A Practical Framework to Calculate Customer Maturity Index

June 28, 2017

A Practical Framework to Calculate Customer Maturity IndexIn the first two parts of this blog series, we argued that while Customer Health Score (CHS) is a helpful metric it is insufficient to address opportunities and challenges with your customers. We suggested that a new metric that we coined Customer Maturity Index (CMI), is essential to enable a much clearer and crisper picture of your customer and what is needed to ensure their and your success. We differentiated CHS from CMI this way:

  • Customer Health Score measures the relationship between the vendor and the customer. It is aimed at assessing the health of those relationships and predicting their future direction: churn, renewal, expansion.
  • Customer Maturity Index measures the sophistication of the customer in running their function and consequently their ability to utilize and derive value from the vendor’s solution. It is aimed at identifying the actions the vendor should take to address the customer needs. 

This post will explain how to calculate a CMI, how to design a comprehensive framework to combine the insights from CHS and CMI, and how to develop playbooks to address customers’ needs based on them.


A Framework to Calculate CMI

Defining the CMI is a business-specific endeavor: For example, the factors you need to assess to understand the maturity of a sales team (if those are your customers) are different from those of a development team, which are different from those of a Customer Success team, architects and so on. So, you will need to develop your own CMI assessment, just like you develop your own CHS.

The good news is that drawing on the experience from other maturity models, we identified a few best practices. Building on those, we have developed a framework, providing you with the blue-print that you will only need to slightly tweak to build your own CMI.

You should follow 4 steps to get there:

Step 1: Establish Your CMI Characteristics

Your CMI structure should strike a golden-path between comprehensiveness, simplicity and flexibility to adjust to business changes. To that end, we suggest defining the maturity of a function by four core characteristics. Regardless of how sophisticated your measurement of these characteristics is, we strongly recommend sticking to these broader ones as they are well established in other maturity models like PEMM or CMMI.

Establish Your CMI Characteristics

When it comes to assessing each of the characteristics, multiple potential dimensions may be relevant. Below is a suggested 3-question structure, which we believe is a golden-path effort-to-quality for most teams. In each of the characteristics there is one question about “what” is the function about, one addressing “how well” is the function implemented and one referring to the relations between the function and other influencers. This way, there is a fair level of comprehensiveness, while keeping the number of questions to a minimum.


Step 2: Define Maturity Levels for Each Characteristic

We suggest assessing maturity of each of your CMI characteristics on a scale of 1 through 5, where 1 is “very low” and 5 is “very high”. Use the table below to understand when to select which level.

Step 2: Define Maturity Levels for Each Characteristic

The structure of your CMI collection template should look something like the example below with characteristics, factors, explanation/question and ranking.

Customer Maturity Index

Maturity characteristics including questions helping to determine the maturity ranking (value 1-5). Last columns show which maturity ranking was chosen for each characteristic in this example. Click into picture to zoom in.


Step 3: Calculate the Customer Maturity Index

Now, you are ready to calculate the CMI. The process we follow:

  1. Group factors by characteristic (Charter, People, Process, technology)
  2. Determine maturity level for each factor (i.e. driver)
  3. Calculate the mean value for each CMI characteristic
  4. Add weights to the maturity levels for each CMI characteristic
  5. Calculate the value for CMI

Step 4: Create Playbooks based on your CMI Value

You may recall that we wanted to develop the CMI to provide additional insight into the CHS. Following that logic, we should develop a system of combining insights from the two metrics towards a plan of action. The structure below will help you determine for which scenarios you want to create which playbooks and by what priority!

Your Customer Health Score is Quite Useless…
High CHS, Low CHS
Adding CMI, provides the insights that allow you to define your playbooks!

Low CHS and Low CMI (Bottom-Left: Red)

These are tough customers that may not be worth saving. Not only that your relationship with them is weak, but also, they are not mature in their business. To turn them into good customers, you need to invest in both in the relationship with you AND their business.

  • Decision: PROACTIVELY CHURN OR LET CHURN: Do you want to invest on dual fronts? How much effort do you need to put in? Maybe you want to proactively churn them or let churn on their own.
  • Your playbooks: a) Proactively terminate the relationship with the customer or b) Minimize effort on customer to let them churn.


Low CHS, but High CMI (Bottom-Right: Yellow):

Those are customers worth saving! Investment in the relationship with you (people and/or product) will increase your (the vendor’s) ability to expand the relationship and since the customer is mature, they are ready to utilize your solutions and derive value from them.

  • Decision: FOCUS ON CHS DRIVERS: What can we do to increase their CHS?
  • Your playbooks: a) Define means to increase usage of product, b) Deliver tailored product training, or c) Develop personal relations with executives or working-level customer contacts.


High CHS, but Low CMI (Top-Left: Light Green):

Those are probably your steady-state customers, the “cash-cows”. The relationships with them are good, so they are not likely to churn. But, since their CMI is low, they are not likely to expand and grow much either – at least not without investment in them via services.

