Beyond Service Metrics – Focus on What Really Matters

Your service organization is an incredible source of metrics and measurements that describe ongoing interactions with your customers. Of all the metrics your service team tracks there are 5 important areas that you should key a close eye on.

Your service organization can tell you how many customers they interact with on a daily, week or monthly basis through a variety of communications channels. They can tell you about the top concerns of your customers, the challenges they face using your products and the features they want to see in the future.  If you dig a bit deeper Services can provide statistics on the level of service provided, and the costs and revenues associated with delivering these services. 

1.   Defects

Customers contact your Services team for a variety of reasons, and if typical, more than half of all customer service requests are related to “how-to” type questions.  These are “good” interactions – your customers are engaged with your product and this provides insights into how they are using it.

Few customers (hopefully) are contacting you because your product does not work as expected.  Defect related interactions are not always pleasant but are inevitable. Tracking defect rates is critical since they are often costlier to respond to and result in higher levels of customer dissatisfaction.  What you need to know about defects:

  • What percent of all customer reported issues are directly attributed to product defects?
  • What is the total cost to handle defect related issues (total and as a percent of total service costs)?
  • How do defect related issues affect customer satisfaction?

Dis-proportionally high defect rates can indicate a failure in process or lack of appropriate resources in Development and Quality organizations.  By understanding the cost and customer impact you can act to mitigate negative impacts from defects.

2.   Customer Health

You may receive periodic reports indicating customer satisfaction or Net Promoter Scores (NPS).  These are good indicators, but with so many touch-points with your customers expect to know how healthy your customer relationships are. 

Don’t make assumptions that NPS or satisfaction ratings indicate the health of a customer relationship.  Expect to understand if customers are generally content, or if they are anxious about the future, restless and thinking about moving to another vendor, or just plain angry with you. What you need to know about customer health:

  • What percent of your customer base is at risk of defecting to another vendor?
  • What percent of customers are at risk and likely to reduce spending or discontinue buying future products and services?
  • How much revenue is at risk?

Nurture healthy relationships but pay special attention to at risk customers and attempt to understand and repair relationships.

3.   Service Sales Performance

Selling a perpetual or SaaS license is the just the beginning of long-term profitable relationship when additional services can be attached to the initial license sale. Look at the financials of larger public software companies and you can see how important support and maintenance contracts are.  If you don’t already sell add-on services, consider it.  If you do, make sure that service sales performance is optimized.  If your products are offered as a service, then look to add-on services to grow. What you need to know about service sales performance:

  • How many customers are under an extended service contract or success plan?
  • At what rate are new contracts attached to product sales?
  • How does this differ by geography and channel?
  • At what rate do existing customers renew?
  • For SaaS companies – what rate do customers buy a higher level of service than what is provided with the subscription?

Service sales performance begins with the initial “attachment” of a service contract, but the sales process continues indefinitely with an opportunity to renew the relationship year after year.  Great service sales practices require focus and investment to sell, renew and expand the service relationship.

4.   Engagement

Your services team specializes in engaging with customers – in fact this is their job.  The frequency and quality of engagements is important.  If you never hear from your customers is that a good thing?  It certainly costs less but you have less visibility into how they are using your products or their level of satisfaction.  Too much engagement may suggest that your products are difficult to use.  What you need to know about customer engagement:

  • What percent of your customer base do you actively engage with?
  • How often do you engage with them?
  • What percent of customer engagements are positive? Negative?
  • How does the health of customer relationships correlate to engagement frequency and quality?

The correct engagement model can make the difference in the health and profitability of a customer relationship.  Engagement focused on early and effective onboarding and success coaching can help customers get up to speed and productive with new products.  High-touch engagement models may be necessary for large critical customers.  In all cases the type and level of engagement is hopefully proportional to the value of the relationship.

5.   Profitability

When we consider the role of Service, we need to think about it as an instrument to engage and retain customers.  The basic assumption is that more interaction may be good, especially if it is positive interaction, but if it costs too much it is difficult and costly to scale.  We cannot simply throw unlimited resources at customers to keep them delighted.   What you need to know about customer service profitability:

  • How much does it cost to deliver services?
  • How much direct revenue does Services generate?
  • How much indirect revenue does Services contribute to?
  • Will incremental investments in Services generate more direct or indirect revenue?
  • What impact will investments in Services have on retaining recurring revenue streams?

