In this interview, Romeo Leon, a SaaS Customer Success executive and most recently, VP of CS at Figure Eight talks about the importance of tying Customer Success to the company’s strategic growth and enhancing customer value within the organization. In doing so, Customer Success organizations, can prove their worth/value within their organization and ensure a seat on the executable table.
Background and Career
Romeo began his career in consulting services. He said consulting work is a great start for anyone who wants to start with CS. To be effective in this role, you need to know how to be in front of your customers, talk to them in a way that you should be credible, influence the conversation, and drive the results you want.
When you compare it to CS, the same principles and characteristics apply. After consulting, Romeo went on to Project Management and soon became a Dr. of Professional Services and Account Management.
Prior to the term “Customer Success” became ubiquitous, the role of CS was unknown. In the early days, according to Romeo, it was a combination of many functions such as sales, account management, professional services, and support. That said, the underlying goal or objective, then, is "how do we retain existing revenue and grow it? The term CS was not coined until the SaaS business emerged.
Significant changes in CS
As the prominence of CS grew, different models emerged. For example, other organization structures CS differently, how it should function, and what the scope of the responsibilities are. Romeo said, model wise, some organizations do not include revenue in their CS goals, but some other companies, have revenue (financial outcomes) as part of their CS goals.
Another change to a subscription business, Romeo observed, is the idea that all other teams are merged to work with CCO/CRO. We have seen the rise of both roles. These roles are not only limited to post-sale interactions but also responsible for filling the sales funnel and developing pre-sales processes.
This business model makes sense because, in this world of silos, Romeo points out, it eliminates all tension or strife in other departments. It is easier to work together and achieve the same goals that serve and meet customer goals.
With the rise of CRO / CCOs on the executive table, it is good to know how they have delivered the success their customers are looking for. This is the most interesting topic that the CS community should discuss extensively. I see other benefits that it will bring to other CS organizations that are starting or wanting to improve their current business process.
Service and value (which comes first)
For the customer to consider whether the relationship is healthy or meaningful, recognizing the (product) value and impact of the solution on their needs or challenges is a critical piece of a good relationship.
If customers do not see the value or no significant changes are made to their bottom line, they have no basis to maintain or continue their relationship. Similarly, having a difficult or unpleasant customer experience, customers will not take a second guess not to discontinue their relationship.
Both are necessary (experience and value) to retain customers. If organizations want to have a lasting and committed relationship, they must promote and foster a good relationship by delivering brand promise and by bringing the customer experience to life through authenticity and trusted relationships.
If you take the B2B SaaS world, CS will not be viewed as a competitive differentiator because every recurring business has a CS at their disposal. Most if not all, invest in CS, Romeo pointed out.
Without CS, your customers will not be as successful as they should be. CS is a necessary part of the organization to survive and thrive. Now the difference is, how effective is CS as a business strategy? How does CS perform against goals/plan and how effective is it in aligning with shared goals with other teams (ie. sales, marketing, technology and etc).
Romeo said that without the CS acting as a strategic driver in helping the customer's business expand and grow, you would almost certainly experience negative outcomes (low NPS scores, high churn rates, or less involvement in marketing requests).
In these changing and trying times, CS has to demonstrate a high level of grit to connect with their customers. They must take a proactive and dynamic approach to protect its customer base. Hence, CS is more important than ever. Such changes in today’s marketplace, CS must play a strategic role to effectively serve its customers.
Strategic and growth driver
The focus today needs to be on driving value based on trusted relationships. Internally, the purpose of CS is to work with sales, marketing, and other functional teams to improve and align shared processes that impact the customer. Collaborating with these teams ensure the value CS provides to the relationship.
Remember CS is not a type of application that customers can use whenever they think or feel they are going to be used, but a necessary component and addition of their business success.
As CS organizations, we need to empower our customers. We need to make sure that our customers/champions not only realize the (product) value but also help them (customers) become valuable within their organization.
For CS to become an integral part of an organization, they need to prove their value and its impact in the organization. It's not just about giving the CS team a revenue goal or target, but being very clear about the strategic role they play in the overall growth of the organization.