The Great Customer
Success Debate

We asked the Top 125 CS Influencers and Strategists to give us their thoughts on the most controversial topics in Customer Success. Here's what they had to say...

Presented By

Welcome to the debate 👋

We know what you’re thinking: "Not another debate!" We get it. But there are some seriously controversial Customer Success topics worth exploring, so we teamed up with SuccessCOACHING to poll the experts, and now here we are—at the Great CS Debate. You made it!

Who we polled

After counting up all the votes from the Customer Success community, SuccessCOACHING released its 2020 lists of the Top 100 CS Strategists and the Top 25 CS Influencers. We thought that rather than polling the entire community right away, we’d poll these two groups of elected officials and then extend these questions to the broader community.

How voting worked

Participants were presented with 10 different topics and shown two contrasting statements about each topic. They were then asked to choose the argument they most agreed with and why they made that choice. They were also able to select an "undecided" option, as can be seen below.

How to read the results

Standing or sitting desks?

People should use a standing desk (if they can)

People should sit down at their desks

66%

People in favor of
standing desks

12%

Undecided

22%

People in favor of
sitting desks

Example

What’s up for debate?

Choose an argument or scroll down

Topic 1: Subject Matter Expertise vs. Core CS Skills

Subject matter expertise matters most.

Core CS skills matter most.

28%
7%
65%
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“Being a subject matter expert is more important than core CS skills because knowing the product through and through is how value is ultimately delivered. The bonus is having amazing CS skills to drive the conversations that lead to value realization.”

Ronni Gaun
Enterprise Customer Success Manager, Zoom

“Core Customer Success skills, including but not limited to: empathy, critical thinking, problem solving, strategizing, etc., are hard to teach someone, if not impossible. How do you teach someone to have empathy? As a leader, those are things I look for in people; I want to see how you think. Subject matter can be taught, and as leaders, that's where coaching and developing plays an important role.”

Shari Srebnick
Head of Customer Success, Searchmetrics
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Topic 2: Renewal Ownership

Renewals should be 100% owned by CSMs.

Renewals should be owned by Sales or Account Management, supported by CSMs.

41%
9%
50%
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“Renewals shouldn’t need to be a sales negotiation. Done right, they should be the natural continuation of the journey towards building long-term business value as part of the ongoing CS/Customer relationship.”

Jon Triggs
Head of Customer Success, Fluent Technology

“Delivering brilliant strategy and upsetting a client can go hand-in-hand, but I never want any of our customers to assume that our strategy is selfishly motivated. Having a separation of church and state between Success and Sales ensures that our strategy truly is for the good of our clients.”

Scott Dzialo
Customer Success Director, Enterprise + Strategic Accounts, Braze
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Topic 3: Single vs. Multiple Points of Contact

CSMs should be the primary point of contact for their customers and all communication to/from the customer should go through them.

Customers should have multiple points of contact at a company, and others at the company should be communicating directly with customers.

51%
5%
44%
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“To lessen the confusion for the customer, it is my philosophy that they should try to filter all communication through one point of contact. The more contacts there are, the higher the likelihood of introducing confusion or frustration to the customer.”

Brian Hartley
Senior Director of Customer Success, RFP360

“A CSM should be there to help a customer navigate the various internal stakeholders instead of acting as the wizard of all answers. Billing should have their chance to shine. Tech support should have their chance to shine. Then, the CSM can be leveraged to escalate cases as they see fit.”

Kevin Leonor
Customer Success Manager, RingCentral
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Topic 4: Product Roadmap Decisions

Customer feedback should be the primary driver of the product roadmap. Customers know best what they want and need.

A mix of company vision and market intelligence should be the primary drivers of the product roadmap. Customers don’t know what they want and need until you show it to them.

34%
20%
46%
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“Innovation comes from information. Even autonomous vehicles came from interviewing folks stuck in traffic. The product roadmap should always be driven by your existing customers or prospective customers.”

Edward Chiu
CEO & Cofounder, Catalyst

“Customers know what they want, but they don't always know what they need. Product managers should understand the nature of the data customers provide and use it in proper context.”

Ed Powers
Consultant, Service Excellence Partners
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Topic 5: When to Deploy CS Software

Employing CS software is an excellent catalyst for establishing processes, structures, and systems for CS teams.

CS software should not be employed until a CS team has established and validated processes, structures, and systems.

29%
9%
62%
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“Having successfully deployed CS software at 4 companies, I can say that the most successful implementations have been when there was a CS process and infrastructure in place. I believe that technology should be there to operationalize and scale your efforts NOT determine them.”

