More is more

I often get asked what is the right level of hand-holding needed to manage customers as part of a customer success program.

Typically, a customer which generates $10,000 annual revenue (at least, $800 MRR) needs dedicated support. Workflow-based analytics/tools can replace spreadsheets when there is a substantial number of customers which cross this $800 monthly threshold.

I believe meeting customers face-to-face is even more important than tracking support and usage metrics. I have taken plane flights across the country to successfully hold onto key customers, and generated opportunities to upsell or cross-sell them.

There is a trend towards simplifying and virtualizing customer success. I believe this is possible for up to $25,000 annual revenue (less than $2100 MRR). With the proper tools and processes, it’s possible to have account-level meetings for these smaller customers. This is also possible when the product use case is simple and in-person training/set up activities are not needed. I have supported engagements where everything can be handled remotely, especially when a customer does not want to pay for “services.”

I believe Quarterly Business Reviews (nice QBR blog post from Preact) are needed for all customers over $25,000 annual revenue (>$2100 MRR). QBRs can be simplified, perhaps for up to $50,000 annual revenue, where a Customer Success Manager can work closely with Account Execs and TAMs/support engineers.

Once a customer generates over $50,000 annual revenue, all hands should be summoned to manage accounts. QBRs should involve a member of the executive team, especially if a customer executive is directly involved in oversight.

For customers which generate a lion-share of a company’s revenue, Customer Success teams should increase frequency of visits, and focus on strategically partnering with them. It might be a technology integration, lead-sharing, or promoting joint webinars/ road shows. In the consulting world, large partnerships frequently occur with technology customers which have dedicated teams shared between offices, or an outsourced setup. In the startup world, TAMs or ‘Strategic’ Customer Success Managers may be dedicated to a single large account.

Customer Success methodologies are an inexact science and will evolve. I like to keep things as simple as possible. Less can be more. You could have a virtual customer success team based offshore or a face-to-face team in every country. In Japan, there’s a hotel run by 80 robots and a handful of human attendants.

I would bet on robots if the Japanese experiment works in generating a great customer experience. Until then, high touch or light touch will be needed. It’s better to err on the side of doing more for your customers than less. It’s time to get back to my spreadsheet. 🙂

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