One of the main challenges with Customer Success function is how it can be positioned within the Eco-System of the current organizational structure? how it can add a new value without affecting the current cost stream? how the reporting lines should align in order to orchestrate properly?
Well, to answer the question of how to position Customer Success?, we should go back to the previous question of why to create Customer Success?. A clear answer to this “Why” question may help much in answering the “How” question
I have stated in previous posts the strategic value of adopting a Customer Success function, let me be more clear about this putting in bullet-pointed answer..
Why to adopt a Customer Success Function?
- To achieve a true Shift from a sales oriented strategy to customer centered strategy
- To maintain and optimize sensitive customer related KPIs that normal functions can not focus on ( Satisfaction, Health, Growth Potential…etc)
- To create more selling situations, accordingly more leads
- Customer Success warrants more focus for other organizations to do what they can do better as it takes the hassle of maintaining customer relationships from them like persisting requests and business challenges that always occur post the sales process. so then, the sales can sell, the development engineer can code and support can fix product bugs..etc
The name “Customer Success” has a deep indirect value to customers, its not “sales or Account Management or business development” which all customers in most of cases is valued by the amount of business they generate
It is not also Customer Support, where customer business and current account situation is not taken into consideration in most cases
So, understanding this function very well, can make the mission of positioning it much easier
Back to the main question, how to position customer success?
In a reply to a post written by Nick Mehta on LinkedIn (CEO of GainSight) where he asked for some answers to this same questions, I explained briefly part of my vision or approach. Nick post copied below
My approach for this function is to ultimately achieve “Success”, a mutual Success for both customer and business
When sales numbers step over all metrics, we may encounter medium-long term business risk. High sales figures without continuously increasing customer satisfaction means long term failures
The strategic idea here is to change the reporting lines of sales organization to the top Customer Success Organization, by this change the overall business picture will be more realistic and mature to both reflect the real situation and project the future shape of engagement with customers
So the name I propose for this is Chief Success Officer (CSO), where this role can have an executive dashboard/health-score of all accounts
Then two main reporting lines under the CSO
- Director/VP of Customer Success
- Director/VP of Sales
With Such top structure, I believe there will be a great deal of balance with what is sold vs what the customer real situation is, thus, maintaining high and stable sales figures while keeping a growing customer attachment
Another naming conversion I have came across, which is the Chief Customer Officer, it sounds very reasonable and more attractive as it includes the “Customer” name which implies a great deal of attention to the “Customer”
My only take on the “Chief Customer Officer” is that it will be still separated from Sales organization so it will not diffuse the right needed power to embrace the voice of the customer, and yet the Customer Success function will be more of a supporting function than a core one
The only way to have a true Customer Success execution is to put in an equal KPI valuation with sales to measure the overall success of business, which is what the “Chief Success Officer” can achieve much more than “Chief Customer Officer” for the reasons I mentioned above
Copying my Reply to Nick Mehta’s post below