Service profitability, and the impact of services on overall profit can be elusive, often because the tangible return from the investment in services can be hard to connect to the costs.  For service organization that operate as a profit and loss center the relationship between the cost of services and the benefits is more apparent.  Accounting for the cost and financial benefits of service is critical.

These service insights are different from traditional service metrics such as cost per incident or time to resolution and are intended to provide a more strategic customer view through the eyes of your Services team.  Tap into the insights and perspectives services has to offer.  Services is on the front line with customers and they can offer unique insights about your customers, your relationships and the very health and success of your business moving forward.

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Service Revenue Generation Metrics

The ability to accurately track the effectiveness of Service Revenue Generation activities is essential to maximizing revenue from new and existing customers. There are three primary opportunities to capture service revenue including the sale of new contracts at the time of the initial product sale (Attach); renewal of existing service contracts (Renew); and as reinstatements (Win Back) of contracts that have been previously cancelled by customers. This article presents a consistent set of metrics and definitions to help companies measure the overall of service sales and renewal policies, programs and personnel.

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Three Critical Metrics to Retain and Grow Customer Relationship Value

With all our customer metrics, what do we really know about our customers and how do we assure that we can sustain and grow relationship value?

If you inventory all the metrics used by your customer-facing organizations – Sales, Marketing and Service – you will find an impressive collection of data elements that describe how you interact with your customers.  Marketing metrics describe the ability to reach and influence customers; Sales metrics provide insights into the time and efficiency to book revenue; and Service metrics describe the volume, timeliness, and effectiveness of interacting with them. Add to this, insights provided from customer satisfaction assessment efforts.  As an industry we have a lot of customer data, but does it tell us everything we need to know about how to engage and sustain long term profitable relationships?

With all these customer metrics, what do we really know about our customers?  We know how much effort it takes to reach and influence customers, the time it takes to convert prospects to buyers and the time, effort, and costs to service customers.  These are all important yet too many customer metrics focus on the transactional aspects of the customer relationship – volumes, speed, and efficiency with too few focused on examining the quality of our relationships.

Don’t stop tracking transactional customer metrics but consider adding the following measurements to examine the strength and quality of your customer relationships.

Adoption

Adoption tracking provides important insights into the frequency and extent of customer product use.  Customer adoption metrics answer questions such as: Are your customers using your products?  Are they using them to the fullest extent possible?  It seems counter intuitive that customers would not use what they buy, but for many reasons lack of license utilization or under utilization occurs.

Why this Matters

If customers are not using what they have already paid for or are not able to apply products to their business, then future subscription renewals or license sales are in jeopardy.

What to Measure

Whether through automated tracking or customer surveys it is important to understand if, how and to what extent your customers use your products.  Consider the following metrics:

  • Adoption: The percent of licenses sold that are being used.
    • Metric: % of licenses adopted
  • Adoption Extent (Feature Adoption): What features are customers using.  Are customer using a basic set of available features or do they take advantage of advanced capabilities.
    • Metric: % of basic users
    • Metric: % of advanced users

What to do with Adoption

If you determine that customers are not using what they already have, the next step is to determine why.  Are products too complex? Do customers lack necessary skills? Are products not aligned to customer needs?  The sooner you understand the barriers to full adoption, the sooner you can take corrective actions through services, training, or product enhancements to drive higher product and feature adoption rates.

Success

Customer success tracking builds upon Adoption and examines the extent to which customers realize tangible benefits from your products. Customer success metrics answer questions such as: Do customers consider your products to be integral to their business?  Are they able to apply your products to meet their business goals and objectives?  The very health of your customer relationships depends upon your customers ability to apply your products to drive success with their business.

Why this Matters

Even with 100% adoption rates, it is possible that customers fail to achieve the outcomes they want with your products.  Understanding the extent to which a customer can positively affect their business with your products is a critical indicator about the overall health of the relationship.  Customers that indicate positive impacts from products are far more likely to continue or expand their relationship with you.  Customers that fail to meet performance objectives are at risk of lower spending or ending their relationship with you.

What to Measure

Success can be a subjective measure, yet the perception of success is the basis upon which real decisions are made.   Success measurement is most effective when there is a mutually established definition of success.  Companies that work with customers to develop success plans and journey maps with measurable outcomes can track progress to plan.  Success can also be measured as the return on the original investment in a product.  The most subjective metric is based on asking customers to express the extent to which they believe they have benefited from the use of a product.  Although not ideal, this approach provides insights to alert you to situations where negative perceptions may impact customer relationships.

