Metrics and Goals

Scoring Health and Risk

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By Kristen Hayer

Last week Jeremy Gillespie wrote about the Top 10 Health Metrics Customer Success Should Be Measuring, and I thought I’d jump in with some practical advice on how to turn those into a health score. Whether you’re thinking about ways to make your manual health score more quantitative, or building a health algorithm for your CS platform, you need to take a methodical, data-driven approach. Here’s the process we go through when we’re working on developing health scores with our clients.

List Your Hypotheses

Every company has ideas about why customers are healthy and why they churn. Your job is to separate fact from fiction, but before you can do that you need to understand the thinking that is out there. Meet with the leaders of customer-facing teams like sales, marketing and support, as well as your own CSMs and collect a list of all of theories people have on churn and health. As crazy as some of them might sound (“Calling our customers too often is making them churn.”) it is worth testing as many as you can and debunking any myths that might be floating around. Be sure to go beyond product usage and consider the items on Jeremy’s list as well as demographics (like industry or location) that may make specific groups of customers inherently riskier.

 

Test Your Theories

Go down the list of hypotheses and design tests to see if those items do in fact make customers healthier or riskier. A starting point is to look at the data you have on the customers you consider the healthiest and the customers that have churned over the past year. From those data sets, you can see if there are trends that support the theories you came up with. For example, to explore whether more calls to customers do drive churn up, you might measure the number of calls that each churned customer received and compare that to the number of calls to customers who stuck around. Note: Early stage companies often won’t have enough data for these tests to be statistically valid. You’re looking for solid trends, not perfection at this stage. Keep testing, and make changes as needed over time.

Determine Thresholds

Once you’ve figured out your key indicators of health or risk, think about them on a spectrum. For each measure that will be a part of your health score, you’ll need a point at which a customer is considered healthy, and a point at which they are considered at risk. Anything in the middle is shown on most models as yellow – OK, but not great. This is where you can go back to the tests you performed in the last step. Let’s say you found that customers who use your solution less than once a week are more likely to churn. That’s your risk threshold. Then you need to consider the healthy side of the spectrum. How often do your healthiest customers use your solution? Once you determine that, you’ll be able to set the health threshold. If you have a large customer base, keep in mind that you may find that different customer segments have different thresholds.
 

Test Your Algorithm

When you have all of your indicators and thresholds established, you have a health algorithm. Now you need to test it. This is definitely easier if you have a CS platform or CRM you can use to track a customer’s health score at any given point in time. However, you can get scrappy if you have to and manually review a customer’s score at the point of churn, expansion or renewal. On the churn side of things, you shouldn’t see any healthy (green) customers churning. Likewise, you shouldn’t see too many risky (red) customers expanding or renewing. If you do, something is off with your algorithm. Dig in on those accounts to see what happened, and make adjustments to your algorithm as needed. Ideally you should test over the course of a quarter, two quarters if your volume of customers is low or your business is highly seasonal.

 

Visualize Your Base

Once you have dialed in your health score, you can start to really see how the initiatives you’re tackling as a customer success team are playing out in terms of health. If you snapshot your entire customer base each month, you can really see the movement of customers. Most popular CS platforms include reports you can use to visualize the health and risk of your entire customer base, but even if you don’t have one of those tools, you can use a spreadsheet to accomplish the same thing. As you review these snapshots over time you should be able to see the impact that your efforts are having on your base. This can be a powerful demonstration of the value customer success is bringing to the organization. 

 As you go through the process of determining your health score, keep in mind that this should be unique to your organization and that it will shift over time. Developing a data-driven score takes a lot of effort, but is worth the investment. Accurate measures of health and risk are an excellent resource for your leadership team, and a great way to showcase your team’s work.

Need extra help developing a customer health score? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers Leadership Coaching. For more information on our consulting services as well as our training classes and other engagements please visit our website at TheSuccessLeague.io

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Kristen Hayer - Kristen believes that customer success is the key to driving revenue, client retention and exceptional customer experiences. Her areas of expertise include developing success goals and metrics, designing the optimal customer journey, selecting technology, training teams, and building playbooks. Prior to founding The Success League, Kristen built and led several award-winning customer success teams. Over the past 20 years she has been a success, sales, and marketing executive, primarily working with growth-stage tech companies. Kristen has her BA from Seattle Pacific University and her MBA from the University of Washington.

