Metrics+Goals

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.

The Math of Customer Success – Part 3

By Jeremy Gillespie

If you haven’t been following along, this is the third post in a 3-part series on the math of customer success. You can catch up by reading:

Part 1 - Covers basic metrics and gives you a solid foundation of the state of customer success in your company.

Part 2 - Dives deeper and discusses metrics to understand how your team is performing.  

After discussing all of these metrics, it’s only right to give you a way to measure them. Don't worry, this isn’t a pitch for some shiny new software, although there are a ton of solutions out there. Instead, we’re going to stay traditional. By far, my favorite way to measure the metrics described in parts 1 & 2 is through cohort analysis.

Measuring Success

Cohorts allow you to analyze the change in metrics for particular group of customers. Christoph Janz wrote the book on using cohort analysis for SaaS companies. The best part about that book is that you can you can download an amazing cohort analysis template here. The idea behind this template is to limit the amount of data you need to input, but to still get detailed insights on your customer base.

In addition, virtually all of the metrics I've outlined can and should be tracked over time. By splitting these metrics into cohorts you’re able to detect positive or negative trends in your Customer Success metrics. 

Here is an example of what a cohort spreadsheet looks like and how to read the results. 

An Example

To be more specific about the topic at hand, take a look at the example below which highlights churned customers in a lifetime month. 

Question: What trend do you notice in this example? Across the top is the customers’ age in months and on the left is the month they signed up. This example makes it easy to see how retention changes over time, and gives you the ability to compare different cohorts with one another.

Answer: You should see high churn in month 2-3. A common trend is that after a relatively high churn rate in the first few months churn stabilizes. This is important to note when building your lifetime estimates, and difficult to see if you’re not looking at data across multiple cohorts.

Cohorts can be used to track any of the metrics mentioned. Some of the most important are:

  • Churn Rate
  • Renewal Rate
  • Upsell & Expansion Rate
  • Activation metrics

These charts are powerful tool for monitoring the movements of key customer metrics over time and ensuring they move in the right direction. Combine all the metrics outlined and build out your customer success dashboard. All metrics should be pulled on at least a monthly basis. This will provide you with a solid pulse on your business, and uncover a world of insights on how you can improve. 

P.S. If spreadsheets scare you, software like MRR.io can do this for you. They have a free version if you want to give it a spin. 

Need help figuring out which metrics you should be measuring? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm focused on helping leaders and teams perform at their peak. To learn how other companies have worked with us to develop their customer success goals and metrics, visit TheSuccessLeague.io.

Jeremy Gillespie - Jeremy is a growth-oriented marketing geek, technology enthusiast and customer evangelist. He loves using complex data to build creative retention solutions. By leveraging technology, Jeremy excels at creating scalable retention marketing programs.  He works for LinkedIn, holds a BA in Communication from the University of Pittsburgh and MBA from Point Park University.  He is a proud former Pittsburgher, but currently lives in San Francisco, CA.

The Math of Customer Success - Part 2

By Jeremy Gillespie

This is Part 2 of my series on The Math of Customer Success. If you missed Part 1 you can view it here.

Last time I discussed top-line Customer Success metrics - the metrics that should be reported to your company leadership and board. Today, I'm going to dive deeper into metrics you can use to run your team and ensure that customers are healthy and engaged. 

Customer Success Team Performance

Team performance is a reflection of leadership. To make sure leadership is steering the ship in the right direction you must know your metrics.

UPSELL RATE = [# of customers upgraded in a given period/ Total # of customers in a given period]

Is your team identifying accounts that have outgrown their existing plan? Make sure to you're moving them to a plan that will make them more successful.

EXPANSION REVENUE RATE = [Expansion revenue in a given period/ total revenue in a given period]

This formula will tell you if your team is successfully uncovering and closing opportunities for customers to expand their use of your offering.  This also indicates the percentage of your company's revenue that depends on existing customers.  

SAVE RATE = [# of cancellation requests turned around / Total # of cancellations]

It’s never fun getting a call from a customer who wants to cancel.  Use the time on the phone to figure out why they weren’t successful with the product. From there you can develop a plan to work with them and help them get value from the tool. You can also test if they’re open to a discount or negotiating contract terms.  Measure the success of these tactics with this metric.

SUPPORT INCIDENT RATE = [# of support tickets in a given cohort / # of customers in that cohort.]

Watch this metric closely as your company grows. This will give you a read on how much time is spent on support issues and whether you need to expand either your engineering or support teams. You should also segment and categorize cases to align teams around customer problems.

CUSTOMER BASE COVERAGE = [# of customers contacted in a given period / # of customers] 

Engaging with your customers one-to-one on a regular basis is important. This is a great leading indicator of harder to move metrics like churn and retention rates.

Product Adoption & Customer Value

Product adoption is different with each product, but typically it’s based on things like feature usage and active users. Adoption metrics also vary depending on where your customer is in their lifecycle. For example, a new customer who is on-boarding will have different adoption metrics than a customer who has been on your product for years. I'm not going to discuss how to build an adoption model, but instead will focus on adoption metrics that are relevant to most organizations.

ACTIVE USER RATE (Daily, Weekly, Monthly) = [# of unique logins or activities within given time period / # of total customers or users]

Active user rate can give you an idea of how many customers are adopting your product. As you watch this metric over time you'll be able to see whether the tactics you employ to improve adoption and engagement are working.

FEATURE ADOPTION RATE = [# of unique feature activities / # of total customers]    

For your core features, you should track the rate of usage across your customers. This will identify holes in adoption, feature issues, and training opportunities. 

TIME TO FIRST VALUE (TTV) = Average [Time it takes for customers to reach key value actions or see ROI from your product]

Referred to as the ‘aha moment,’ your goal is to make sure your customers reach this as soon as possible.  This one can be tough to measure, but it is worth taking the time to define key value actions and put measurement tools in place, even if they are somewhat manual. 

In my next post I'll be covering techniques you can use to review these metrics over time in order to make the best decisions about customer success.  Stay tuned for Part 3 in this series.

Need to know how to improve your metrics?  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.  We transform support into success by building metrics, goals and processes that enable customer success teams to perform at their peak.  www.TheSuccessLeague.io

Jeremy Gillespie - Jeremy is a growth-oriented marketing geek, technology enthusiast and customer evangelist. He loves using complex data to build creative retention solutions. By leveraging technology, Jeremy excels at creating scalable retention marketing programs.  He works for LinkedIn, holds a BA in Communication from the University of Pittsburgh and MBA from Point Park University.  He is a proud former Pittsburgher, but currently lives in San Francisco, CA.