Consider the following metrics:

  • Success Plan Realization: What percent of an established success plan has been realized.
    • Metric: % Success rate
  • Return on Investment: A tangible measure to indicate the payback from the investment in a product over an established timeframe.
    • Metric: ROI
  • Success Perception:
    • Metric: % positive impact (success rate)
    • Metric: % Neutral impact
    • Metric: % None or negative impact

What to do with Success

Getting customers to adopt products is just the beginning of long term profitable relationships.  You need to be able to help customers realize tangible positive benefits from product use.  Regardless of how you measure success you must be cognizant of when you fail to meet customer expectations.  The very practice of measuring success suggests that you are attempting to establish a baseline understanding of what customers need or want from the use of your products.  When you understand customer expectations and detect that your products have not met them, you can examine the reasons why and develop corrective actions to increase success rates.

Retention

How many of your current customers do you keep and how long do retain established relationships?  While adoption and success tracking provides insights into the health of a customer relationship, they do not explain all the reasons for churn in your customers base.  Retention examines the rate and duration that you sustain customer relationships and provides an opportunity to identify and examine the reasons for lost relationships,

Why this Matters

For many companies most revenue comes from existing customers, thus keeping the customers you have is imperative.

What to Measure

Retention is a straightforward metric when you establish a clear definition of what it means to retain a customer.  For our purposes retention is defined as active, revenue-generating relationships.  This is clear for subscription-based / SaaS relationships, but less so for relationships based on perpetual licensing.  When SaaS customers stop paying for their subscriptions they lose their ability to use the product or service they subscribed to.  Perpetually licensed software is different.  A customer can continue to use a perpetually licensed product but pay no maintenance fees, nor purchase any future products.  Retention examines the net number of revenue-generating customer relationships from one period to the next.

Consider the following metrics:

  • Customer Retention (perpetual and subscription): Revenue-generating relationships carried over from previous period (e.g. year to year or quarter to quarter).
    • Metric: % Customer Retention rate (relationships)
  • Net Revenue Retention (perpetual and subscription): Net value of existing contracts carried over from previous period, plus new revenue and less losses (e.g. year to year or quarter to quarter).
    • Metric: % Net Revenue Retention rate

What to do with Retention

Retention analysis informs about the stability of your customer base.  You can strive to get your customers to adopt products and be successful with them.  Even then, you cannot prevent all existing customers (or contract value) from going away.  You must however be vigilant and monitor customer retention rates and examine the reasons why you lose customers and revenue (e.g. you may keep a relationship, but at a lower value).  Only when you understand why you lose customers can you act to retain them.

The Goal: Retention, Growth and Long-term Profit

We know a lot about customers, but let’s make certain that we understand the foundations of successful customer relationships.  By measuring the extent to which customers adopt and use our products successfully we can identify situations where products fall short in fulfilling their needs and expectations.  With these insights we can take corrective action to minimize churn and identify ways to retain and expand existing relationship value.

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*Membership level determines your access to ServiceXRG research and other member services. Paid memberships include access to research and playbooks. Free memberships include access to some reports and discounts to others. Please visit our membership page for a list of available membership programs.

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Less NPS and More High-Touch Understanding

We have become too dependent on electronic surveys and NPS/CSat scores to tell us that our customers are okay. These are fine indicators but do not always tell us why we lose customers.

Less NPS / More High-Touch Understanding

To mitigate churn, we need to dig deeper to understand why a customer stops (or never starts) using a product or why they do not perceive value from the services they pay for.

The best way to do this – pick up the phone or visit your customers and listen to their concerns! Don’t wait for customers to cancel before engaging them.

How We Keep Customers

Not every relationship can (or should) be retained, but if you listen carefully enough you will find that you can address many top churn factors.  Onboarding, adoption, success planning and account management are all powerful tools to mitigate risk factors.

Principles and practices of customer success are taking us in the right direction with an emphasis on retaining existing relationships. We need to make certain that we avoid the temptations to rely too much on tech-touch and keep personal channels of communication open with customers – especially the ones we do not hear from on a regular basis.

The Bottom Line

Retention of both relationships and revenue are critical indicators of business health.  Understand retention levels and underlying factors that influence them. Retention is paramount – make it a strategic priority!

 

Assessment: Customer Success Management

How effectively do you engage new customers? Do have a formal onboarding process? Do you help customers plan for success with your products? Do you monitor customer health? Take this assessment to see where your practices stand and learn how to maximize customer success management.

