Customer success specialists are having a moment. In a 2019 survey of high-tech companies, 40 percent of 109 respondents reported having customer success managers, according to research conducted by Harvard Business Review’s consulting firm, ZS. Since then, the number has only increased.
Tech companies are investing in CS professionals to manage the customer relationship beyond a single point of contact, hoping to reduce churn. While leadership at web app security company Invicti understands the benefits of the role well, Senior VP of Customer Success Mike Mattos said his approach to customer success is anything but standard.
“We can have the best CS process in the world. But if the product fails, it means nothing,” Mattos said. That’s why Mattos ensures that his team is in lockstep with Invicti product professionals so that the department can create feedback loops that serve both the customer and the business.
Most companies lean on their Net Promoter Score to promote customer renewal and expansion. At Invicti, Mattos relies on a calculation he believes better reflects their holistic CS strategy.
“This measurement allows us to react in almost real time to risks and opportunities, dramatically improving our customer experience,” Mattos said.
What does customer success look like at Invicti? How has it evolved in the last year?
We believe that our relationships with our customers are one of our most valuable assets. As a result, we have made significant investments in customer success over the past two years. Our ultimate goal is to ensure our customers are getting the most out of their investment in our technology. Our customer success team takes a very proactive approach to delivering value and leveraging that value to grow our footprint over time.
The evolution has come in the form of an outcomes-based approach to our customer relationships. We need to remain in lockstep with our customers’ goals and objectives to ensure our technology is meeting them where they are at all times. This requires our customer success managers to be expert listeners and educators so our customers know that the suggestions we make are in their best interest; even if that suggestion is to increase their spend with us.
How does your team measure customer satisfaction?
We have several ways of measuring customer satisfaction that take into account the quality of interactions with our internal teams (sales, implementation, customer success, support, product, engineering) as well as overall product usage. We have mapped out our “ideal usage profile” across our products and customer segments and track any positive or negative deviations from that IUP.
This measurement allows us to react in almost real time to risks and opportunities, dramatically improving our customer experience. While we care about net promoter score, the above drives action that improves our ultimate measure of customer satisfaction: renewal and expansion.
Every customer-facing function in the organization plays a part in making sure our customers are getting value from the tool.’’
What currently keeps you up at night in terms of the customer success process? Why?
At the end of the day, customer success isn’t rocket science. But there is heavy reliance on other teams to deliver against expectations. Customer success isn’t just the CSM. Every customer-facing function in the organization plays a part in making sure our customers are getting value from the tool. We can have the best CS process in the world. But if the product fails, it means nothing. So I think about this a lot. How can we create feedback loops and how can the CSM hold other teams accountable for similar deliverables?
What qualities do you look for in customer success hires?
Customer success means a lot of different things to a lot of different companies. On one end of the spectrum, customer success is a fluffy, ‘I am just here to make the customer happy’ role. On the other end, CS is a revenue-generating, producing function. I am a fundamental believer that customer success should be responsible for revenue, but the path to get there requires a different skill set than a traditional account executive or account manager. CSMs need to be viewed as strategic partners and trusted advisors who have the customer’s best interest in mind. They are dealing with customers actually using the product and must be there for the long-term journey with the customer.
To be successful in this role, a CSM has to be an expert listener and educator. They must be able to extract pain points from the customer and educate on how the technology can solve those pain points. A CSM must also be a master collaborator. Customer success is as much internal project management as it is external customer management, and the CSM must navigate all of the internal teams that play a role in delivering value to the customer.
Lastly, sales experience goes a long way in this role to understand the revenue implications of every decision and relationship in the account.
How do you see customer success evolving in tech as an industry?
I think we are going to continue to see the customer success function move from a “customer service/happiness” function toward one that incorporates the ideas of account management and revenue. There is so much goodness that can come from a holistic view of the customer (mapping the stakeholders and key relationships, growth opportunities, etc.). Pairing that view with a trusted advisor relationship, companies will start to see large expansions coming from the customer success teams. As a result, I think that you will start to see more and more sales profiles moving into customer success roles.
Additionally, I think that the product-customer success relationship will continue to strengthen. Customer success can only be as good as the product they are supporting. Product teams need the valuable product feedback that CS teams can provide by working closely with customers.