Customer Success and the Partner Business Model

Customer Success is about customer relationship, retention and optimization. The most effective way to retain customers is to help them understand, utilize efficiently and adjust the technology they purchased to fit their business needs.

Sometimes customers buy technology which could have been oversold to them and doesn’t fit their needs. Sometimes they buy the right solution but after the Sales motion ends, nobody spends time to help them utilize the functionality, features and benefits of the solution to their advantage. Ultimately that means customers have paid for something they are not consuming to the full.

The Customer Success role is in a way, the middle media; “the glue” that brings together technology, functionality and value with customer business outcomes identification and fulfilment.

In order to achieve this, we need to follow a well-defined methodology with concrete steps that take the customer through the journey of Adoption. Adoption as a concept, is the core element that creates customer stickiness and loyalty, increases customer satisfaction, focuses on value elements and drives the Customer Lifecycle Engagement Model based on real needs, not forecast needs and sales targets.

lifecycle

Within the three stages of the Lifecycle Customer Engagement process, Land, Adopt and Expand should be the focus areas for business outcome identification and fulfilment, whilst the fourth stage of Renew, focuses on the objectives that ensure annuities and renewals are smooth and successful, turning them into a “non-event” – customers realize the value of what they have and renew without objection.

As all four areas of this process could lie in different areas of the customer and partner organizations, partners should build a centralized strategy on the LAER model, that examines all internal functions for Sales/Presales, Delivery, After Sales/Customer Success, and the Renewal teams. By performing this task, partners can achieve a consistent model that drives the customer engagement with a common target: increased usability of the solution and satisfaction of the identified business outcomes.

Three main roles that should drive and excel the Adoption Process are identified as The Adoption Manager, The Adoption Consultant and the Customer Success Manager. Let’s look at each:

The Adoption Manager should be implementing and making sure that the Adoption process correctly identifies and involves the different BUs in the partner organization, collates feedback from the Adoption Consultant and the Customer Success Manager, to then optimize the practice. The Adoption Manager should also be the focal point for changes on strategy and creating new Adoption Services that could increase the profitability of the partner. Internal communication strategy and BU alignment with the LAER model across the organization is his main concerns together with optimizing the practice and enriching with new elements the engagement model with the customer.

The Adoption Consultant is the one that supports the Customer Success Manager and engages with the customer in order to build and agree the Customer Success Plan, identify the specific Business Outcomes and connect them with the technology functionalities. Also defines how the customer measures success, define the KPIs and the use case to be delivered. This is key for the success of the Customer Success Manager and they should work together, teaming up on common goals and objectives.

The Customer Success Manager drives the Adoption journey with the customer, and is the one who executes on the Customer Success Plan, executes the use cases that prove the benefit on specific customer business needs, identifies expand sales opportunities and manages the end to end customer engagement. A key requirement is making sure that health scores and KPIs are met in agreement with key customer stakeholders. Customer Success Managers should ensure they are in regular communication with both the Line of Business (LoB) and IT representatives to close the gap that usually exists between these in most organizations.

In reality, Adoption as a concept could be applied in every technology that carries any kind of functionality that could satisfy identified customer business outcomes.

So a successful Sales organization is no longer just about selling a “new” technology in –it’s about a Lifecycle engagement that drives the customer continuously, securing measured results and outcomes that prove the benefit to the customer.

One thing is certain, the market is changing and it’s changing fast. Those partners that adopt Customer Success as a strategic priority will be dominant players in a market where retaining customers and increasing profitability is an absolutely key requirement.