As a customer success manager, your primary role is to own the customer relationship, capture the voice of your customers, and focus on retaining and delighting your customers. This means that you need to flip your typical org chart on its head, place the customer at the top, and subscribe roles directly to manage different aspects of customer engagement and experience. Think servant leadership with a hub and spoke architecture where every branch of the organization interfaces directly with customers. The organization needs to be focused on delivering real value to customers and continually feeding the underlying technology with relevant use-cases and best-in-class solutions.
If you consider the age-old adage “you cannot manage what you cannot measure” then metrics in our case become more important towards understanding what strategies work or need improvement. Because customers engage with your technology directly there are a lot of metrics you can collect which also means you can easily fall into a case of “analysis paralysis.” In these cases, your judgment can be impaired with conflicting data which then needs substantial narrative rationalization. Avoid this pitfall by keeping your KPIs simple, consistent, and well defined. A simple and elegant dashboard when developed correctly will allow for easy interpretation and accessibility by your organization to find individual agency and route to customer value. There is of course the need for additional communication, training, and overall alignment to company strategy, charter, goals, and objectives but if your customer-centric dashboard is poorly articulated or mismanaged you quickly descend into ambiguity. Even worse, potentially a scenario where you are ultimately doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result that do not move the needle.
The examples and high-level category explanations below should serve as a good reference and help you get started on building you own dashboard or evaluating appropriate vendors. I have deliberately omitted cohort analysis as this deserves its own blog post and allows you to segment your data into time-series views for further trending and historical context. This will be covered later and also worth noting that the dashboard below does not contain real data and used for illustrative purposes only.
Customer data is core to your dashboard so be sure you are capturing this information accurately and from a single datasource if at all possible. Data derived from your CRM, accounting system, SaaS application, or service provider can all be different and introduce inconsistencies when data integrity is not carefully managed. Also, do not focus only on revenue generating customers but think through customers broadly as partners and prospects that are leveraging free tools – these are your brand ambassadors and ultimately promote your solution and can provide you with valuable feedback. Visibility on additional metrics such as customer acquisition rate, churn, and average subscription lifetime all become important towards building a profile of your customer which you can be further segmented into cohorts as you go.
It is very important to understand your sales process and funnel as this becomes a leading indicator for customer success and what you can predict for customer on-boarding, headcount planning, and general capacity to sustain quality service levels. Sales funnels are obviously subject to buying cycles, seasonality, and are volatile but managing customer success against trends is critical. It is important to also rethink the typical sales funnel and extend it to include nurturing activities as part of expanding opportunities post the initial sale. If you get this right, your customer lifecycle will be directly aligned with your sales process and you will be able to develop the appropriate customer touch points matched to a broader understanding of the traditional sales funnel.
SaaS companies live and die by recurring revenue so having a pulse on customer acquisition costs (CAC), monthly recurring revenue (MRR), and customer lifetime value (LTV) is your lifeline. If you are doing things right overall you will see your LTV trend upwards while your CAC trends downwards. LTV in particular can be difficult to calculate as there are many factors to consider and can include sales and marketing spend, support costs, etc. but again start out simple and be consistent. As an example, you can get started by focusing LTV on profit over revenues as follows: (Average Revenue per Customer * Gross Margin per Customer)/Monthly Churn Rate = LTV.
Any opportunity to solicit your customers directly for feedback or engage within a community should be taken advantage of. This can be done simply with emails, social media interaction, satisfaction surveys (NPS), and most importantly through direct contact and developed relationships. Keeping tabs regularly will also help you further understand dips in revenue, impact of feature implementations or version releases, and generally provide you with narrative that can help fill in the blanks. Make sure to have quantitative feedback in the form of net promoter scores and simple satisfaction surveys that you can easily display and aggregate within your dashboard.