Author – Ashley Harpp 3/31/2021
This month’s coffee chat features Ed Powers, a Customer Success Executive and Strategist. Ed is known for helping teams make breakthroughs in customer loyalty by addressing why customers leave—and why they stay. His approach combines neuroscience with data analytics and enterprise-wide improvement to deliver dramatic results.
Ed’s 30-year career includes Customer Success, sales, marketing, operations and consulting from start-ups to Fortune 40 companies.
Needless to say, I was thrilled to hear that Ed was willing to answer a few of my questions about Customer Success and the importance of being data driven.
I asked Ed about common mistakes companies make when it comes to data and what companies starting from ground zero should think about when building out a Customer Success organization.
Ashley: Why do you think it's important to talk about accurate data in Customer Success?
Ed Powers: Venture capital firm Bessemer Ventures shared an example at SaaStr last year where a 1% improvement in net retention increased enterprise value by $100M. This means small changes have big impact. The problem is that most of what we see in the numbers every day is just random noise, not meaningful signals, so we can’t resolve those small differences. We must use statistics to make more informed decisions.
Ashley: Let's say a company is building out a customer success department. What should they think about when it comes to tracking data?
Ed Powers: Let’s face it, many people in our profession don’t like math. It’s understandable. However, the best decisions are made based on facts, and correctly analyzing data is the best way to uncover those facts. It’s very helpful to hire at least one spreadsheet jockey for the CS team. That person can play a critical Customer Operations role, supporting you and your team in a variety of ways. This includes building valid customer health scores, which keeps your team members focused on the right accounts.
Ashley: What is the best way to drive accountability for churn reasons across non-CS departments?
Ed Powers: Pareto analysis will help quantify the cross-functional nature of churn, but by far the best technique I’ve ever used to drive change is a Japanese method called hoshin kanri. Unlike MBOs or OKRs, hoshin is a top down, closed-loop, integrated process that keeps organizations stay hyper-focused on achieving a single, enterprise-wide breakthrough. The technique decomposes complex issues into manageable chunks, cascading, executing, and then reviewing improvements from bottom to top. Metrics and accountability are built in. Global companies like HP, 3M, Microsoft, and Danaher all swear by it.
Ashley: Where do you see organizations make mistakes when it comes to data?
Ed Powers: The biggest mistake I’ve seen is relying on the financial community to provide Customer Success KPIs. Very few CFOs and board members understand the true nature of variation and how to accurately measure churn. In fact, the equations they commonly use increase the odds of making bad decisions. The best advice I have is to track your own numbers correctly and accurately, and be prepared to discuss them when you meet with C-levels and board members.
Ashley: Let's talk about your course "Make Data-Driven Decisions in Customer Success". I’ve taken the course myself and found it incredibly helpful. What inspired you to do this course?
Ed Powers: In my consulting work, I saw that clients often made decisions on intuition rather than evidence, leading to faulty beliefs and poor results. Learning a little more about statistics in a Customer Success environment really pays off. My course teaches how to use statistical tools to solve common problems in Customer Success: constructing predictive customer health scores, analyzing CSAT and NPS, accurately tracking progress, and improving results. I offer two versions of the course, one instructor-led through SuccessHACKER and another self-paced through Udemy.
I want to give a special thanks to Ed Powers for sharing his insights and expertise with the GainGrowRetain community.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this month’s coffee chat so post your comments below.