In our 2017 benchmarking report on Customer Success and Product Management alignment, 84% of respondents said alignment was considered “important” or “very important” to their organization. That’s great news! But we also uncovered that few teams are actually making an effort to get there. And we can certainly understand why: making alignment happen in practice and driving collaboration is challenging.
This year, we published our second report on this topic, 2019 Benchmarking Report on Customer Success and Product Management Alignment and we’ve learned even more. This year, 97% of the respondents who said their Customer Success (CS) and Product Management (PM) teams are fully aligned also indicated that this alignment is very important to their company’s leadership.
It’s clear that this alignment is important but one of the biggest gaps we’ve seen consistently is a lack of shared metrics. In both reports, roughly one in three respondents indicated they had NO shared metrics for success between the two teams. Of those that did have shared metrics, most were focused on areas like the number of bugs discovered and support tickets resolved rather than customer-focused—and revenue-driving—metrics like Customer Satisfaction, Customer Lifetime Value (LTV), and Customer Retention/Churn.
This is bolstered by our learning that 57% said they don’t fully share customer data between teams. These issues are concerning when it’s so important to make sure companies are oriented toward customer success as an operating philosophy.
Finding the right balance between department-specific and company-wide goals isn’t easy. Our research showed that CS and PM teams in particular lack incentives to collaborate and end up working in silos, use disparate sets of data to make decisions, and often work in totally separate tools. To reconcile this, let’s explore: where can SaaS businesses start to bring teams together, and what types of measurable goals should these departments share that promote alignment and center focus on the customer?
Our advice is to consider sharing responsibility for metrics which, in combination, lead to the right level of information sharing and have the potential to give rise to the customer success + product management power couple. We’ve identified four metrics to consider that will lead to stronger alignment between the two teams when share:
- Feature Usage and Adoption
- Customer Churn
- Sentiment (Customer Feedback)
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV)
- Feature usage and adoption
Making sure your users consistently find value in the features within your product is critical to both your success and theirs. In fact, without adoption, it’s significantly more difficult to guide users to retention, expansion, and advocacy. Ensuring adoption requires both the high-touch element the CS team can provide and the high-tech element the product team can provide to work in tandem to drive customer success, so it’s key that product teams and CS teams take a strategic approach to it together.
Remember that user adoption is just not about activity, it’s about building users’ confidence in your product and in your product’s vision and mission. That’s a job for the entire company, but also one in which customer success and product teams are well-positioned to execute.
- Customer churn
It is largely up to customer success teams to own customer relationships and be proactive against potential churn, but the product itself must also pull its weight. Product teams can be on the hook for customer churn by making sure the product is optimized to help users consistently find value. That can mean making sure features are working properly, bugs are addressed, and user feedback is used to drive future iterations and product roadmap decisions.
- Sentiment (customer feedback)
There is a lot of debate about whether product management teams should be accountable, at least jointly, for Net Promoter Scores (NPS). We’re not sure that it makes sense for product management teams to own or be responsible for this, but customer feedback should be something they are looking at as they develop their product roadmap. Additionally, product management teams can also help bake Voice of the Customer channels right into the product to collect better, more in-the-moment sentiment from users that can be used in all departments, from customer success to product to sales and marketing.
- Customer lifetime value (CLTV)
Customer lifetime value (CLTV) supports product and customer success managers in different ways. Product teams can use it to build data-driven product roadmaps, justify budget allocation, and measure the impact of product decisions on customer growth. CLTV also directly relates to the work of customer success teams and how they support users to reach milestones like reaching a WOW moment, converting to a paying subscription, renewing it month after month, signing up for new services, etc. Driving this metric “up and to the right” is a shared goal for just about any SaaS business.
Learn more about CLTV and 9 more calculations customer success teams need to know.
Reaching alignment between customer success and product managers can help elevate your users’ experience. But doing so is harder than it seems when day-to-day activities start taking all the attention or if there is not a concerted, top-down effort to work together strategically. The good news is that shared metrics around CLTV, feature adoption and usage, customer churn, and sentiment have the potential to drive the right level of collaboration.