much else. Last, the lowest tier is often called “unmanaged” because Success teams have no involvement.

As your Customer Success team extends its reach, you can create value in several ways:

  • Reduced churn in lower tiers.
  • Nurture lower tier customers into higher tiers through upsell / cross-sell.
  • Improve NPS® or CSAT survey results through proactive service.

What’s needed to increase reach? Customer Success must work programmatically and at scale. Many of the concepts of acquisition marketing apply here: campaigns that target people with a specific and relevant call to action. This programmatic approach happens as a complement to the people resources deployed in your Success team.

Some examples:

  • If an end-user has a licensed seat but has never used a product, the call to action could be to watch a brief video on getting started with your product.
  • If an end-user has adopted your product, then the call to action could be to explore new features or even enroll in an advocacy program.
  • If an end-user has replied negatively to a survey, then the call to action might be to speak to a “special” support person to help overcome their issues.

A caveat: targeting users appropriately is essential. If the advanced user is sent an email about getting started, it’s spam because it’s not relevant.

Summing it up

For Customer Success leaders, it’s vital to maximize your impact and reach. I’ve found that you can vastly improve your reach by moving from firefighting to a proactive mode. To improve impact, work programmatically and at scale. How you achieve both of these are topics that I’ll dive into in further blogs.