Check out ServiceXRG’s Customer Success Management Assessment.  You will get immediate feedback with recommendations.

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Understanding the Differences Between Technical Support and Customer Success

As we look to embrace Customer Success it is imperative that we have a shared understanding about what Customer Success is and is not. All too often we find examples of Customer Success initiatives that involve little more than changing the name of the Support department or adding a few new roles to focus on success-related activities.

Every step towards a Customer Success-oriented approach is positive, but if we truly want to pursue Customer Success, we need to understand what it is and why it is different from traditional Technical Support models.

The Journey to Customer Success

The term Customer Success seems to permeate the technology industry with nearly every company engaged in some type of success initiative.  The focus and awareness of Customer Success is timely and refreshing.  I don’t mean to imply that technology companies have not been focused on making customers successful in the past, but this emphasis on Customer Success creates a new level of awareness and commitment to truly impacting customers’ ability to derive benefits from technology.  Customer Success has profound implications for the ways that companies engage, serve, and retain customers.

Customer Success – Functions vs. Philosophy

It is important to distinguish between customer success-focused activities (functions) and Customer Success as operating model (philosophy).  Support and many customer-facing departments have been engaged in success-focused practices long before we started labeling them as Customer Success.  Today, perhaps we label too many things as Customer Success.

By instituting Customer Success functions (onboarding, driving adoption, customer health indexing, success management, etc.)  within Support, we do not necessarily achieve a customer success-focused way of conducting business. True Customer Success requires transformation and cooperation across many departments and introduces new ways to define and measure business performance.

The Customer Success – Spectrum

We need to recognize that there are variations of Customer Success. Customer Success has specific functions, roles, and ways of conducting business.  If you embrace one or even a few customer-success focused activities, or have roles with Customer Success in the title, it does not mean that you have fully embraced Customer Success. I have defined three distinct stages in the “success – spectrum.”  See the descriptions and comparisons below to determine where you are in your journey to Customer Success.

Technical Support

Traditional Technical Support functions focused on issue resolution and answering how-to questions primarily in response to customer questions.

Success Enable Support

Introduction of success-focused roles such as Customer Success Managers and adoption of success practices such as onboarding, health assessments, journey mapping and success planning. Introduction of proactive customer engagement.

Customer Success

Cross-functional cooperation or organizational alignment primarily focused on customer engagement and proactive service delivery. Primary business objective is to retain and grow relationship value.

Technical Support – A Cornerstone of the Customer Relationship

Technical Support is a practice that seems to be as old as the technology industry itself.  For many companies the Support department is the primary interface with customers after the initial sale.  The mission of Support is to be there for the customer when they needed help, but not necessarily to engage customers proactively to assure that they can use and apply their applications.  Once again, this is not to suggest that companies or Support organizations are not committed to helping customers succeed – some of the most committed and customer-centric people in the technology industry can be found within Support.  The fact is that traditional Support organizations typically do not have a mandate nor the resources to fully drive Customer Success outcomes.

Success Enabled Support – A Hybrid Approach

Somewhere between a traditional Technical Support organization and a full-fledge Customer Success initiative is a hybrid model that introduces success-focused practices and resources into Support. Success Enabled Support include success-focused roles such as customer success managers, onboarding and adoption specialists, and retention, renewal and upsell experts. Practices include formal onboarding, efforts to drive adoption and plans to define and drive successful outcomes (success plans and journey maps).

These success-focused resources and activities are a quantum leap towards Customer Success. Yet, they are often contained within siloed organizational structures or lack full organizational commitment and governance to truly drive an enterprise-wide coordination to maximize retention and relationship growth.

Customer Success – A Business Model

Customer Success is a strategy to maximize customer retention and create opportunities for revenue expansion within the customer base. It is not simply an organizational structure, function, process, team, or job description – Customer Success is a customer engagement and retention philosophy. It should be seen as a way of doing business that transcends all aspects of a company from the way it develops products to the way it sustains and expands customer relationships.

Customer Success is predicated on the understanding that a significant portion of revenue and growth comes from existing customer relationships and that for technology vendors to grow relationship value their customers must be able to apply and succeed with the products they have purchased.

Customer Success is a critical methodology for companies that depend on recurring revenues from license, maintenance, and other service subscriptions.  Customer Success is not however just for companies that sell products as-a-Service.  Companies that sell perpetual software licenses, equipment and devices can benefit from Customer Success to drive product adoption and to assure maintenance contract renewals.

