When it comes to dividing up your company’s customer-facing labor, it’s hard to know where to deploy the folks in customer success. Should you treat them as glorified account managers and lump them in with the sales team? Or, should you see them as sales-ified support representatives and shuffle them in with the customer service staff?
If you add the various ways in which a CSM should integrate holistically with the rest of the business, you’ll have yourself a recipe for plenty of confusion.
Organizationally, this leaves most customer success professionals living in a murky, undefined space. With all of these moving parts, it’s difficult to nail down who should do what, and who they should report to while they do it.
To help get a handle on this, I suggest we think about the customer journey.
Then, we can talk about how to deploy CS resources across the organization.
Mapping the Customer Journey
In case you're not familiar, ‘mapping the customer journey’ is a conceptual way of describing the path your customer takes from the moment of discovery onward.
The customer journey is unique to every business and can take different forms depending on the diversity of a company’s product offerings and customer constituencies.
Have you mapped yours out yet? If not, then that’s step #1.
If you have, then ask yourself these three questions to help you figure out a way forward:
1. How Much Help do your Customers Need along the Way?
This is a general question about the nature of your customer base.
Low-touch SaaS (Software as a Service) companies probably don’t need to hold their customers’ hands much after conversion. If, on the other hand, you’re running a more sophisticated technical solution for a specific industry, then your customers may likely need a little more help.
This should set the baseline for your customer success expectations.
If your business is comprised mostly of high-value, high-touch clients and customers, then you'll need to staff your CS team accordingly—usually by constituting customer success as its own department with clear divisions of labor.
2. Where are the Sticking Points in your Customer’s Journey?
Once you’ve set your baseline, you can begin to ask more granular questions about the specific points in the journey where your CS professionals can make the most impact.
Ask yourself: where in the journey do customers find themselves bogged down? At which moments do customers most often reach out for support? When are they most likely to churn? Lastly, which themes come up repeatedly in your customer service conversations?
In keeping with our theme, these are the parts of the journey where you want to deploy your CS professionals as faithful guides. Train them to accompany your customers before they find themselves in the frustrating position of needing support.
More than guides, however, your CS team members will serve as valuable scouts for your product development and technical support teams. Thanks to their first-person experience with clients, they can work to improve both your products and the overall customer experience as well.
3. Where are the Narrative Moments in your Customer’s Journey?
A narrative moment is one in which your customer wins with your product or service in a big way—a way that inspires them to share the good news about your business with everyone they know.
Perhaps you've increased their conversion rate by 50%, or you've helped them solve a vexing, perennial problem. Whatever it is, these are the golden moments when your client or customer is most apt to give you a big hug and a huge pat on the back.
In a sense, you can think of these moments as the opposite of your customers’ sticking points. Rather than keeping people happy, your CS folks have the chance to multiply the happiness they’re already experiencing through any number of means: customer success storytelling and advocacy, to name a few.
This means prompting and preparing your CS professionals to drop in at those key moments. It also means connecting them—whether via a direct reporting relationship or otherwise—with the marketing and sales folks whose job is to trumpet these success stories as they pile up.
There’s plenty of room for customer success at every level in the organization.
That’s both the blessing and curse of this new way of thinking holistically about how to best take care of our customers—a blessing in its efficacy and a curse in the organizational confusion it brings about.
If we stop for a moment and think strictly in terms of customer journey, we just might find a clear way to move forward and put customer success to its highest and best use.