In my early days as a SaaS Customer Success VP, there wasn’t such a thing as a customer success platform, we used Salesforce to track customer renewals and spreadsheets to track customer progress.

Customer Success has been an awesome path in my career for the past 15 years.  I had the opportunity to start Customer Success at Informatica when the company was moving from perpetual licensing with maintenance renewals to their subscription, and also at PTC in the same situation.   We’ve built the tools that we needed in Salesforce, and then moved to an Enterprise CS platform when we were ready.. 

Salesforce is a great launch pad for smaller CSM teams just starting out.   At the core you need Customer Health and sentiment data,  adoption(usage)  data and NRR data around expansion and renewals which is already there used by the sales team.   You also need some type of rule system to notify you about customers.   That’s built into Salesforce too!  

It’s easy to accumulate A LOT of data quickly.   We hired a rocket scientist intern to go through our data and give us insights. More on that later.

It only works if everyone is using it.  We’d say that If it wasn’t in Salesforce, it didn’t happen.  Good thing was that support tickets are built-in also,  and we added a simple “Customer Health” score.

BOOM! We had a platform for our CSM team to use. It was definitely simple, but a good starting place.   What else could we add to make this our own and add more “Customer Success Metrics”

We had a very enterprising team, full of ideas. Laurie wanted to add a “go-live” date field. Doug was very analytical and brought up how much we could learn from usage data like who’s (not) logging in. Victoria raised that many support tickets (or no support tickets) as another metric to track.

We all agreed that by tracking the history of each of these we could really get a sense of how a customer is trending, not just a current snapshot of where they are now. Salesforce could do that too!  We were able to set up some rules on the customer’s health changes to notify us when a customer’s health went from Green to Yellow to take action, or Red to Yellow to celebrate!    Once we figured this out, we started to track adoption metrics too, looking for customers in trouble!  

Our VP of sales caught wind of what we were up to. “What about the propensity of a customer to expand?”

We decided to go BHAG! (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). We hired a Rocket Scientist PHD candidate from an Ivy League School as our summer intern. Looking back, she was an early data scientist for us.

Our Rocket Scientist had no idea about customers, or NRR, or renewals or success . . . . but she knew DATA!

Using statistical analysis tools out of what we thought was NASA she crunched the numbers across time series data and drew some very interesting conclusions which she called Tipping Points.

Customers who expanded the most (greater than 200% NRR) had a few things in common. 61.6% of the users attended training. 67.5% of the stakeholders were also users.  This is strictly looking at the data with usage, services bought and considering the upcoming renewals and open upsell opportunities!

Customers who were churned or downsold had interesting characteristics too. Contrary to what we thought; a massive increase in usage wasn’t necessarily a good thing when their health was declining at the same time. It meant that they were migrating off of our system!   Crazy that we were so blind to the fact that we were getting usage data, we didn’t think that the opposite assumption would be true!  It’s different in every situation.

WOW. GAME CHANGING! We pivoted our program. We gave training away for free, and pushed it. We looked for the tipping points when researching accounts.

In our Sales QBRs we could have a list of Customer Intent organized by which customers had the propensity to Expand, Renew Flat or Churn.

NRR skyrocketed because we knew where to focus our time and efforts.  

It’s the beginning of a new year and you’re about to join a QBR or SKO where you need to forecast the Quarter.

We’ve re-created this simple process with the most advanced techniques available in AI/ML today focused on Salesforce and we have a “how-to” guide for setting it up.

I’d love to share this with everyone in Customer Success, our free private beta for Salesforce that we’ve just opened up in ’22.  

 See if it’s a fit for you by clicking here.

The result will be your NRR forecast of Growth-ready accounts for the quarter.

Who are your Growth Ready customers for the Quarter?