Kristi Faltorusso
VP of Customer Success at Intellishift

“Having a Client Success (CS) application is foundational for any CS program--without one you might as well prepare yourself and your CS organization for managing clients reactively.  A CS application houses the data that tells the story and allows a CS organization to be proactive in ways you didn’t realize were possible. Not having a CS application to manage a client-base is like reading a book without words.”

Paul Case
Vice President of Client Success, Tyler Technologies
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Topic 6: Customer Friendships

You should be close friends with your customers.

Your customer relationships should be strictly professional.

46%
21%
33%
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“The mission of Customer Success is to increase sustainable proven profitability for both customers and company. The role of a professional is to get the job done. Trying to maintain a personal friendship with an individual at a customer site opens the door to a potential conflict of interest between what is best for the customer and best for the individual friend.”

Mikael Blaisdell
Executive Director, The Customer Success Association

“Great relationships can go beyond just business but don't have to be very personal. There's value in a CSM knowing about their customers' family situation, challenges and more. This enables empathy and compassion.”

David Ellin
Chief Customer Officer, Centric Leadership Strategies
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Topic 7: Simple vs. Complex Health Scoring

Customer health scores should be weighted and include a wide variety of factors (adoption, time-to-value, business outcomes, bugs, sentiment, lifecycle, etc.).

Customer health scores should be simplistic and focus solely on business outcomes to avoid any vanity metrics impacting the score.

66%
9%
25%
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“If you want a view of your customer health, you'll need multiple data points, including the time to value, bugs, adoption, sentiment scores, and a manual relationship stat set by the CSM. While health scores are nice as an overall barometer, they are not the end-all for the portfolio. I use them to gauge the overall portfolio health at a snapshot and trendline. I have historically had customers with fantastic health churn and those with poor health renew. Treat health scores as another data point in the bigger picture.”

Maranda Dziekonski
Vice President Customer Success & People Ops, Swiftly

“Keep it simple so your team can understand why customers may be unhealthy so they can act. Over-instrumenting can lead to confusion and, even worse, ignoring customer health signs altogether.”

Chris Brown
Director of Customer Success, Fulcrum
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Topic 8: CSM Sentiment

CSM sentiment should account for more than 25% of the customer health score.

CSM sentiment should account for less than 25% of the customer health score.

39%
28%
33%
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“I believe that Customer Success and Consulting experience is more important when staffing for my organizations as I feel the industry knowledge and practical application of the software can be learned in order to provide value to my customers but the experience in effective customer orchestration is core to our success.”

Peter Armaly
Senior Director, Customer Success Enablement, Oracle

“Need to remove as much subjectivity from the score as possible, but not completely. There needs to be room left for educated opinion.”

Matt Myszkowski
Founder, CustomerSuccessMatters
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Topic 9: Using Slack With Customers

Shared Slack channels are a very effective way for CSMs to communicate with and support their customers.

Shared Slack channels are an inefficient and unreliable way for CSMs to communicate with and support their customers.

49%
20%
31%
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“Think about all of the reasons you use Slack with your internal colleagues. You build rapport, make decisions faster, and integrate workflows to support communication. It is a higher level of collaboration. You can't get that from email. Why wouldn't you want to get to that level with your customer? 

The common fear is that a shared Slack channel will be misused and turn into a 24x7 support mechanism. Be clear about the ground rules and why customers should work through official support mechanisms to get support. 

Think about every time an implementation or initiative with the customer stalled. It's not because there was too much communication and collaboration. It's because there wasn't enough. Slack channels solve this."

Junan Pang
Senior Manager, Customer Success, Slack

“There are certain tools that come with preconceived expectations around response times and Slack is one of them. While it is great to give your customers another channel to reach you, it can create more trouble in the long run. Things like SLAs go out of the window with Slack channels (you can't really measure them), you'll likely be fielding support questions and lastly, you risk not documenting the interaction/work you've done.”

Diana De Jesus
Customer Success Manager, Catalyst
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Topic 10: Net Promoter Score Efficacy

NPS should be a very significant component of a customer health score.

NPS should be a very insignificant component of a customer health score.

20%
24%
56%
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“The ability to indicate, defend or not defend a brand is very significant. The metric cannot be considered in isolation, it needs to be composed and I don't see a better way than within the client's health score. If the client pays, accesses and has the ability to refer, it's great. If they don't pay, access and have the ability to refer, something is wrong.”

Roberta Silva
Fundadora e co-fundadora especialista, Consultoria de Sucesso / Cliente Cast

“NPS is the worst (health) metric out there. It's measuring intent and not behavior. Use NPS for champion identification or sponsor discontent... nothing else.”

Wayne McCulloch
Head of Customer Success (SaaS), Google Cloud, Google
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