By Kristen Hayer
Clients and colleagues often ask me, “Should we charge for Customer Success?” It’s an issue that is starting to crop up more frequently in our field as companies look for the best way to incorporate customer success into various business models.
I’ll admit it: The idea of charging customers for customer success generally bothers me. After all, isn’t helping customers find success with your product the right thing to do? In my mind customer success already drives a significant portion of revenue for most companies in the form of renewals, repeat customers and expansion sales. Charging for customer success can seem like a money grab, and that can be pretty distasteful to both customers and CSMs.
That said, I love finding new revenue streams for companies, and I believe that there are times when charging for customer success makes sense. Here are a few things to consider as you’re making the decision about whether or not to charge.
Can Customers Use Your Product Without Help?
Many organizations use their customer success team to “fill the gap” when their product isn’t intuitive. If this sounds familiar, charging for customer success is going to make already frustrated customers even more annoyed. If, on the other hand, customers can use your product without help, you might find that there is a subset of customers who would be willing to pay for a little assistance. The key here is choice: A customer can choose to spend time working with the product on their own or to spend money having someone help them out.
Does Your Business Model Only Support Basic Services?
If your product is on the low-cost end of the spectrum, your business model may only support a one-to-many customer success model. If that is the case, again you may find a subset of customers willing to pay for personal service like an assigned CSM. In this situation the most important consideration is your brand. Are you selling Nordstrom but delivering Target? Offering optional paid services might help you stay aligned with your brand promise without breaking your business model.
Can You Provide Services Worth Charging For?
It’s fun to come up with ideas to make more money, but you have to be able to deliver what you’re selling. If, like most companies, you have a customer success team that is stretched thin, think twice about offering paid services. One of the nice things about including customer success with your product is that you have complete control over the resources you spend. Once you start to charge, you are committed to whatever service level you sold. Make sure you are able to provide something a client would be willing to buy.
Is Implementation Optional or Complex?
One area that customers often don’t mind spending money on is implementation. If your customer success team handles implementation, you shouldn’t have a problem charging for this part of customer success. A key factor here, again, is choice. If customers could implement your solution on their own, but often choose not to, charging the customers who want help makes sense. Ditto if your implementation process is complex and tailored to each client.
Is Training a Part of Your Success Offering?
If your product changes frequently, or your customers come and go, there may be an opportunity to charge for customer success. In these cases training should be a big part of the customer success function. Companies are generally comfortable with paying for training, as long as they see value in terms of faster on-boarding or better performance. Companies like Salesforce have built massive lines of business out of their training programs.
Charging for customer success (or even just parts of it) is a decision that should receive the same consideration as any new product offering. Make the time to really think about how this fits with your brand, business model, team and customer base before you move forward. It’s always a good idea to start small and gauge the reaction of your customers before you roll out a program across your entire base. With a little thought and care, however, you might just have a new revenue stream.
Still not sure if you should charge for Customer Success? The Success League is a consulting firm that works with executives who want to unlock the retention and revenue a top performing customer success team will bring to their business. www.TheSuccessLeague.io