Customer Success for Non-SaaS (or On-Prem) Customers

Helloooo GGR! (to be read in the same voice/way Robin Williams said, "Gooooood Morning Vietnam!" - but I digress)

Is there anyone currently leading (or has prior experience) a CS function at a non-SaaS company - especially one where there are multiple product lines and standard contracts are multi-year?

If so, I have some questions, such as:

*What revenue metric(s), if any, are you tied to? In my experience from what I have heard from folks in that space, is that no one cares much about retention since contract end dates are years away.

*Based on that, how do you get people to care?

*What or team structure have you used or found that works when there are multiple products/product lines? CSMs cannot be SME's on everything, but I'd also think you don't want to over burden the account with a million contacts.

*What other leading metrics do you use when product usage isn't a thing? For example, you manufacture and sell/rent MRI machines.

Some of these questions I believe I know the answer(s) to and/or have an opinion, but looking to hear from those in the trenches.



  • William Buckingham
    William Buckingham Member Posts: 39 Expert
    10 Comments Second Anniversary 5 Insightfuls Name Dropper

    Hi @Shari Srebnick,

    Our product makeup/deployment is a mix of On Prem, SaaS/Cloud, and Hybrid. That being said we are a fully SaaS/Recurring Revenue business model from a pricing and strategy perspective. We have multiple product lines and a hefty portion of our customer base is on multi-year contracts.

    1. RE metrics and caring about retention in a multi-year contract space...... Retention is just as important with multi-year contracts as it is with annual or month-to-month agreements. The cadence, timing, and structure of the engagements looks different. One thing to keep in mind is look at Renewal Retention Rate, not just overall retention (looking at renewal rate of what is actually available to renew, not based off the entire book of business - much of which might not be up for renewal that year.) As far as getting the CSMs to care about renewal, I'd say there's a million reasons for that even in an on prem/hardware business. Do they know how much cheaper it is to get $XXX,0000 from an existing vs net new customer? Are the CSMs bonused and evaluated on retention (and/or metrics impacted by retention)? If they truly don't care because they don't expect to be at the company in X number of years, my take is that the underlying issue to address is why they don't think they will be there in X number of years.
    2. RE CSM team structure based on products..... This really depends on how different and how many products you have. This can actually be a great opportunity to build in development and forward momentum in the CSMs' careers between promotions. Getting certified in Products A, B, and C can be a great way for CSMs to drive job security, increased value, and more opportunity to expand accounts (if other products are cross-sellable, not competing). You have to nail what is in it for the CSM. You likely want a way to record what skillsets/product certifications each CSM has so you can apply this to your capacity planning and enablement planning. When a new customer is being onboarded, you'll want to see what product mix is being sold to that customer, and then be able to see which CSMs have that certification and needed capacity. I think something to keep in mind, is that CSMs in most cases aren't expected to be technical experts. Often you can get your CSM team capable to manage a wide range of products, and instead lean on a more specified Technical Account Management and Technical Support teams. Lots of ways to tackle this one, these are just a few ideas.
    3. This one is tricky, and ranges wildly depending on what data you CAN get from the customer and product. Are customers able to run diagnostics on prem and share those results? Does the customer do some other tracking which gives enough of an insight into your products usage/value to be used? These answers differ company to company, but sometimes there is something you can use that gets you some idea of usage/adoption/value. In your example, how many MRI scans is the customer running per month? What benefits do your machines provide that standard ones do not? do some multiplication. I think the key here is to have a value management practice in which the customer provides insights your team needs in order to hold itself accountable to delivering value to the customer. Make this a recurring practice with the customer. If you ask the customer for usage metrics, they won't care. If you ask the customer to help you ensure they are recieving the proper ROI, you'll likely get the usage metrics. ROI is a customer-centric approach angle, usage is not. If you lead with the former, you'll likely get the latter.

    I hope this helps. Great questions, with a wide range of answers depending on the product/service. I'm happy to chat through any of this further if beneficial. Curious what others have to say.

    Will Buckingham

    Customer Success Operations Manager, Enablement

  • Josh Byus
    Josh Byus Member Posts: 2 Navigator

    Hi @Shari Srebnick,

    I am a senior individual contributor of a CSM team (formed 18 months ago). Our company is 20+ years old and has recently transitioned to subscription based licensing (previously perpetual + annual support) while selling on-premise database solutions for B2B.

    Our CS org represents revenue retention functions of license renewals, product support, and my group of CSM's that are focused on Onboarding implementation + end user Adoption of multiple product suites for high ACV enterprise customers. Currently, CSM engagement is tied to an ACV threshold and we work with customers of varying contract lengths across key product suites, from 1 year to multi-year.

    (1 & 2) Our primary performance metric is tied to product Adoption and NRR. While there is a prioritization on single year contract customers, since we work with our highest value customers our focus on multi-year contracts is just as important. Particularly as our business model is much in the vain of land and expand. Though the CSM team is currently not tracked on expansion or CS qualified leads, incentive plans for CSM's are structured around # of customers renewing, reaching Adoption stages, customer Advocacy opportunities (case studies, webinar talk appearances, etc.), product feedback inclusion, and other areas.

    (3) Currently there is a CSM and CS Engineer (CSE) working across product suites for multiple customer accounts. CSM's and CSE's are frontline resources per customer, but are supported by SME's from Product Support or Product Management groups on the back end. CSM's are not expected to be technical experts. They do need to have a competent understanding of our product portfolio and business value props from end user to executive stakeholder. They are trained and experienced to recommend best practices to mitigate risk, while proactively identifying call-to-action scenarios that reduce customer effort with our products.

    (4) Leading metrics related to license consumption, online resource views and video courses completed, and support ticket metrics are the primary data points we can get without customer engagement. More detailed PUR/FUR insight has to be done through high-touch engagement and confirmation via virtual/in-person meetings. We do have some PUR data, but it is dependent on the product and customer infrastructure security permissions. Product log/audit files are also used, but require the customer initiate.

    Happy to speak with others in the on-prem CSM world, but I know we are few and far least from my experience ☺️

  • Shari Srebnick
    Shari Srebnick Member Posts: 111 Expert
    100 Comments Second Anniversary Name Dropper
    Thank you to both!  I have to dig into this (still recovering and catching up from being at Pulse last week) and if I have more questions, I will reach out.  Thank you again!!