Moving from a Services-Based to a Core Customer Success Organization

This is a guest blog post by Sunil Joseph, VP of Customer Success at Avanoo.

There has been a seismic shift in terms of how organizations are making the transition to structuring their customer teams to focus on Customer Success and Customer Service separately. Traditionally, this wasn’t the case prior to the maturity of Customer Success as a capability. 

Historically, you would see Professional Service leaders head up Customer Success teams, where they brought all their knowledge and skills on what they learned in the services world and tried applying those to Customer Success teams. The problem was, this doesn’t scale since fundamentally the focus, outcomes and role of services and success teams are different. Most organizations and leaders have started to take notice and as a part of the organizational design process, have tried to delineate both functions separately. 

If you are an early stage start-up or a late stage company, it’s critical to understand this and map the right people to the role for each of these capabilities to ensure that your organization and customers are teed up for long term success.

VP of Customer Success, AvanooI am the Vice President of Customer Success at Avanoo. In my role I am responsible to help streamline the customer experience and help set-up our product and services to scale. Avanoo was built on the premise that stories are the key to opening up the full potential of employees and organizations. I’m going to walk you through the organizational shift we underwent in our customer facing teams at Avanoo in case you might also be considering this move. 


Overview

Let’s start with addressing the differences between services and Customer Success. 

Services or usually called Professional Services are services provided to customers that have a clear timeline, outcome and value definition. The types of services can be one time (for e.g. implementation, training, workshop) or can be ongoing (for e.g. ongoing training program, technical support services).

Customer Success on the other hand is focusing on the relationship and value post sale to help the customer uncover exponential value through adoption and outcomes in their investment with your product. 

I wanted to share some tips on successfully transitioning from a services-based organization to a core Customer Success offering, with services as an upsell opportunity. This article will be helpful for you, if you find yourself in one of the following situations:

  • If you are managing a Customer Success team and trying to transition your engagement model from al-a-carte per customer to a consistent and predictable engagement model

  • You are looking for additional opportunities to upsell products and services and create a consistent and measurable experience for customers

  • You are trying to standardize the roles and responsibilities for the CSMs and create a clear path to creating measuring outcomes

 

Starting the Journey

As you start thinking about the process to transition from a services based organization to a pure Customer Success based organization with services as an added offering, please ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you want to still keep the essence of the service that your customers love about your company and team?

  • Are you sure about not providing al-a-carte service as a standard offering for each customer?

  • Do you still want to retain the best aggregate experience and exceptional service that they had come to know from the team?

 

The Forming Phase

As you march towards streamlining the customer experience, one of the first areas to tackle is separating out Services and Customer Success offerings. Given that any change to the offerings would have a direct impact to the level of service offered to your customers and culture of your team – there needs to be conviction and intention in clearly delineating the Services vs. Customer Success offerings. 

One of the best ways to identify the areas that can be standardized vs. the areas that needs to be customized per customer is going through a customer journey mapping with your team. This is a great opportunity to achieve the following:

  • Bringing all the stakeholders together, to feel that we are ‘all in’ this together

  • Identifying what’s working today and what needs to be optimized

  • Identifying major moments that matter

  • Shared understanding of current state and vision for the future state


Any offerings that could be scalable and repeatable needed to be outlined with the Customer Success bucket and anything that was custom to the customer’s needs (services) like production or consulting needed to have its own lifecycle. More importantly, you would need to identify intersection points of how services and Customer Success could interplay to ensure that it’s a seamless experience for the customer.

 

The Norming Phase

As you try to outline the ideal customer experience for the customer and based my learnings from doing this more than a dozen times, here is a simple playbook that you can apply to your business:

  • Start with a customer journey mapping process to outline all the steps in a customer journey.

  • Organize a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) conversation, and outline the overall customer experience. Make sure to include all stakeholders in the journey mapping process.

  • Build alignment and ensure that there is buy-in during each step of the process. Even if it’s a minor step such as setting up an account, include it in the process, and assign the RACI for that step. This will ensure that you are not missing out on any intricacies in the process and chances of things slipping through the cracks is reduced.

  • Once the steps are outlined, use a Customer Success platform to outline the steps in the process that are repeatable and journeys for overarching processes that are one time only.

  • Rinse and repeat to ensure every couple of weeks and retro on the process to ensure that the process is relevant and changing with the needs of the business, especially if you are a business like ours that is scaling and innovating daily.

 

The Performing Stage

Once you have clearly outlined the core Customer Success and Services offerings. Here is a playbook that you can follow to ensure that you are rolling this out with utmost care and intention:

  1. The first step is to put together a go-to-market strategy including but not limited to the following artifacts:

    • Transition plan for existing customers

    • Pricing sheet for Customer Success vs. Professional Services offerings for new customers

    • Marketing materials to ensure that you have a clear and concise way to communicate the value of services

  2. Ensure that your Customer Success, Account Management and Sales team is trained on the different components of services and core customer success and there is a clear checklist of items and FAQ to deal with any gray areas.

  3. Set a clear set of milestones and deadlines to transition existing customers to the new engagement model. 

    • Start scheduling conversations with your most happy/green customers, and introduce the new model and perfect the pitch and get feedback from them on the new model.

    • Once you feel that you have a good pitch with the offerings, work with your team to start having transition conversations with your risky/red customers to standardize the offerings.

  4. Schedule a weekly go-to-market meeting with stakeholders from different parts of the organization to share feedback on how the changes are resonating with existing customers and market and calibrate to accelerate or decelerate the shift accordingly.


That said, even with a perfect process and execution – there is always a risk of existing customers not being happy with the shift. So, it’s extremely important to master the go-to-market pitch to ensure that they understand that they are gaining a lot more in terms of value instead of losing something they have been promised during the sales process or experience as a part of the original Customer Success experience.

 

Summary

As a summary, here are some of my learnings taking our organization from a services-based Customer Success team to a team that is truly focused on Customer Experience and set to scale to the moon and back.

  • Although the business of every customer is unique, there are aspects of it that can be pulled out to create an experience that is aspirational and reusable for other customers to leverage. 

  • If you are not leveraging what’s working for one customer and applying to others, you are missing out on a major piece of what drives value in their investment in you. 

  • Customers don’t just buy a product to use for their needs, they want to learn from what other customers are using and what’s working for them.

 


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Fighting Churn is a newsletter of inspiration, ideas and news on customer success, churn, renewal and other stuff and is curated by ChurnZero.

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