How do you pitch the Value of Customer Success to your clients?

Ramona Aubry
Ramona Aubry Member Posts: 1 Navigator
Hi all,

In my organization CS is still a new concept that is sometimes confused with Project Management.

Looking for ideas on how to pitch the importance of CS to new clients.
The onboarding and implementation are owned by the Service team at my company and the client does not see how CS is different than PM.
Can you help with any key differentiators that would help me sell the CS program to my clients?

Thanks for your feedback!



  • Daryl Colborne
    Daryl Colborne Member Posts: 50 Expert
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    edited March 2021

    Hi Ramona!
    I can understand where you are coming from. In my world, Customer Success is confused too often with Support and sometime even with Account Management (AM is on the sales side). 

    It is very important that there is differentiation between the roles and defining the responsibilities of each would require a discussion between the individuals that head Customer Success and Project Management. Once that is finalized, the C-levels need to agree on it, buy into it and then evangelize it downward through the rest of the organization. I've been taking this approach with Zerto.



  • Will Stevenson
    Will Stevenson Member Posts: 16 Thought Leader
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    edited March 2021
    Hey Ramona, 

    I think it's really important to lean on your Sales Team to start the conversation around CS and Onboarding. I understand they're owned by two different departments, but to your client they should look like one seamless experience. 

    The Onboarding team is in place to help your customers get up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible. Your CS team is in place to ensure they have success with your platform long-term. Partnering with the Sales Team to have them position this to clients early in the sales cycle is crucial. Also, explaining it early and often post-sales is really important. I've found having a visual that you can use throughout the sales and success lifecycle is really helpful as well. 

    Hope this helps! Happy to answer any questions.
  • Chris Dizon
    Chris Dizon Member Posts: 7 Contributor
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    edited March 2021
    Hello Ramona

    You are not alone.  My organization is struggling as well.   Unlike start ups, my organization has been around for a long time and it has only recently moved to Customer Success model.   Many of our customers have been conditioned to think that any outreach by us pertains to a sales inquiry and not customer success. 
    As Daryl and Will mentioned, it is key to introduce your customer success program during the sales process by the sales/account manager.   

    Formal handoffs to the CSM/CS team can be set as milestones and in the handoff, next steps should be communicated to the customer to set expectations.   In the end, it is up to the customer to accept any customer success offering but if the sales team communicates the CS program as part of the sale it can set expectations for the customer.

  • Naveen Nair
    Naveen Nair Member Posts: 5 Seeker
    edited March 2021
    This is a tough battle, especially since it's convincing internal stakeholders who are already used to a certain mode of operations and client engagement. One approach that's helped me in the past is the define roles between Sales, Service and CS based on the business outcomes each group is driving (or expected to drive) with customers.

    Growth vs Delivery vs Retention as an simplified example.

  • Ashton Liu
    Ashton Liu Member Posts: 29 Expert
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    edited March 2021
    We have had (are are still undergoing) a similar transition. Previously, CSMs did a bit of everything (onboarding, training, support, CS, etc.) and become the main contact for all customer questions. While your question was focused on customer expectations, I've also found that a lot of this also relates to internal dynamics as well. There's no easy answer but I've found the following have helped:
    • Define the roles & responsibilities internally so that Sales, Marketing, and Onboarding roles all set the correct expectations up front. All customer facing collateral & interactions should reflect the correct functions. 
    • We've found that it's sometimes helpful to, upon competing onboarding, send an email to the customer outlining who does what. This is a simple, low-tech thing to do, but does help to reiterate the roles once onboarding is done. Even if it was discussed during the sales process, people tend to forget. This can also be reiterated in a handoff call (or both). 
    • Using success plans to give CSMs a structure for engaging around success, business goals, etc. might also be useful for controlling the conversation and expectations. 
    • I've found that above everything else, it's a tough cultural change internally. As a CSM, it's hard to have been that point of contact and resource for everything and to then transition those responsibilities to others. There needs to be internal discipline when a customer reaches out for a support issue, for example, that the CSM diverts that to support even if he/she knows the answer (same would go for the other examples you raised). Most customers will eventually get it and eventually go straight to the right resource but it takes organizational discipline. For us, the big push was technical support. We tracked this in our support system by percent of tickets opened directly with support as opposed to forwarded from a CSM. 
    • It also means you may need to invest in your CSMs. If they need to shift from PM/AM/Support to purely focusing on CS, then this may require additional effort to enhance their credentials as trusted resources. This could be certifications in your domain, greater exposure to the industry, etc. This way, as CSMs deflect inquiries not relevant to CS work, they can reposition themselves with customers' expectations. Because my organization caters to the hospitality and tourism industry, this meant industry certifications, joining industry events, and getting hands on domain training - all to better empower them to talk strategy and best practices. This also might necessitate a change in your hiring criteria moving forward. 
    • To take a page from the book Leading Change, once you've made this organization shift, celebrate and promote those who embody the change. 
  • Martin Jahn
    Martin Jahn Member Posts: 3 Seeker
    edited April 2021
    Hi there,

    I assume you are looking to pitch this externally.
    When I meet with customers for the first time, I stress that this is all about making them successful and to shift the relationship from a transaction customer-vendor to a partnership founded in collaboration and sharing of information. I also stress that I am not part of sales.
    What I try to convey that they can still opt-out of a CS engagement. We have a small team and we need to be selective a bit and i want to focus my efforts on those that are open to collaboration and sharing. This is important when i want to get to the next stage, our success planning meeting. If they are not willing to share, then the entire engagement going to be painful. 

    hope that helps.
  • Ed Powers
    Ed Powers Member Posts: 180 Expert
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    edited April 2021
    "My mission is simple, Mr. Customer: I'm here to ensure your success and and satisfaction throughout our relationship. You and your team will interact with several members of our team at various points along the way, but my role is to help you achieve and maximize the value we promised to you."
  • Jeremy Mulder
    Jeremy Mulder Member Posts: 26 Expert
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    edited April 2021
    Hi Ramona –
    We made up Customer Success. (My dad still doesn't get it.) So we get to tell its story and pivot until it lands:-) I've found metaphor helps with newness. Take something your customer knows and use it as a metaphor to help them understand Customer Success. The old school movie crowd seems to like this one:

    The client is Dorthy.
    The munchkins are the implementation and onboarding team (follow the yellow brick road).
    And CS is the scarecrow, tin man, and lion: along for the journey, working to nurture and grow the relationship, and destined to help Dorthy stay on the path and reach her destination.
  • Brian Hansen
    Brian Hansen Member Posts: 75 Expert
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    edited April 2021
    Good one, Jeremy!
  • Brian Hansen
    Brian Hansen Member Posts: 75 Expert
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    edited April 2021
    That's interesting, Martin. Why do you find some customers want to opt out of a customer success experience? Do they think it will only lead to them being asked for more money?