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The 5 Stages of Customer Success Maturity
At first you might be winging it, but with good personnel, processes, and technology (not to mention time, effort, and accountability), you'll be on your way to true customer success.
Posted Sep 22, 2017
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Think about how your team is managing your customers. You may be doing some things well and then several things may come to mind as lacking, cumbersome, or just plain difficult. For many companies thinking of this process, or lack thereof, doesn’t give them warm fuzzies. Some of you are reading this because you just lost a big account and you still aren’t sure why. Others may want to learn more about the steps needed to create a customer success management team. Current processes just aren’t working, the team is stressed (and bailing), and tracking the customer journey is difficult. Still others are just curious about this newer phenomenon called customer success. Regardless of your reason for wanting to understand the maturity modeling for customer success, welcome to the conversation! We speak from the experience of working with our customers (customer success professionals themselves) and understanding where so many are positioned today in their journey.

When we look at the stages of growth in customer success, we identify five key areas:

  • Skill (customer management, business experience, and soft skills like conflict management)
  • Process (the way we work and communicate with customers)
  • Data (accounts, contacts, and contracts)
  • Technology (systems used within the company to track and manage customers)
  • Organization (the team within the company that has responsibility for the customer)

Each of these areas evolves throughout five stages of maturity: Ad Hoc, Managed, Repeatable, Measurable, and Optimized.

Ad Hoc (Individualized)

In the beginning, skills are lacking or varied among team members; however, even the team itself is not well defined at this stage. Processes are reactive. Those managing the customers are always playing catch-up, going after the low-hanging fruit, the accounts that are most in trouble today. There is a blend of customer success and support. Good processes, if any, are not documented or consistent, and are managed in a technology not built for this use—Excel, a CRM system, etc. Visibility between teams is virtually non-existent. Data might be housed in several systems and is not consistent. Contracts are not up to date or are just plain missing. Contacts are outdated—with no clear champion or “power user” for the accounts. Renewals come and go. Churn is happening and the team is not aware; it’s usually a surprise.

Managed (Early Awareness)

This stage brings awareness that what is currently being done isn’t working, and the idea to learn and change is starting to emerge. Top talent is being relied on to get the job done, but knowing how and when to scale this across the entire team—a must—isn’t yet part of the picture. Basic skills and processes are beginning to be recognized, the customer success team is starting to be formed, and conversations around best practices are coming together. Good questions are being asked:

  • How much time do our customers need and how much time are we spending on them today?
  • How many team members do we need to manage the accounts correctly?
  • What are the gaps and risks?
  • What steps can we automate?

A single platform is purchased and starting to be implemented. Data is cleaned and centralized and shared across teams. While this stage can feel good at times, many teams find themselves back in ad-hoc mode, reliving painful heroic efforts. A commitment here to automation and process improvement will get you to the next step.

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