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“The Outcome is What Matters”: A Deep Dive into Customer Success

John RagsdaleNeeracha TaychakhoonnavudhJohn Ragsdale (TSIA) and Neeracha Taychakhoonnvudh (Salesforce) discuss the evolution of Customer Success from a department to a culture 


Does your company define customer success by adoption, retention, and expansion?

At the 2022 FinancialForceX Summit, John Ragsdale, Distinguished Researcher and VP of Technology Ecosystems at TSIA, sat down with Neeracha Taychakhoonnavudh, EVP of Global Customer Success at Salesforce, to discuss how companies need to shift from the internally-focused metrics of customer adoption, retention, and expansion to more external metrics aligned with how a customer defines their success with a company.

Your customers are focused on their success and outcomes, and your company should be too.

Taychakhoonnavudh explained that the value and definition of customer success to a customer is the value of their investment with your company, and the business outcomes they’re seeing as a result.

“In these days in an experience-driven world, customer success is really key to making that customer experience as seamless as possible and developing trusted relationships and customer intimacy. The market is slowly coming to realize that.”
Neeracha Taychakhoonnavudh, EVP of Global Customer Success at Salesforce

The challenge for businesses is building a customer success team that really understands how customers are using the technology in order to drive those outcomes, which is why customer success needs to be more than just a department – it needs to be a culture.

Salesforce pioneered a customer success culture

By its very nature as a cloud-based subscription business, Salesforce has always focused on customer success. Taychakhoonnavudh explained that from day one, the culture at Salesforce was all about earning the customer’s business, so the commitment to customer success just made sense.

It began with a strategic plan called Customers for Life that operationalized customer success and made it clear to every customer that their engagement with Salesforce was a long-term partnership to achieve success together.

Cut to the present day, and Salesforce has only increased the sophistication of the metrics it uses to measure business outcomes for customers.

“When I joined in 2008, we saw a spike in attrition, and that was a wake-up call. Customer success used to just be part of the sales motion, but in 2009, we realized that we have this bucket of revenue, and new customers feed the top of the bucket, but the attrition leaks out from the bottom. So those two levers for revenue mean it’s just as important to stop the leaks at the bottom as it is to find new revenue.”
Neeracha Taychakhoonnavudh, EVP of Global Customer Success at Salesforce

The big takeaway? Retaining a dollar of revenue costs less than hunting down a new dollar, making customer success critical for business success. However, Ragsdale raised the point that the role of customer success managers seems to be changing from more of a generalist to an area of specialization, especially with the rapid rise in technology that requires more guidance for customers.

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The changing role of Customer Success Managers

Salesforce has evolved its product line from just two at the outset to a whole suite of offerings, including sales, service, marketing, commerce, data integration, and analytics. With just two products, a customer success manager could be more of a generalist, but today, the complexity has increased. Taychakhoonnavudh explained they now have a team aligned with go-to-market and selling, a team aligned with the product group, and a team specialized around the product by industry or competency area.

“It takes a village to make a customer successful. We have so many tools that enable data-driven personalization right off the bat, so if you have a digital-first mindset, you can make a ton of progress and then insert the humans as necessary.”
Neeracha Taychakhoonnavudh, EVP of Global Customer Success at Salesforce

And the orchestration of these teams around every facet of customer success is driven by technology – something that is well-demonstrated by the partnership between FinancialForce and Salesforce.

“If you think about Salesforce as a platform, and FinancialForce as a big partner plugging in, that technology platform is what allows us to keep the customer at the center where you could have a success manager, data integration specialist, and marketing cloud specialist who all engage around the customer, and all that knowledge is preserved in the platform.”
Neeracha Taychakhoonnavudh, EVP of Global Customer Success at Salesforce

Taychakhoonnavudh stressed that it’s all about being digital-first, which is not just helpful for driving a personalized customer success model, but for the customer, who prefers staying in the digital world. For this reason, digital isn’t just for small-medium businesses – it’s for all sizes of customers.

“Success budgets are growing 32-33% per year, and they’re trying to hire their way into scalability, but there’s a limit to how far you can go with that, and leveraging digital capabilities is the only way to scale.”
John Ragsdale, Distinguished Researcher, VP Technology Ecosystems, TSIA

There is no magic formula for customer health scores

Ragsdale noted that companies tend to look for a magic formula everyone can use to determine customer health scores, and asked Taychakhoonnavudh how success managers can balance qualitative and quantitative data to get an accurate portrayal of the customer.

Taychakhoonnavudh noted that customer attrition or renewal are the ultimate metrics, but are a bit lagging. She said,
“When you talk about health scores, these are the more immediate, in-between results of the work we do, because if you want until the renewal to do the work, you’ve kind of missed the boat.”

Salesforce has evolved its early warning system to capture a 360-degree customer score inclusive of sentiment, satisfaction survey findings, and an implementation health rating – but that’s not the “magic bullet”. Combining the data with human knowledge and critical success factors is really the key to getting an accurate health score before you get to that renewal timeframe.

When it comes to monetizing customer success, Ragsdale noted that 40% of companies are monetizing specific success offers, and it usually begins with a tiered model so customers can get dedicated time to get to value faster. Taychakhoonnavudh said monetization allows companies to “thread the needle” between delivering the services average customers need to be successful and the tiered services for customers with different or greater needs.

Go digital first

When asked what her advice would be to professional services companies looking to go to the next level with customer success, or that have made an effort and are looking to scale, Taychakhoonnavudh advised going digital-first. She pointed out that the tools companies can leverage today are “amazing” and if you have the right data, you can personalize the experience and then use humans as augmentation.

Custome Success Cloud

FinancialForce recently introduced Customer Success Cloud (CS Cloud) – a game-changing solution focused on helping Customer Success teams collaborate to deliver outstanding customer outcomes and deliver on their key initiatives in a predictable, repeatable fashion.

With CS Cloud, teams can collaborate across multiple enterprise functional areas — from Support to Service to Sales — and collectively monitor customer outcomes, identify opportunities and risks, and take swift actions for any scenario.

CS Cloud gathers more customer intelligence to help with customer success planning and decision-making and it’s all delivered in an easy-to-use digital dashboard. Insights include things like: costs to deliver, resource demand/capacity, potential future work, and Total Lifetime Value.

The solution also ensures that every piece of customer intelligence is paired with the right stakeholders and activities that enhance the customer experience and drive customer lifetime value. Organizations are using this solution in conjunction with their instance of Salesforce to create a master customer record.

For more information about how CS Cloud can simplify and systematize your organization’s Customer Success activities, download this overview.

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