Technical Support vs. Customer Success – Key Differences

The following table highlights some of the key distinctions between traditional Technical Support, Success Enabled Support, and all-in Customer Success business models.

 

Technical Support

Success Enabled Support

Customer Success

Primary Objective

Resolve product-related issues, answer “how-to” questions.

Help customers adopt and succeed with products.

Cross-functional approach to engaging, retaining, and expanding customer relationship value by helping customers to use and succeed with products.

Target Audience

Customers that are entitled to and request Support through warranty or service contract.

Targeted segments of the customer base (e.g. top tier accounts or customers that purchase a specific product or service type).

Customers that purchase renewable products and services, and/or buy specific success plans.

Entitlement Program

Support portfolio.

Success plan or add-on.

Success plan, add-on, or included with product purchase.

Monetization

Support fees.

Add-on fees for customer success programs.

Success program fees and subsidies from product revenue, retention, and growth.

Organizational Model

Stand-alone Technical Support organization.

Distinct team of customer success-focused resources within Support department. Some coordination and cooperation with other customer facing teams.

Cooperation across functional roles (Sales, Professional Services, Education, Support) organized by matrix or reporting structure.

Primary Functions

Cases resolution.

Onboarding, drive adoption, success planning, customer health monitoring, retention.

Onboarding, drive adoption, success planning, customer health monitoring, retention, revenue expansion.

Success Metrics

Time to Resolve (TTR), First Contact Resolution (FCR), Cost per case, Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer satisfaction.

Process execution: Rate of adoption, success plan execution, retention, renewal rates.

Customer retention, revenue growth rate (Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) / Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), renewal, growth)

Service Levels

Service levels and terms defined by support contract.

Defined by success plan terms or triggering events (e.g. customer health).

Ongoing touch points throughout the relationship or triggering events (e.g. customer health).

Service Delivery

Reactive, customer initiated.

Proactive, often triggered by customer milestones or events.

Proactive, often triggered by customer milestones or events.

Retention

Emphasis on contract renewal, typically the responsibility of another group.

Emphasis on recurring revenue renewal, guided by CSM team, booking often responsibility of another group.

Emphasis on recurring revenue renewal, coordinated by cross-functional success team equally accountable for retention/renewal/growth.

Growth

Possible add-on upsell, typically the responsibility of other group.

Opportunity identification because of customer engagement. Booking often responsibility of another group.

Opportunity identification because of customer engagement. Cross-functional success team equally accountable for retention and growth.

The Journey to Customer Success

The journey to Customer Success may not require the full transformation to an entirely new way of conducting business, organizing resources, or measuring business performance.  Adopting some success-focus activities and creating success roles may be adequate for your business.  For companies that depend upon recurring revenues, customer retention and relationship growth are paramount, and a true Customer Success operating mode is an effective strategy.  Be honest about where you are in your journey and what approach to Customer Success is appropriate to your business.  Be careful not to overstate where you are in your journey if you have farther to go.

Featured: The Journey to Customer Success

The journey from Technical Support to Customer Success requires more than a name change or the addition of a team of Customer Success Managers. To fully embrace Customer Success, Support must rethink its role and adopt new ways to engage, retain and grow customer relationships. This Playbook provides a guided journey across four key milestones to help you define essential Customer Success capabilities.

This Playbook is FREE – Register or Log-in to download your copy.

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*Membership level determines your access to ServiceXRG research and other member services. Paid memberships include access to research and playbooks. Free memberships include access to some reports and discounts to others. Please visit our membership page for a list of available membership programs.

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How Effective are Your Renewal Practices?

Service contract renewal performance is fundamental to overall corporate financial health. Existing service relationships represent a predictable recurring revenue stream and provide the foundation from which to grow revenue. Before you can grow relationship value however, you must be able to retain what you have.

Service Renewal Performance: Leaders vs. Laggards

Get an Instant Assessment

Use ServiceXRG’s Contract Renewal Assessment tool to get an immediate evaluation of your current renewal practices and performance.  The assessment takes just a few minutes and will provide you with a customized performance scorecard with recommendations for improving contract renewals.

The assessment covers the following areas:

  • Overall Renewal Health
  • Renewal Rate Performance
  • On-Time Renewals
  • Renewal Practices
  • Service Onboarding Practices
  • Success Practices
  • Value Delivery
  • Renewal Process

You will receive a customized assessment with observations and recommendations based on your input. Your report will be sent to you via e-mail upon completion of this questionnaire. Please note that your responses will be kept confidential.

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