Feb 5, 2021

5 min

Customer Success, Your BI Tool Isn’t Enough: Why Purpose-Built Wins

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Here’s the short and the long of it: if you’re a Customer Success leader who is looking for consolidated business, product, and customer data, then you can probably piggyback on the Business Intelligence (BI) tool your SaaS company already uses – and this will likely be heavily suggested (or even mandated) by your CEO or other C-suite leaders.

Because BI tools are notoriously expensive and time intensive due to their structural complexity and rigorous implementation. So, it reasons that leadership would want to get more BI bang for their buck.

Again, this is fine if all you’re after is the data – the holy grail of business solutions, right?

“If only I had more data, I could finally know all the things so I could do all the things and deliver 20x results.”

I’m stating the obvious here, but data is, of course, powerful. There’s no arguing that. 

The point is that we often believe the acquisition of knowledge alone will solve our problems.

But things become hazy when we take the leap from insight to execution. Concepts get lost in translation. Things move too slow. We struggle to put pen to paper, so to speak.

Application is the hard part and where we often fall short or stall out.

So, while both BI and Customer Success software give you the customer and product data you seek, only one applies it to the work you do every day.

A well-constructed BI dashboard is a thing of true beauty, but the ability to mobilize said dashboard using Customer Success software is how you move from talking about doing better to actually getting it done.

And we all know that well done is better than well said.

To make sure you think beyond the data when considering whether inheriting a legacy BI tool will suffice, we’ve outlined the areas where BI tools excel and where they miss the mark for Customer Success teams compared to purpose-built Customer Success software.

Before we jump in, let’s cover the basic definitions of these systems.

What is Customer Success software?

Customer Success software fosters ongoing customer value after the initial purchase. These platforms focus on engagement and are driven by the customer data your team collects every day. Common examples include your product’s usage data, customer lifecycle data, and data from third-party tools (CRM, email, support tickets, billing, etc.).

What is BI software?

BI software is a data analysis tool that sources data from separate systems to generate a unified view through one platform for data queries, visualizes, and reports/dashboards.

Where BI Tools Excel for Customer Success

In one word: insight. BI tools were built to gather disparate company-wide data and make it more accessible and convenient to organize, analyze, and manipulate data.

BI tools excel at:

  • Data consolidation

Customer Success is responsible for being the single source of truth on the customer. As such, they must keep tabs on customer data that’s often scattered across other department’s purpose-built tools, such as CRM, ticketing, billing, chat, and product analytics. BI tools consolidate the data from these platforms so users can view, analyze, and query this data from a single interface. With a more unified data view, CSMs better understand their book of business and individual accounts, and Customer Success leaders and the C-suite can more accurately forecast across their entire customer base.

  • Customer health scores

Using the consolidated data, BI tools can also calculate customer health scores, which measure a customer’s overall engagement and satisfaction with your product, to help CSMs identify account issues and warning signs of churn. Conversely, customer health scores also makes it easy to identify expansion opportunities for customers with positive performance and high product usage.

Note: Although custom dashboards/reporting and customer health scores are highlighted as BI tool strengths (as it relates to Customer Success), these features are not exclusive to BI and are standard functionality in Customer Success software.


Where BI Tools Fall Short for Customer Success

In one word: action. BI tools focus on analytics. They were not built for process automation, much less for streamlining the operations of Customer Success teams. All departments can benefit from a BI tool’s analysis and reporting features, but that doesn’t qualify it as a functional command center when it’s not equipped to manage internal and external projects, tasks, communications, and workflows.

BI tools fall short with:

  • Customer-facing automation

BI’s power is in democratizing data. For Customer Success, this means making product usage and customer health data accessible. But the use case ends there. Customer Success software propels that data into action by triggering tailored automation based off it – empowering Customer Success teams to be proactive. When a red flag is identified, such as a lag in a customer adopting key functionality, Customer Success software automates outreach by sending targeted email and in-app campaigns to re-engage customers in the moment. To drive Net Revenue Retention, having relevant insight isn’t enough. Customer Success automation is vital to ensure preventable churn and expansion opportunities don’t slip through the cracks. Missing out on those will hamstring your ability to scale.

  • Journey mapping and project management

Customer lifecycle management is a core function of Customer Success and a task that BI tools aren’t designed to handle. Customer Success software was built around the customer journey to map, visualize, and track the tasks and milestones needed to reach (and reduce) a customer’s time to value in acute detail. This lifecycle functionality includes internal project management and task assignment (i.e., Is the sales-to-customer success handoff complete? Is the first EBR scheduled? Is the required customer training checked off?) in addition to customer achievements (i.e., Have key contacts used the sticky features at least once? Have they reached their initial success targets? If they purchased 20 licenses, have at least half of them logged in?).

  • Workflow optimization

Departments of all sizes struggle to transfer on-the-job learnings and best practices when they’re moving quickly. With a fast-paced work environment, guidance from your strongest CSMs may never reach newer or struggling team members without concerted effort. Customer Success software helps to remove the blinders and bottlenecks from your team so that expertise is consistently shared – no matter if it’s a small tip or critical process change. Using Customer Success software, you can create internal automations (called Plays) that outline a CSM’s required tasks, along with editable email and in-app message templates, to ensure that what works best is repeated every time.

  • Operational command centers

There isn’t enough time in the day for CSMs to engage with all their accounts, which makes prioritization crucial. The problem is that Customer Success teams that use BI tools are often forced to work out of their company’s existing CRM, which was not built for post-sales use cases. It’s a common example of Customer Success teams having to make do with other department’s purpose-built tools. Imagine trying to make your sales team work out of a ticketing tool like Zendesk – their productivity will plummet. Customer Success platforms provide CSMs with purpose-built command centers to manage their day-to-day operations. Instead of a CSM starting their day poring over CRM reports, they can use the command center to see exactly what they need to focus on today, what has changed in their book of business, and what they need to quickly act on.

Insights ≠ Improvement

Your business analytics are meaningless without application. So, while BI tools help Customer Success teams glean insights from their customer and product data, they only solve for half of the equation – it’s an essential half, but only a half nonetheless.

You’ll never realize the full potential of your insights if you don’t act on them; you’ll never scale your operations if you don’t automate. The sum of insight and action is Customer Success software. Once you realize the weight of both in calculating your success, it becomes simple math.

Ready to get serious about Customer Success?

Check out these other resources to help you make your case for purchasing this purpose-built technology.


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