Does your organization need Customer Support, or Customer Success? Or both? Too often, companies do not deliberately decide what type of Customer organization is right for the them, instead just choosing one by accident. But the wrong choice can have major consequences on the financials of the business and on customer satisfaction.
So which do you need? Like some many other questions, it depends. But let’s start with defining what each organization looks like.
Customer support - think call center where almost all of the volume is inbound (phone, email or chat) and it’s almost exclusively reactive. In general, the goal of a Support organization is to help resolve the customer's issue as quickly, and cost effectively, as possible. Some of the metrics that are typical for a Support team include time to answer, time to resolve, number of touches to resolve etc. A new measure that is gaining some momentum is called “Customer Effort” which is an attempt to capture how hard it was for the customer to resolve their inquiry and is very appropriate for Support teams. For the most part, people in Customer Support are a little less experienced and are on the lower end of the compensation scale. This makes them a little easier to find and hire.
Customer Success - often called Account Management, this organization is typically tasked with ensuring that the client gets value out of the product/service. As a result, they are (or at least, should be) more proactive with their customers They should be making sure that the customers are using the product/service to do the thing for which they originally bought the product/service. Some key metrics for Success organizations include number of outbound touches per customer, renewal rates and expansions and net promoter score. Generally, Success team members are a little more experienced in customer management and therefore have slightly higher compensation. They are often a little more difficult to find.
When deciding whether you need a Customer Support team or Customer Success team or both, here are some things to think about:
In every organization I have worked at, or consulted to, the Client Success team believe they have too many accounts. Typically, it’s because of staff turnover, New Business team closing lots of deals and/or because Client Success is asked to do more and more (ensure usage, be the strategic partner for the client, look for upsell opportunities, secure the renewal, find success stories etc etc).
Generally, the number of accounts is not too high – it’s a lack of prioritization that makes it seem overwhelming. One solution is to tier accounts. Customers in the higher tiers are treated with high priority, customers in the lower tiers are lower priority. Tiers are determined by actual spend, potential spend, product usage or some other quantitative measure. Below, I give my perspective on the pros and cons of this approach.
1. It’s clear which factors should be used to prioritize customers, and those factors are agreed upon by the entire organization
2. Your customer base follows the 80/20 rule i.e. 80% of the revenue comes from 20% of the customers. This makes prioritization a little easier. The further the customer base deviates from this, the harder it is to implement this model
Otherwise, you may need to address your "understaffing" issues through additional resources and/or improved workflows.
Feel free to contact me if you’d like additional thoughts on when to implement this model and how to make it successful.
Azim Nagree is an ex-Bain consultant with 20+ years in leading strategy, growth and operations transformations.