You want to invest in a Customer Success Platform (CSP), but you’re struggling to get buy-in. Maybe the budget’s tight, resources are low, or leadership simply doesn't understand the full value of CS.
When pitching a CSP, focus on the why. Where is the gap? What are the pain points? What are you trying to help your customers achieve? And why would a CSP help solve this?
First, let’s address one of the most common questions leadership will be asking when you pitch the idea of a CSP: why can’t you just use Salesforce for that?
Why can’t you just use a CRM?
CRMs are designed to track leads, move a prospect through pipeline stages, streamline sales processes, and close deals. They’re built for sales, and generating new business.
CSPs focus on Net Revenue Retention growth by providing tools that let you improve expansion and churn, and the efficiency of your customer success team’s workflows. As the name suggests, they’re tailor made for CS.
4 things you can do with a CSP, but not a CRM:
- Customer health scoring to find expansion potential & churn risks
- Playbooks and automations to streamline CS workflows
- Unify customer communications in one place (e.g. emails, support tickets, live chats)
- Customer collaboration: use customer portals to share reports, assign tasks, and create ownership
Next, let’s clarify the core benefits of a customer success platform, so that you can articulate them to leadership.
They are: improving NRR, and enabling CS teams to work more efficiently & manage more ARR per CSM.
The 2 core benefits of a CSP
The key to everything is that customer success platforms bring customer data together in one place: product usage, support ticketing, emails, revenue data, survey responses, and more. That lets you create filters, alerts, and automations based on that data (e.g. churn/expansion signals).
Thomas Smeallie, Regional Director at Planhat, articulates the value with an example:
It's really hard to know if one of your accounts has seen a decrease in product usage for a particular feature they've paid for in your product over the last 2 months without a CS platform. Come renewal, if they haven't been using it, they'll want to drop that paid feature. If you can spot the decrease in real-time, you can proactively work towards reaffirming the use-case and value in that feature before you get to that stage.
Improving workflows efficiency
CSPs are like great big cooking pots, bringing all the ingredients of CS together.
With everything in one place, CSMs can not only get a clearer picture and better understand where to focus their efforts, but can supplement this with automations and alerts.
For example, Aaron Woods (CS Director @ LaunchDarkly) uses Catalyst’s automation features to support their renewals workflow. Automated reminders show when an account is ready for renewal, by bringing together data with the CSM’s notes. At LaunchDarkly, approximately 1,200 customers manually renew, while 3,000 renewals are automated. Their CSP keeps on top of this.
“Task-management is Catalyst’s strongest feature. You can multi-layer tasks to create sub-tasks, which the team can then interact with and comment on. These notes are then combined with data to trigger different activities and workstreams.”
Prior to adopting a CSP, it's not unusual for a CSM to be checking & updating 4+ systems daily with customer information. Danielle Koestler (Customer Success Lead at Pearson) has no doubts about the workflow benefits of a CSP for Pearson's CS team:
“For us, it’s 100% worth having a CSP. Our digital team couldn’t function at the level they’re able to without one.”
And importantly, a CSP will reduce the cognitive burden on your CS team. They’ll no longer have to analyse multiple data sources or stay abreast of every customer’s every move. Jessica Fewell (VP Customer Success at Xola) calls this "sanity ROI".
“I refer to this as ‘sanity ROI’. One CSM managing hundreds of customers is overwhelming. A CSP allows knowledge of all customers without having to overwork. Communications become easier and you stop wasting time with cold emails.”
The result of more efficient CSM workflows is, of course, reduced churn and/or increased expansion MRR. With less guesswork and more clarity on which customers should be the highest priority, each CSM's revenue impact increases. Ultimately, the ROI of your customer success department will increase. Thomas Smeallie observes this among Planhat users:
"CSPs enable CSMs to manage more ARR effectively, which means lowering the cost of CS as a percentage of CS bookings."
Tips for getting buy-in
You need to understand what your blocker is, then tie it to the NRR and efficiency benefits listed above.
Be specific with the goal
Be clear on what you’re trying to solve with a CSP. Make sure you can define and measure the problem, and demonstrate intentional design.
For example, let’s say your gross revenue retention for [customer segment] is 90%. That means that you're losing $X ARR* every year. Explain the expected impact of a CSP on that problem.
*where ideally $X is higher than the cost of a CSP!
Is your blocker a person?
Maybe it’s the CFO, CEO, or Board that are stopping you from investing in a CSP. Focus on their priorities and pain points, and how a CSP can meet these. Reiterate the importance of CS within the company for achieving common goals. Get them onboard with the mission and articulate how a CSP would be different to your CRM or existing systems.
“Make the decision process as data-driven as possible, point out all the pain points and how they translate into bad customer experience, and productivity issues. Talk to your CSMs and find out how long it’s taking to perform certain tasks. Are they hitting renewals, anti-churn and expansion revenue targets?”
Roi Kiouri (Head of Success & Support @ Perceptual Robotics)
Scalability, automation and efficiency
With a CSP, your CS team will be less operational and more strategic.
Customer lifecycles can be complex and changeable. CSPs consolidate data in one place and give you the tools for keeping pace with change, such as through automations, triggers, playbooks features.
Automations enable fewer people to do more work, allowing your company to scale quickly.
Pricing models and platform benefits
Pricing models and other platform benefits can play a big role in getting buy-in for your CSP.
For example, if you have a lot of CSMs, or are growing rapidly, you could go for a CSP that offers unlimited seats, such as Vitally or Planhat. Some platforms even offer access to a free demo account, so you can trial how it could work for your team in practice.
Many companies look for CSPs with an active customer community, such as Catalyst or Gainsight. These communities offer support and learning opportunities for your team.
Get your feet wet
If you’re struggling to get buy-in for one of the ‘bigger’ CSPs, Jessica Fewell (VP Customer Success at Xola) recommends ‘getting your feet wet’ with a smaller one first.
Once you’ve seen the benefits a CSP would have on your company, use the limitations of a smaller platform to strengthen your argument for an upgrade.