This article is based on a presentation given by Emily at our Customer Success Festival in Boston 2023.

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In an environment where the stakes for maintaining and expanding business relationships are higher than ever, being proactive and focused on return on investment is essential. 

I'm Emily Fetherston, a Customer Success Manager at G2, and my experience has revolved around evolving customer success from a supportive role to a strategic powerhouse. 

In this article, I'll share 

  • An overview of the evolution of customer success services, along with tried and true steps for achieving success.
  • Tactics for effectively implementing these strategies.

So, let's dive in and explore these concepts together.

The evolution of customer success in the industry

Customer success is an incredibly dynamic and exciting field, constantly evolving and striving to deepen connections with customers while driving value. There was a time when customer success was considered a “nice-to-have” for organizations. Now, it has transformed into a critical role that significantly impacts the business's bottom line. This shift represents a powerful change in the industry, and I'm thrilled to show you how.

In the past, the customer success role primarily served to bridge the gap between the customer and the sales executive who sealed the deal. It ensured a smooth line of communication and support, focusing heavily on relationship-building. It might sound straightforward, but this approach was the backbone of our operations.

Our responsibility encompassed retention and identifying opportunities for expansion, which, to a large extent, remains true today. However, there's a shift in how we approach these responsibilities now. 

In the past, our success metrics were largely based on adoption metrics and retroactive data reporting. When I say “retroactive,” I mean applying insights to events or trends that have already occurred.

One significant aspect of our role was tracking renewals, which primarily hinged on something known as health scores versus time. This approach has evolved, and I'm excited to share with you how these changes have redefined our role and strategies.

Redefining the customer success role

The future of customer success is something that genuinely excites me. We've moved beyond being just a line of communication; we've become the quarterbacks of customer relationships. Our role has evolved significantly, and I want to share with you this transformative journey.

As the primary point of contact, our responsibilities now extend beyond mere communication. We delegate, challenge our customers, and engage in resourceful knowledge sharing. This shift from a purely relationship-focused approach to an ROI focused strategy marks a significant change in our industry.

Our goal is to proactively steer the relationship, ensuring it stays on course. This requires us to do our homework, understanding not only the immediate goals of our day-to-day contacts but also the broader company focuses and shifts. It's about seeing the bigger picture and aligning our efforts with it.

A new approach to tracking renewals

The approach to tracking renewals has transformed. We now utilize a mutual success plan, which allows us to clearly identify when a customer is veering off course, falling behind, or successfully meeting their goals.

And here's my favorite part: asking the hard questions. We need to start confronting these crucial issues head-on. For instance, during EBRs (Executive Business Reviews) or business reviews, I recommend asking customers directly about their renewal intentions – why they plan to renew or why not. This straightforward approach can yield profound insights and help us tailor our strategies more effectively.