Top 10 Health Metrics Customer Success Should Be Measuring

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By Jeremy Gillespie

Knowing the health of your customers should be at the top of you priority list. The problem? There are so many metrics, it’s hard to know what really matters. In this post, I’m going to cover the top 10 metrics you should consider as you try to understand health of your customers. 

The following metrics will allow you to understand the value customers are getting from your platform, and if they’re likely to renew or churn. An important note: These metrics depend on both product usage, as well as human interactions with CSMs. By using both, you can build a comprehensive health score that is more accurate than simply using product usage data alone.

1. Daily or Monthly Active Users

First, know what portion of your customers are using the product on a daily basis. For a high-level view, consider using Daily Active Users (DAU) divided by Monthly Active users (MAU). 

What’s the number you should shoot for? That depends on the type of company you have. It varies greatly depending on the business. Some variables to be aware of are: 

  • Should users be logging in daily? 

  • What do you consider an active user?

It’s important to note, what you define as ‘active’ makes or breaks this metric. If anyone logging in is considered active, this may become a vanity metric with no real value. Make sure you’re measuring a level of activity that produces value for the customer. 

2. Feature Adoption 

It’s great to understand if people are using your product, but we all know every feature is not created equal. Customers get more value out of some features than others. Because of this we need to define two things: 

  1. What are the high-value features?

  2. What percentage of users are using these features? 

This will show you if the features are being adopted, and if users are returning to these high-value features.

3. NPS

We’re not going to go into a lot of detail on NPS, since we’ve outlined it here. Just like other metrics, NPS is not THE metric to measure, it’s one of many to give you as 360 degree view of customer health.

It is important to note that adding a layer of context to NPS is a great way to gather more insights from the scores. A popular way to do this is to gather scores at different stages of the customer journey. 

4. Customer Communication

This depends on the support model for your product, but knowing how frequently customers are engaging with your team is important. As customers progress across their journey, you need to make sure they’re receiving the proper level of engagement to be successful. To properly measure this, you’ll need to know the frequency of communication across email, phone, meetings or chat.

Note: More is not always better. You’ll need to find the right balance for your customers. In addition, think about implementing a sentiment score to understand if these communications are positive or negative.

5. Feedback from Customer Success 

Who knows the customer health better than the people who’ve been talking to them? This is why you need to capture the feedback from your CSMs. Yes, this feedback is subjective, but it’s necessary for a comprehensive score. Typically, this score should be updated monthly or quarterly. For each score level, make sure you have clearly defined what it takes to hit that level across the team.

Note: If CSMs are measured against this score, it may lead to inaccurate scores.

6. Time To Onboard

We don’t want to say onboarding is everything, but…onboarding is everything. You should know how long it takes a typical customer to onboard and measure new customers against this. Improving onboarding is an ongoing process you’re revisiting quarterly to see where you can improve. Many companies strive to reduce the time to onboard, but that is not always a good idea. Since onboarding sets the tone for the relationship, it’s important to get the customer to see value as quickly as you can, but not rush the process.

7. Support Tickets

You should also pay attention to how many support tickets are submitted by the customer. Support tickets can be positive or negative, so make sure you’re taking this into consideration. Tickets can be for quick questions, report bugs, request training, or to provide feedback, so categorize them (if possible). As you gather data, you’ll be able to understand what the right number of ticket is for a healthy account vs. unhealthy account.

8. License Utilization Rate

If you have a product based on licenses you need to know what percentage of seats are being used. Knowing this will allow you to identify expansion opportunities, as well as customers who may not be seeing the full value because they’re not filling their seats. If you have customers who aren’t filling their licenses, the best case scenario is downsizing, and the worst case scenario is churn. It is better to understand what is happening early.

9. Budget Owner Engagement

Each of your CSMs should know who the budget owner is on each account. Keeping this relationship strong is very important for long-term retention. Make sure you’re tracking the last time you’ve engaged with key stakeholders, including the budget owner. If the relationship begins to become distant or they leave the company, this can signal a high-risk of churn. For ideas on how to develop a long-term relationship with budget owners, consider this class.

10. Late Payments

Customers paying invoices on time…we all know this doesn’t happen, but it’s still important to track. Each customer has a different reason for paying late, so it’s good to know both the reason for late payment, and which customers have outstanding invoices over 30 days past due. All customers with overdue payments should be considered at risk, until you know what’s going on.

There you have it, the top 10 customer health metrics you should be measuring. It’s important to note one last time -- for you to fully understand the health of your customers you need objective and subjective inputs. By measuring these 10 metrics you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of the health across your entire customer base.

