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3 Ways to Become a Data-Driven Customer Success Manager

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“You turn schools, companies and government agencies into [hiring company’s] product lovers.” It’s the first line of a job advertisement for a customer success manager at one of the world’s global software giants. The company asks the potential hire to “drive post-deployment customer success by promoting best practices, accelerating feature adoption, cultivating relationships, and helping customers share and discover new ways to create magic moments using our technology.”

While it may sometimes feel challenging to imagine driving that sort of passion for our products, it’s actually imperative that we do.

The fact is that the role of those of us charged with software customer success—whatever our actual title may be—is both expanding and transforming. Simply aiming to reduce customer churn is no longer enough. The best customer success managers drive profitability for both their company and their customers by helping to define best practices, identify patterns for meaningful upselling and cross-selling, lending input on relevant content creation, and making customers advocates for our products to drive new customer acquisition.

Customer success managers who orchestrate these magic moments are masters of measurement and analysis—pulling data together to formulate new ways to measure satisfaction and drive profitability by deeply understanding what makes their customers successful, how to best engage with existing and new ones, and how to come up with customer health scores that guide engagement.

How can customer success managers work toward the promise of their title? Let’s examine some ways the most innovative ones generate insights from anonymous software usage data.

1. Map customer success metrics and usage. This simple question (one that doesn’t always have a simple answer) is the most basic starting point for determining if a customer is successful with your product: What is the value proposition of your product, and how does that value proposition map to its actual use? Having clear metrics for what your customers should achieve with your product will enable your team to further correlate those metrics with how customers use it to find a host of new and useful insights. But what’s more, having easily consumable usage data can often help you determine where your customers are realizing their successes—or, importantly, where they’re hamstrung.

For instance, consider the broadly defined value proposition of increasing the speed and accuracy of creating a sales order. By looking at usage data across the base of customers conducting that process, customer success managers can drill into things that tell us a lot about whether they’re achieving speed and efficiency—and what’s holding them back or accelerating it. Trends in usage metrics like runtime and feature usage, further correlated with system attributes or geography, reveal potential roadblocks presented by either the way the user is leveraging the product or the system itself.

Maybe it becomes apparent that a majority of customers are bypassing a new feature and instead completing the process outside of the system. With this information, customer success managers can develop and communicate best practices and relevant educational content that both informs new users and empowers existing ones to use the product more efficiently and effectively. This has a host of benefits from determining and developing best practices, to finding and cultivating relationships with power users who can become advocates for your products.

2. Develop targeted customer engagement strategies. As we seek to fulfill the metrics by which we will be measured for success, sales professionals can tend to become reactive to every piece of feedback a customer relays. An angry phone call or email, or even simply a few tweets and retweets by customers unhappy with a bug or a new road map direction, can color all customers interactions. Having access to usage data can help us reliably determine the level of severity of the problem the user is presenting to us and help us to formulate the proper level and type of engagement. With access to data on use across the base, and the ability to break down that data by system attributes and geography, we can see that perhaps that bug is only affecting users on a certain operating system version, while users on a different OS or version aren’t seeing the same issue. The customer success manager can reach out with both targeted information across communication channels that prevents a molehill from turning into a mountain, and, most importantly, lend their customer a short-term solution so that their business is not disrupted.

3. Determine relevant levels of customer health. Customer health can be a difficult—but important—metric to track, and it of course differs according to the product delivered. But at its basic level, it demands examining the frequency of use mapped to feature usage. Information on feature usage that can be broken down by targeted parameters like runtime by module gives us a strong foundation to communicate with customers about their needs and determine what defines a satisfied customer. One of the most innovative ways customer success managers do this is with targeted, in-application messaging. Customers that map to different usage profiles can be messaged with the same question—“How would you rate your level of satisfaction with the software?”—with the results being used to determine the characteristics of those who are highly satisfied, those who are not, and the many who fall somewhere in between. That information can help determine levels of satisfaction and the appropriate actions to take to boost engagement with each cohort.

You don’t have to be a magician to produce product magic. By tuning deeply into usage analysis, you can drive happy, profitable customer relationships.

Keith Fenech is Revulytics’ vice president of software analytics and was the cofounder and CEO of Trackerbird Software Analytics before the company was acquired by Revulytics in 2016. Fenech joined is responsible for the strategic direction and growth of the usage analytics business within the company. Prior to founding Trackerbird, Fenech held senior product roles at GFI Software, where he was responsible for the product road map and revenue growth for various security products in the company's portfolio. Fenech also brings with him 10 years of IT consultancy experience in the SMB space.

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