Churn Classification for Customer Success Management

Customer Success is when your customers achieve their Desired Outcome through their interactions with your company. If you focus on Customer Success, churn will not be an issue. At least in theory. To take that from a simple theory to your Operating Model, you need to put systems in place, be able to monitor their effectiveness, and routinely perform root cause analysis when things go wrong (and also when things go well so you can replicate, right?). So while our goal is to live in a world where churn doesn’t happen, while you have it, you really need to understand it so you can avoid it in the future. To that end, I put together this Churn Classification system (or matrix or quadrant or whatever) to help you do that.

All Churn is Bad

All churn is bad, but some churn is worse than other churn. Customers
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Sales is Part of Customer Success

Sales is part of Customer Success. Like it or not. No, I don’t mean the Sales organization should report to the Customer Success Management org. I mean that Customer Success as an Operating Philosophy, as a way of doing business, includes sales. It includes marketing, product, support, etc, too. It’s critical to understand that Customer Success is not just about “post-sale.” Customer Success is when your customers achieve their Desired Outcome through their interactions with your company. Those interactions start early – from the first marketing touchpoint, at the start of the sales cycle, on the first cold outreach email by your SDR – and they continue throughout the entire lifecycle of the customer. Which means we need to be thinking about Customer Success when creating marketing campaigns, determining Ideal Customers, optimizing the sales cycle, etc. In fact, let’s talk about Sales. Sales is important. Sales is critical.
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Appropriate Experience is Required for Customer Success

Customer Success is when your customers achieve their Desired Outcome through their interactions with your company. As I’ve said before, Customer Success as a concept is very simple. Don’t overthink it. But I always have to unpack one piece of that definition and that’s Desired Outcome, or what your customers need to achieve (their Required Outcome) and the way they need to achieve it (their Appropriate Experience). Required Outcome + Appropriate Experience = Desired Outcome Desired Outcome is also a relatively simple concept. Unlike Customer Success, however, Desired Outcome isn’t something people tend to overthink… … it’s something they just tend to ignore. Well, if they don’t ignore the entire thing, they only focus on one part… the Required Outcome. Appropriate Experience either doesn’t matter to them or is just too hard to figure out (which makes them give up and say “it doesn’t matter”). I can’t help you if
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What Are The Best Customer Success KPIs?

As you can probably imagine, I’m asked all the time what the best Customer Success KPIs are. What metrics should you use to know if your Customer Success initiative is working. Here’s the deal. I’m not an analyst… I’m a consultant. Companies hire me to help them rapidly acquire good-fit customers, keep those customers longer, get them to buy more over that extended lifetime, and get those customers to advocate for them, too. That’s called Customer Success-driven Growth. The reality is, though, that every company is at a different stage as a company, with their Customer Success initiative, etc. so wha the “best” metric for one company at one point may not be the best metric for another company (or even the same company) at a different time. Let’s dig into this, but first I have to address something serious…

Customer Success is NOT a Metric

Recently I saw an
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You Can’t Solve Upstream Problems Down Stream

When it comes to Customer Success, I’ve seen a lot of things. I’ve seen what works (and what works REALLY works… it’s amazing). Unfortunately, I’ve also seen what doesn’t work. A lot. In 2017 I heard “Customer Success doesn’t work” way more than I ever expected. The main reason I saw for Customer Success “not working” wasn’t org structure, comp plans, operations, wrong CSMs, etc. No, the main problem wasn’t a CSM Org problem at all. It actually starts further upstream.

You Can’t Solve Upstream Problems Down Stream

The biggest contributor to churn is the acquisition of bad-fit customers. The biggest drag on growth I see is trying to make bad-fit customers successful. A huge drag on per unit margin is investing resources in bad-fit customers. Bad-fit customers are those customers that lack Success Potential. But this is…

Not a Customer Success Issue

This is a company issue. This is
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Customer Success is a Simple Concept (Don’t Overthink It)

Customer Success is a very simple concept that you’ll really want to overthink. Resist the urge. The beauty of this concept is in its simplicity. Implementation is another story, though. But the concept is simple. My definition of Customer Success has evolved as my understanding of Customer Success has evolved. The definition of Customer Success is very simple. And here it is…

Customer Success Defined

Customer Success is when your customer achieves their Desired Outcome through their interactions with your company. Two quick things to note:
  1. Desired Outcome is their Required Outcome – or what they need to achieve – plus their Appropriate Experience – or how they need to achieve it.
  2. I said “interactions” rather than “use of your product” because there’s more to your relationship with your customer than just their use of the product (even if it’s the primary interaction)
That’s it. That’s all there is to
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Customer Success can’t fit into Existing Frameworks

2017 felt like a fight. I felt I was battling more and more misconceptions when it came to Customer Success than the fewer that I expected. I assumed as Customer Success became more well-received, moved more into the mainstream, and simply became more common that we’d all agree more on things… not fewer. I was wrong. I was WAY wrong. The “Customer Success” universe has become more fragmented. When you say “Customer Success” the frame that’s invoked may be one of Account Management, something that’s software-focused, a world view based solely on customer delight, or it may fit with what I’ve defined Customer Success to be. Or it may be a mix of all of those things combined together in some Frankenstein way that works for you but no one else… or for everyone. Who knows. In my self-reflective quest to break out of this “fight” I took a step
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Those aren’t Problems. Those are Customers!

I work with companies around the world as a Customer Success consultant, I speak at events, and I do workshops. I’m constantly teaching others about Customer Success. And even more, I’m constantly learning. My understanding of Customer Success is constantly evolving. As I am exposed to what’s working – and what’s not – both at a conceptual or strategic level and the day-to-day tactical level, I am continually evaluating and refining my approach to this incredibly complex and valuable business function. But sometimes I learn something that doesn’t change anything but the way I talk about Customer Success and it’s core principles. Often it’s a change that exponentially improves my ability to get the point across. And that change usually comes directly from the people I’m working with. Here’s an example of one of those changes.

We have a problem

In my public workshops we usually have different groups of
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Customer Onboarding Success Secret: Don’t Overwhelm Customers

I’ve said this before, but it is worth repeating; Customer Success is not limited to one part of the customer lifecycle, and Customer Success Management is not limited to simply helping the customer get up and running at first or to save them from churning later.

Rather, when a company has Customer Success as their operating model, they see every aspect of the customer lifecycle and every milestone of the customer journey as just as important as the rest.

In this article I tackle one of the biggest problems I see in Customer Onboarding. It’s a problem that isn’t caused by neglecting the customer… in fact, it’s caused by the exact opposite: overwhelming the customer.

Let’s explore this, shall we?

Most of the time, you overwhelm our customers.

You overwhelm your new users, but it’s not because you’re being negative or doing anything wrong. In fact, you’re probably trying to

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A QBR is NOT Required for Customer Success

There’s a myth in Customer Success Management that you must conduct Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) or Executive Business Reviews (EBRs) with your customers.

This myth is propagated by those who only work with high-touch customers, by software vendors who are trying to attract those who work with high-touch (and consequently high-revenue) customers, and of course… by those people who just copy what those people say.

But like some myths, it has a basis in reality; it’s just likely that you don’t share that same reality.

But if you understand that Customer Success is when our customers achieve their Desired Outcome through their interactions with your company, then a blanket statement of “yes, you must conduct QBRs” is obviously a statement you shouldn’t listen to.

So while I say that QBRs are not required for Customer Success in general, that’s the same as saying they ARE required in general. And you

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