Want to know which metrics you should be tracking? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that helps companies build top performing customer success teams. We transform support into success by building metrics, goals, and processes that enable customer success teams to perform at their peak. For more information on consulting offerings or our leadership training program, please visit TheSuccessLeague.io

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Jeremy Gillespie - Jeremy is a growth marketing expert who loves using complex data to build creative retention solutions. He is a founding advisor to The Success League, and is also the founder of Built to Scale, a consulting firm focused developing customer acquisition and retention programs. He holds a BA from the University of Pittsburgh and MBA from Point Park University. He's a proud former Pittsburgher, currently living in San Francisco.

Goal Tracking 101 - Staying On Top Of Your Metrics

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By Amin Akbarpour

Goals. We all have them. As Customer Success professionals, they’re usually a combination of both quantitative and qualitative. Think things like customer advocacy (qualitative) and churn reduction (quantitative). The idea is obviously to hit these goals. Presuming you’ve done a good job of goal setting (check out Kristen's recent article on Annual Planning for Customer Success), then the next most important thing would be tracking towards these goals. There’s a number of ways to effectively do this depending on the goal in question.

Macro Meets Micro

Chances are your goals are set looking at the full year. You then take those calls and break them down into either quarterly or monthly time intervals. Why stop there? Take this one step further and break it down to daily goals. Here’s an example:

Goal: Close $100,000 in up-sells within your current book of business in the fiscal year.

First, figure out what $100,000 would look like in terms of your organization’s product or offering. In this example, let’s say this means selling 10 training packages. In cases where you offer multiple different paths towards this $100k goal, tailor it based on what you know about your book of business and what would be most beneficial to them.

Next, take the last time you or someone on your team (in cases where you haven’t before) successfully sold a training package. How many meetings did it take from initial conversation to close? Let’s say six and the entire sales cycle lasted three months. In order to get the first meeting in this series, how many emails or calls did it take? 15? Yes, 15.

From that information, we now know that it’ll take 150 outreaches to get the first meeting for ten successful deals. We also know that your average sales cycle is three months. If you’re in month 10 and haven’t gotten that first meeting then you’re most likely going to be out of luck in regard to hitting your target for the year.

Good Habits

Now that you’ve boiled down your annual goal to a daily routine, it’s important to stay on top of that. Everyone has their own way of doing this. Here are a few things I would suggest:

  • CRM Reminders: Whatever CRM or CS tool you use most likely has some sort of reminder system. Take Salesforce, for example. You can create recurring tasks associated with contacts and accounts. From there, every time you sign into Salesforce you can go to your personal dashboard and see what needs to be done for the day.

  • Calendar Blocks: It’s easy to get caught up in last minute madness or the daily chaos that comes with our jobs. Be organized and put a recurring block on your calendar for a couple hours when you shut your email off (I know, terrifying) and get stuff done. Focus on your daily outbound tasks that need to be done in order to hit your goals. If you work in an open office space, I find it helps sometimes to just reserve a conference room and lock myself in there. That way you can go uninterrupted and ensure you’re allowing time to knock out your tasks.

  • Prioritization & Resources: This is one I had an issue with when I transitioned from being a mid-market to an enterprise rep. Understanding that not every item raised by a client is a “raise the alarm, stop what you’re doing, all hands on deck” situation. It’s okay to take a day or two to knock out a client task if that means having balance in your days. Additionally, if you have resources around you that you can leverage (technical support team, sales engineer, project manager, etc) then leverage them! You’re one member of a team. Act like it.

Picking up these good habits and implementing them will help you make time in each day to hit your goals. Be diligent when you backtrack your annual goals into daily tasks. It’s important that you are formulated with this approach, and then be disciplined enough to consistently stick to the plan. Only then will you reap the benefits of your labor.

Need some extra help mapping and tracking your goals? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers online training and workshops. Our upcoming CSM Training Program kicks off with classes like Customer Goals & Outcomes and Time Management for CSMs. For more information on these and our other classes and workshops, please visit TheSuccessLeague.io

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Amin Akbarpour - Amin is a customer success coach and architect.  With relationship-building at the core of his practice, he molds teams by instilling the necessary principles to transform them into trusted advisors. Understanding what's needed for organizational change, he translates theory and ideology into practice and habit. Amin is one of the founding advisors to The Success League. In addition to his work with The League, Amin currently serves as an account manager for Persado. Originally from Southern California, Amin is a University of San Francisco alum who now calls New York City home.

