Our world is quickly moving to a subscription economy. In a subscription economy, the economic value of a customer is realized over time, instead of up-front at the initial sale. This means that the duration of the customer relationship has an increasingly large economic impact on the company’s financial health. Being successful in this new economy requires that companies actively manage their customers during their engagement relationship to ensure that they are realizing the economic value of their purchase. Why? Because if you don't, customers churn.
A new organizational role, called customer success, has emerged which is dedicated to actively managing the post-sale journey that a customer has with a product or service that they have bought. One measure that customer success organizations use to track a customer's success is a "health score." The health score is a composite number created from product usage data (who's using the product, how is the product used), customer interaction data (support tickets, customer feedback) and contractual data. This data is pulled from systems like CRM, ERP, billing, customer survey solutions. It is tracked at a user and company level and the way it trends, and sudden changes to the score are used to understand a customer' health.
I attended the Gainsight Pulse conference in San Francisco on May 14 which is a unique event for customer success managers to network, learn best practices, and understand the value of this role. You could feel the energy of the 900+ conference members, fueled by the fantastic 115 speaker roster featuring luminaries like Malcolm Gladwell, venture capital firms like Battery Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures, and Summit Partners, and companies like Salesforce, Marketo, LinkedIn, Zuora, Brainshark, Bazaarvoice, Evernote, Zendesk, Xactly, Box and many, many more. So, the question is what is customer success, why is it important, and why now?
The subscription economy - where products are purchased as services - has tipped. This is because monthly operational costs are often easier to rationalize than large capital expenditures. Industry segments like media and entertainment have moved to a subscription model. Other industries like publishing, computer storage are moving in this direction. This move to a subscription based delivery model is evident in B2B software, as highlighted in Liz Herbert’s TechRadar analysis of the SaaS market. Some software categories like SFA, eLearning, human capital management are almost exclusively sold via the SaaS delivery model. Others - like collaboration, customer service software and marketing automation software – are heading that way.