  • Decision: RETAIN: if you had services resources available and were interested in investing in services, these are the top customers to do it with. Note, that the investment here is not in educating your customer on your product (standard training material), but rather management consulting to enhance how they run their business. If you were not interested in investing in services, you should keep engagement with these customers to the minimum needed to retain them, but avoid wasting resources trying to expand the business with them.
  • Your playbooks: a) Engage the customer to deliver consulting services to them, or b) Engage partners to do the same.


High CHS, High CMI (Top-Right: Dark Green):

These are your star customers, the advocates, the ones that can provide you with the best feedback on your product and push you to the next level. These are the customers you love – and they love you!

  • Decision: EXPAND AND LEVERAGE: They are mature and they like you – focus on expanding the business with them while at the same time leverage them for Customer Advocacy.
  • Your playbooks: a) Identify new use cases, teams or geographies, b) Develop case studies c) Invite to your conference d) Build an Advocacy campaign with, etc.


Additional Thoughts and Suggestions

You now have a practical methodology to calculate CMI and a framework for a set of playbooks to address the resulting scenarios. Before we finish, we'd like to suggest a couple of additional topics for your consideration.

1. The Only Constant is Change

Keep in mind that both the CHS and CMI of each customer can and will change over time. So, you should consider the following:

  • Frequency of Measurement: decide how often you assess the CMI ranking of your customer. CMI is likely to change less frequently than CHS, and collecting its data is more effort-consuming. Consequently, you will need to determine how often you want to collect and analyze the data (weekly? monthly? quarterly?).
  • Change Over Time: It is valuable to capture the ratings and assess their impact over time. Just like with your CHS, cohort analysis of CMI and CMI-CHS scenarios can be very insightful on the way your business evolves and the results you show.
  • Methodology Enhancements: Once you start to gather data, you should test your original hypothesis over the weights of the different characteristics and potentially realign them. You may also find value in changing the questions that help you measure and calculate your CMI.


2. Collecting the Data for CMI

Collecting the data needed for CMI is nontrivial, especially since:

  • Most of the data is qualitative in nature (not numeric, but rather subjective assessment), and
  • The data is external to you (it assesses your customers).

Yet, to have a practical tool, you must get the data into it. 

There are two alternatives for that:

  • CRM Integration: You can build fields for the needed data in your CRM, task your team to fill the data into them, then run an analysis on that data in whatever the tool that works for you: MS-Excel, Google-Sheets, Tableau, CS Platform, etc.
Note: we really (read: REALLY!!!) hope the CSM platform vendors will develop this concept into their solutions for easy use
  • Survey: In some cases, it may be easier – at least for a start – to develop a survey for the data collection. This is particularly true when you have relatively few customers and/or support them with high-touch models.

In parallel to the way you wish to host the data, you need to determine WHO will provide it. The data can be supplied by the CSM, by the sales team, by the customer or by some combination of the above. We believe that most companies who decide to deploy CMI into their processes will start by collecting information from their Marketing teams on their prospects, validate and maybe expand it via their sales team before the initial deal and then validate again and expand even further by the CSM during the customer journey and lifecycle with the vendor.



Customer Maturity Index is a new frontier for the Customer Success function. It provides a framework for the kind of work many of us have been doing instinctively up until now without the ability to put a finger on what it was exactly that was missing. We hope that this series of posts provides that clarity and a practical framework to help push the CS function forward. Clearly, this is just the beginning of this topic, and we look forward to your comments to further bake and develop it.

This post was originally published on Boaz's LinkedIn

About the Authors:

Boaz Maor

Boaz Maor is a serial start-up executive with passion for Customer Success. He brings over 25 years of experience in a wide range of organizations from software to logistics to services. Considered one of the early executives to help drive the development of the Customer Success function, Boaz is a frequent speaker, writer and presenter at conferences and events. Most recently, Boaz found and led the Customer Success team at Mashery (acquired by Intel). Before that, Boaz held customer success executive positions at newScale (acquired by Cisco) and FreeMarkets (IPO and then Acquired by Ariba). Boaz holds an MBA with honors from Carnegie Mellon University.

You can follow Boaz on twitter and on LinkedIn

Ralf Wittgen is an industry veteran building with more than 20 years of experience in managing professional services teams in Germany, the U.S., and in New Zealand, providing consulting, implementation, training, and support services mainly for software products. He was one of the early adopters of Customer Success methodologies and is today a very enthusiastic, energetic and inspiring thought leader in the Customer Success area.

After serving as Vice President of Professional Services at Author-it Software Corporation in San Jose (California/USA), he is now holding the position as Chief Customer Officer at Promapp Solutions in Auckland (New Zealand), leading their On-boarding and Customer Success Team. He is a frequent speaker, blogger and tweeter at conferences and events.

You can follow Ralf on twitter and on LinkedIn

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