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Where Are Customer Success Organizations Falling Short?

Jun 8, 2021
Charles Coaxum
VP of Customer Experience

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The biggest room in the world, the saying goes, is the room for improvement.

Customer Success (CS) managers know all about this. Serving customers is a mercurial pursuit, and today’s challenges are likely to be very different from yesterday’s. In previous blogs, I’ve shared a range of best practices aimed at helping CS teams deliver the value customers are looking for. 

In 2020, Deloitte surveyed 300 enterprise managers about the CS services they receive from technology providers. They explored what was working, and what was lacking. It’s great to hear about what’s working, but learning about what isn’t working is honestly more valuable. 

Deloitte’s findings amount to a kind of road map for all CS organizations, and possibly a wake-up call for some. Three points jumped out.

Customer Success services are becoming integral to the Customer Experience (CX), but what’s up with those vendors who are holding back? At least half of tech solution providers offer CS services at different stages of the customer lifecycle, from pre-sales through implementation and all the way to renewal. While that’s good news for customers—74% of managers surveyed say their vendors offer onboarding services—a closer look at Deloitte’s data shows some curious gaps. 

Take success planning. Just 51% offer it, even though nine out of ten customers say they discuss their requirements and business objectives with vendors either before or immediately after purchase. I can’t help but wonder what the other 49% of vendors are thinking. If you don’t define success up front, how can you help customers achieve it? What do these providers expect to happen come renewal time?

A few months ago, I noted in a related blog that customers will likely arrive at the deployment stage with their own set of goals in mind since they had specific use cases or problems that led them to deploy the security solution at hand. At times these objectives can be vague or incomplete. It’s the job of the Customer Success team to partner with customers to help explicitly define the success criteria and goals. Apparently, just over half of solution providers agree. Success planning provides an opening for competitors who have their CS game down.

Optimization services shouldn’t be a differentiator, but they are. If you’re a technology vendor, you want one thing over all other things: happy, referenceable customers who will renew their subscription without hesitation. That’s how you keep a subscription-based business growing. Getting customers to that point involves delivering what you promised, of course. But it also involves helping them get the most from their investment in your offering. Yet Deloitte found that four out of ten vendors don’t even bother to offer usage optimization services.

A core part of delivering success to customers is making sure they get the most from their implementation. Perhaps they need to increase adoption. Or maybe their workflows would be much more efficient if they integrate data from additional sources. Or maybe their successes aren’t fully getting through to executives and the board, and they need more intuitive, responsive reporting. Regular business and performance reviews are a big part of this effort.

While optimization initiatives can help create tighter, more lasting customer relationships by establishing the solution provider as a trusted advisor, Deloitte found most vendors are falling short: Just one in four customers today consider solution providers to be their trusted advisers. And those regular business reviews? Those vendors who conduct them, says Deloitte, are twice as likely to be trusted by customers, and twice as likely to turn customers into advocates. And nearly half of customers say they’re willing to pay extra for adoption and optimization services.

Time to schedule some meetings, am I right?

Customer Success doesn’t stop with go-live. Deloitte found something very interesting about CS expectations among customers: they want it throughout their lifecycle. Even at the pre-sales phase, 90% say they want to see their Customer Success Manager (CSM) at the table. But they also want CS presence later in their relationship, when most of their interactions involve technical support. Nearly 80 percent of customers are dependent on vendor tech support, but just two out of three are “highly satisfied” with the nature of the support they receive.

Part of addressing the needs of the dissatisfied 61% is ensuring that CSMs are close enough to the ongoing experience of customers that they can work with support engineers to address problems and, when necessary, escalate responses. That close relationship also helps ensure that the vendor’s product roadmap is aligned with the needs of customers. On that score, Deloitte found 75% of customers polled reported their vendors actually incorporate their feedback into product development—and among those customers, 85% said they plan to increase their spend with that vendor.

Another way to enhance your Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) and NPS (Net Promoter Score) metrics is to create a self-service environment that empowers customers to take more control over their user experience. There’s a lot you can do to establish that experience, from training customers not just on usage but also on maintenance, to empowering them to lead their own maturing efforts. Surveys show most customers prefer to figure things out on their own if they can. Of course, they should never feel alone. And that’s just part of the art and science of Customer Success.

To me, the Deloitte report shows only upside for Customer Success executives looking to improve their operations and the strategic value of CS both to their own business and to their customers.’ “Only one-third of customers are satisfied with the current levels of services delivered today,” notes Deloitte, highlighting how this lack of service results in a serious shortfall in delivering value: “Nearly 50 percent say that purchased solutions only partially deliver the desired outcomes.”

Thanks to Deloitte, we providers now have a good idea of where we can all invest time, effort, and expertise toward building a more successful Customer Success operation of our own. After all, the room for improvement has plenty of space for everyone.

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