The 7 Components of a Health Score

By Kristen Hayer

When SaaS customer success professionals talk about their customer health score, they are often referring to a metric based almost entirely on product use patterns. Things like logins, users and feature adoption are weighted heavily in the customer health algorithms for these organizations.

In reality, customer health (even for SaaS companies) is based on a much larger group of factors. Depending on the business, things as simple as geographic location or as complex as funding trends can have an impact on whether a customer is truly healthy. As you build or refine the customer health score for your success team, here are some of the components you should consider.

Product Usage

While this shouldn’t be the only thing you consider, it should be a factor in your health score if you offer a technology solution. That said, really think about the usage components you choose. Does the number or frequency of logins really indicate health? Or, does the number of features being used better represent a healthy customer? Should you incorporate both? Consider things like logins, the number of users, the adoption of key features, reporting use, and data downloads or uploads, and choose only the items that best represent health.

Customer Actions

Another component to consider is a customer action. These are triggers that you can build into your health score, both positive and negative. Did your customer call you or submit a support ticket that was resolved? Those actions could indicate a positive change in health. Has the customer failed to return calls for a period of time, or recently asked about their contract terms?  Those could be indicators of poor health. Think about the actions your customers typically take, and consider incorporating some of them into your health score.

Demographics

Sometimes the customer may be inherently more healthy or risky, based on demographics like the industry they are in, their size or their location. Do the laws in a specific state make your customer less likely to stick with you long-term? Does your client’s size make them attractive to competitors? Is their industry such a great fit for your solution that you know they have few alternatives? Be sure to consider demographic factors as you build your health score.

Company Changes

Another input into your health score could be company changes that your clients face regularly. Did your main contact leave the organization, or was your customer acquired? Those factors usually put the customer at risk, which should be reflected in a lower health score. Did the company go public or receive a new round of funding? That may open up new opportunities that should improve the health score. Think about ways that company changes might positively or negatively affect health.

Customer Relationship

A slightly softer measure of customer health has to do with the relationship itself. Has the customer been with you for a long time? If you’ve had a rich relationship, that might be an indication of health. If instead, the customer has been through numerous product updates without a lot of contact they may be at a higher level of risk. Consider things like the level of engagement with various departments in your company (do they go to your user conference, attend all your webinars and always call their CSM back?) and the depth of the relationship (how many contacts do you have and in how many different departments?)

Feedback

Have you gotten feedback from your customers? This can be one of the best indicators of health or risk, since it is coming directly from your client. That said, one NPS score by itself isn’t enough to indicate health, and shouldn’t be weighted too heavily. Even if a client says they wouldn’t recommend you to a colleague, there may be many reasons why they need to and will stick around. A better way to incorporate feedback into your health score is to have surveys across your product and customer success touch points that feed into the overall algorithm. This will balance one contact having a bad day with other feedback that provides a more holistic view.

CSM Assessment

If you’re using a customer success platform (think Totango, Amity, Strikedeck, ClientSuccess, Gainsight) it can be tempting to focus on the previous 6 components. After all, they are relatively easy to quantify, track and incorporate into an overall health score. The problem is that you could be automating away one of the most powerful indicators of health: the conversations your CSM team is having with customers every day. It is not uncommon for a customer to be showing up as healthy in a CS platform right up until they churn. Without qualitative insights from your CSM team you might miss clues to health or risk.

By looking outside of product usage for customer health and risk factors, you’ll develop a more accurate picture of customer health across your base, and become better at predicting churn and driving engagement.

Do you need help developing a score that aligns with what customer health really means for your organization? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that can help you identify the right health score components, and report on the overall health and risk levels of your customer base. For more information please visit our website – TheSuccessLeague.io

5 Tips to Help Customers with Goal-Setting in 2017

By Jim Berardone

With the start of the New Year, the goals of customers are on my mind and the minds of many customer success managers. It’s no wonder. Goals help customers achieve success. They make it possible to align expectations. They focus efforts on what’s most important. Later, they will help to evaluate a customer’s progress and the value they’ve realized. 

Across a customer base, I’ll usually see some customers with very strong, effective goals. They have clear goals for the outcomes they want to achieve, the milestones along the way and the near-term activities. Each of their goals are S.M.A.R.T.: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. They’re likely to be star performers.

