How introduction of customer success management framework enabled a capability driven scaling strategy
Early 2018, I started with introducing customer success and related best practices for a 65 member workforce enabling a web services digital agency. The need arose for the start-up scaled in number of project accounts, agency partnerships and implicitly the engineering workforce.
The organization needed a shift from just ensuring customer satisfaction to turning customers into growth engines with repeat business while ensuring customer collaboration at each stage. Accounts had to be strategically driven for long term value.
While revenue, sales and marketing teams were diving into partnership maturity model, buyer journey and their phases to enhance their functional capabilities and increasing sales funnel, delivery ecosystem was diving into customer journey and creating internal project journey to ensure rigor, discipline and consistency via a common baseline for all the value chains (staffing, maintenance and managed projects) keeping all the sub-functions in delivery connected.
All the programs running in parallel, introduction of customer success management as a sub-function helped being an operational glue to multiple subjects above (though with a common theme!), defining the scope and depth of each as a priority while ensuring a consistent vocabulary across functions.
Bringing the pieces of puzzle (at it seemed like in the first few months!) together, via a top level view was equally imperative to define the checkpoints between customer success, partner agencies, and internal sales teams for each running account. Removal or functional silos came in by default feature, also closing lot of functional frustrations of not knowing what was important for effective collaboration.
More on approach (Part 1) and how it helped in the following paragraphs.
A common vocabulary and a transparent top level view
I introduced the above model (different colors representing stages in different model versions) which represents how the various phases in buyer, customer journey were brought together to allow for a common vocabulary across the board and understand how and where the units efforts were placed in the life-cycle and organizational governance and operational structure. All this was provided through a central cockpit to bring leadership of all units together. to an overarching picture.
There are various versions of the customer journeys and partnership maturity models across the web, with each version detailing further and focusing on one phase or stage of journey. Core theme being the same, the stages are either increased or decreased in number, made granular and delineated as separate stages and otherwise.
Again, based on my research, with each version I came across, granularity of stages and phases depended more on, focused efforts in what stage led to corresponding organizational transformation to dive deeper into the relevant stage.
The activity of blending all the models, helped streamline the operational efforts to focus on all dimensions; helping identify what tangents were ignored and where efforts were really skewed. Introduction of new roles and amendment to role accountabilities was an obvious after effect of this exercise.
Detailing the activities against each phase to involve delivery dynamics and sub-units for each value chain further helped provide clarity on where and at what stage sales team needs to be involved in the delivery life cycle with their checkpoints. This helped eliminate sales-delivery disconnects as well.
The role of customer success manager (CSM)
We introduced the role of customer success manager to strategize, design and execute on collaboratively defined success plans with agencies in partnership. Introducing this role was equally imperative for organizational governance was working with Project managers while also practicing agile, roles not delineated as Product owners and scrum master as recommended by agile frameworks. With the existing governance model, one can notice what could be the depth and scale of involvement from project managers (while managing multiple projects!). Account retention and account continuity defined the core essence of the role and also feeding into the performance appraisal of the customer success manager.
Detailing on the role, checkpoints with the operations manager and project managers needed to be defined. Liaising with the sales lead, clarity on accountabilities between the three tiers of customer engagement (Sales lead, customer success manager and project manager for an account) became a necessity to not have communication overheads with customers and also internally.
Experience with product ownership and conscious business certifications were defined as baseline needs for entry level CSM’s. Phased roadmaps, trainings and an MVP for centralized success management with basic features was provided to the CSM’s with planned weekly reviews (+ interim need based reviews) to organically build on the MVP.
Scaling solution to provide for centers of excellence and capability enhancements
The role of customer success manager being an overlap of product owner and business analyst for this organization, six months of introduction of this role in the governance structure, automatically helped provide visibility on how the governance could scale as partnerships scaled.
One could think of having centers of excellence designed against value chains (business dynamics)/ technology specializations/ agencies business with each customer success manager specialized in a type of business.
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