Making the Business Case for Customer Success

November 13, 2014 Pam McBride

Making the Business Case for Customer Success

The fast growing recognition of Customer Success is a survival tactic for most SaaS companies today. However, with customer success, the customer is the beneficiary of an exceptional customer experience and extracting the maximum value from the product or service they have purchased from you. In the end, it will be a win/win for all.

Despite the obvious, if a SaaS company has not started with a customer-centric philosophy, there is often a challenge in demonstrating the need to introduce a new organization – it is a major investment decision in the strategic direction of your company, and one that will require more than a casual conversation. More often than not, you will only have one shot at getting the attention of the key stakeholders and decision makers.

What your business case is up against

Often executives will make investment decisions based on immediate and tangible results they are most comfortable and familiar with. Those with obvious measurable results attributed to single department. For example, money spent on marketing programs results in leads, or spent on content results in tangible items like presentations, videos, infographics and white papers – which can then in turn be used to generate more leads. But how do you describe – specifically – what you get from a customer success program?

This is your challenge and here’s why, beyond jockeying for budget, it’s a bit more difficult than say, making a case for marketing automation:

Customer Success today is in its infancySo there aren’t a lot of data points demonstrating the results other customers have achieved compared to other investment options. There is definitely people advocating for it and some case study examples, but you’ll need to make them relevant and specific to your SaaS business – it’s not impossible and at a minimum you can use what you find to support your case.

Customer Success is hard to measureIt definitely is if you are sifting through siloed customer data that doesn’t provide context to the role. Recognize that your investment may also entail the need for technology that will guide your team, support your customer success process as well as deliver the necessary metrics to demonstrate the impact customer success has on your customers throughout their lifecycle and eventually the bottom line.

A Customer Success program has many beneficiariesAnd that’s a good thing because you are going to increase adoption, retain more customers, capitalize on growth opportunities, generate referrals….which might make things harder because these benefits can be attributed to different departments. You need to break the traditional mindset of what a good business case consists of – simple justifications with a compelling return to an individual department – to show the big picture benefit to the entire business.

So how are the champions of customer success building the business case?

With other departments in your organization vying for executive sponsorship, raising their hand as a corporate priority and identifying budget allocations, you need to build a business case that is simple, straightforward and clearly identifies the decision to be taken. It doesn’t need to be 100 pages; it just needs to be effective at convincing your management team that your proposal for a Customer Success mandate should be prioritized against the other 50 urgent needs they have in their inbox.

Creating a business case for customer success is all about addressing concerns that may arise and demonstrating to executives that their investment will drive meaningful results. Furthermore, you have to show that you understand the risks involved and you have taken steps to mitigate those risks.

To show your executive team how customer success can ultimately help your business see results, you will want to be prepared to answer a 360º business view of your proposal such as:

  •    What is the opportunity or challenge to be addressed?
  •    How will this contribute to our current business goals, targets and 1/3/5 year business plans?
  •    How does this make us more innovative, competitive, and cost effective?
  •    What is the investment and resources required?
  •    Who will benefit or be impacted and how?
  •    What is the ROI?
  •    Why now or why this sense of urgency, can’t we defer this investment?
  •    Are there other options?
  •    What are the risks and how will they be mitigated?

The role of a business case is that of a communication tool, composed in a language that the target audience understands and with enough clear detail to facilitate decision-making.

Targeting your audience is key. Your proposal will be looked at with different sets of eyes and background. If your stakeholder lacks knowledge of customer success, you might need to go into more details, or in some cases less. Some executives are incredibly detailed, and others are completely bottom line driven… adapt and adjust to their language.

Ultimately, your decision-makers want to know this: what can you impact with Customer Success?

Some additional food for thought: customer experience expert Micah Solomon wrote an article in Forbes that commenced with “A customer-centered company culture is overwhelmingly resistant to being knocked off by your competition. This makes it more powerful than any other competitive advantage, which will likely be ripped off – sooner rather than later.”

Formalized Customer Success programs have been proven effective time and time again. Armed with the right business case you can make your customer success mandate succeed.

Get started on developing your business case for customer success – download the guide now!


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