At the same time, I’ll see other customers who have weak, ineffective goals. Amazingly, there are customers who don’t even have goals. These customers should be a red flag for customer success managers. Without effective goals, customers won’t be on top of the value they’re getting from your solutions, or the progress they’re making towards realizing value. Later, at a critical moment, they won’t be able to argue successfully for the continued purchase of your solutions. You’re likely to encounter a customer downgrade or lose the customer.

The good news is this creates an opportunity for customer success managers to engage customers in setting more effective goals.  While it can be challenging to get their engagement, there are various tactics that can be helpful.

Here are some tips that have helped me with goal-challenged customers:

1 - Offer to give feedback

Sometimes, a customer’s goals are unclear. For example, increase product sales and reduce lead generation expenses are too ambiguous to align expectations. When I recognize this, I’ll ask if they would like my perspectives and insights on their goals, based on my experience with other similar customers. I know the results others are getting and how they achieve them. I can tap into customer data to identify benchmarking metrics and benchmarks across similar customers, too. This knowledge gives me credibility and unique insights to share.

2 - Ask insightful questions

When a customer’s goals are too general and unclear, I try to move them from the abstract to the specific. I use a combination of questions (like those below) to help the customer think more critically about the outcomes they need to achieve. I want to help them frame their goals with business value in mind.

  • What are you trying to accomplish with our solution?
  • How do you see results changing with our solution?
  • How will you know you’re successful with our solution?
  • How does our solution help your business do what it does better?
  • How can our solution impact your company’s business goals and initiatives?

I want the customers to come away with goals that allow for effective expectation management, success planning and measurement of business value.

3 - Confirm they have the right set of goals

Some customers have goals that are incomplete.  Often, I’ve found their goals are based on near-term actions to take such as “complete solution training for all sales development reps in Q1.” But, they’re missing goals for the business outcomes they need to achieve while using a solution. Other times, they have effective goals for these desired outcomes, but they’re missing goals for the actions to take to get there. I always look for goals for business outcomes, milestones along the way, and the near-term actions. If they’re missing any of these, or if they’re not connected, I know their path to value realization and success is at risk.

4 - Let them know what’s realistic to achieve

On occasion, customers will share their ’dream’ or ‘wish list.’ I appreciate their value for driving innovation and excellence, but unless goals are achievable, people will become disenchanted. Then, they lose the motivation to even set goals. This is where benchmarking with your own customer data can help. Share what’s best, worst and average for customers like them during the applicable stage of their journey with your business. Offer benchmarks relevant to their desired outcomes, as well as leading indicators which could be product adoption, product usage, key feature usage, program engagement and so on.  I’ve found that helping customers develop realistic goals in this way strengthens relationships.

5 - Tackle resistance to goal setting

There’s always a cabal of customers that avoid setting goals. While many people credit their success to setting goals, there are others that don’t see the value or reason to do so. They’ll resist your efforts. Trying to engage these customers to discuss goals can feel like pouring gasoline on a fire. I remember a tech company CEO once told me “Jim, you’re not going to pin me down.” I knew then that neither he nor I would be successful. Several months later, the board replaced him.

I don’t back away from these resistors. I try to gain an understanding of their viewpoint by asking insightful ‘why’ questions. I hope to find common ground from where we can start and grow from there.  In some cases, they believe they don’t have enough information to set a goal. You know what? Sometimes they’re right. Their business leaders haven’t set clear goals. Or, they bought the product without defining the desired business impact. When this is missing, I’ll try to persuade them to commit to a goal of gathering information that’s needed to set goals afterwards. Another tactic I’ve used is to encourage setting 1 or 2 ‘micro goals’ for a 3 to 6-month period. It can be easier for the customer to accept. It helps to build their skills and confidence which leads to success.

Wherever these customer conversations go, I emphasize what I’ve learned from experience: customers who set effective goals have more success than those that don’t.

Need help developing goals with your customers or for your own success group? The Success League is a consulting firm that works with executives who are ready to build and develop a top performing customer success team. www.TheSuccessLeague.io

Jim Berardone - Jim is an entrepreneurial executive with over 20-years of experience leading new technology companies. Currently, he is the Chief Customer Officer at OnlyBoth where he focuses on customer success and value creation.  When off duty, he mentors entrepreneurs, teaches a product management course for master’s students at Carnegie Mellon University, and assists the customer success community in Pittsburgh PA. In all the above, he promotes using a customer-centric view of the customer’s journey, experience and desired outcomes to achieve success.