If none of your vendors, systems integrators or Value Added Resellers have introduced you to a customer success manager yet, then this article is for you. Why? Because if you’ve been introduced to a Customer Success Manager (CSM) then you’ll know exactly what they do and why they are so important. The chances are, you’ll consider CSM operatives a part of your own extended team.
CSM is a growing field in the industrial space and a useful marker of digital transformation (DX) maturity. The fact that CSM is becoming so important points to how DX is driving an evolution of the relationships between customers and their ecosystems of support.
So, what is CSM, why is it important, what does it mean to us at SolutionsPT, and why now, in the era of digital transformation and associated growth in technology and software “as a service”, has this relatively new business function become so central to achieving desired outcomes for both customer and vendor?
Let’s begin at the beginning.
Digital Transformation & CSM
At SolutionsPT, we talk a lot about digital transformation success for every enterprise. It is central to how we think. We believe that digital transformation is a powerful force for good for the future of industry, the people who work in industry, and for humanity. Our vision for digital transformation is that it can be successfully applied by every industrial enterprise and that it can be simply and effectively achieved in a step-by-step approach that delivers return on investment at every stage.
Nothing is more critical to the ‘how’ of that vision than CSM.
Customer Success Management is a customer engagement approach that focuses on continuously demonstrating value to customers and helping them to achieve their business outcomes. Done well it’s a win-win approach to digital transformation whereby the vendor (or companies like SolutionsPT who sell world-class hardware and software solutions from the best vendors around) invests themselves beyond initial sales and aligns directly to the desired outcomes of the customer. This relationship-based approach of partnering to achieve success benefits the customer because the expertise and knowledge to identify and leverage the right technology to get the most out of investments remains as part of the team beyond the initial sale. CSM operatives help overcome issues, accelerate the time to value, and identify further improvements, integrations and investments that fuel continuous improvement. This last part is really important from the vendor’s point of view, since the continued success of a customer’s digital transformation opens the door to further investment over time.
Success breeding success
To get an idea about the kind of ROI we are talking about, it’s not uncommon for customers to achieve a 10% increase in efficiency when working with a CSM team. In many instances, this translates to ROI in under a year. Of course, digital transformation projects, adoption, and strategies are as unique as the company that is undergoing them, so ROI can be significantly faster or a little slower, but the important thing here is that it is catalysed by CSM.
Is CSM really new? Well, perhaps not – in fact it is well established in the IT domain but it is new to the Operational Technology (OT) domain.
Let me unpack that a little. The Customer Success Management ethos is closely aligned to the way we do business, and our own success over the 30 plus years we’ve been delivering the potential of industrial automation and IT solutions for our customers has relied upon the relationships and partnerships we have built with our customers along the way, many of whom have been with us for decades. More recently, as the age of Digital Transformation has dawned, we have had a customer success programme running for several years that contains some elements of what CSM is about – and has now, in fact, fallen under the purview of our CSM team. Without going into detail, the programme, called DRIVE, was developed from experience of the design and implementation of information driven improvement programmes, and uses five stages of partnership with our customers to help push through a sustainable continuous improvement approach to industrial enterprise.
What we have learned from implementing DRIVE with many of our customers informs our approach to CSM. One key distinction is making the value-add of our experience and knowledge much easier to access for all of our customers. Our CSM approach normalises the processes and reduces barriers to entry into a continuous improvement approach to operations for all our customers.
Barriers to Entry & Barriers to Exit
Making it easier to achieve more with the products we sell is hugely important to us and reflects changes in the market brought about by digital transformation technologies. A great example of how technology is driving change in the relationship between vendors and customers is the rise of Software as a Service (SaaS). There is strong evidence to suggest that SaaS is the spearhead of a servitisation trend that will continue to unfold in industry over the coming years, and it's an exciting prospect. In turn, the change in relationships offers a tantalising glimpse into a future where whole new business models are developed and we see a complete shift from CAPEX to OPEX budgeting that lowers the barriers to entry into industrial markets for a huge variety of companies. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves considering what it would look like to pay for machines and equipment based on throughput, or to completely outsource maintenance, for example, let’s come back to where we are now, with the rise of SaaS.
AVEVA Flex is a subscription model for industrial software and its advantages are clear, and evidenced by the speed at which industry is adopting this approach. Conceptually, most of the heavy lifting for SaaS has already happened in the commercial sphere. The rise of Office365, for example, has quickly made the very thought of software being delivered on a CD-ROM in a box feel incredibly antiquated. Okay, so there was a period in between where it was bought and downloaded electronically every year or so, but the point here is the speed at which the software market has moved from boxed product to licencing and on to subscription. The same can be said for the growth of other subscription models and the hugely competitive market for TV subscription services is testament to both its ease of use and popularity. Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+, for example, are heavyweights in a $70bn+ global industry that simply didn’t exist before streaming got going in 2007. That industrial software would not follow the trend towards subscription and on-demand access is unthinkable. That it won’t be the only - or at least main - way in which software is ‘consumed’ in the future, equally so.
As the sole UK & Ireland distributor for AVEVA, and an AVEVA Select partner, this change opens up huge opportunities for SolutionsPT to help our customers access features that would previously have been prohibitively expensive in a test environment. In fact, it really opens the firehose of feature-rich capabilities of the powerful AVEVA software suite to every AVEVA customer. But to get the best from AVEVA software, most if not all companies will need some help. And that’s where we come in. More pertinently, that is why CSM is becoming such a vital part of our business.
Of course, without being locked in by long contracts, ‘as-a-service’ also opens the door to competition and choice. This brings forward the importance of Customer Success Management for both the vendors and the customers, since trusting the vendors to help deliver on the promise of the software becomes a huge selling point, and the customer can vote with their feet if they are not achieving the success that they expect. In this way, the relationships between companies, the trust, experience and track-record of digital transformation partners such as SolutionsPT, becomes critical to the future success of both parties.
How we deliver CSM
A typical customer journey with our CSM team includes an onboarding process during which the CSM team will develop a success plan by learning what the customer’s objectives are, what their challenges are, and how they define and measure success. From there we can develop a plan with milestones, all of which are revised and tracked at regular Business Reviews with key stakeholders, which is also an opportunity to spotlight new technology and develop future Proof of Concept (PoC) opportunities.
CSM brings technical credibility and value add to our customer engagements through the following activities:
- Success Planning, Business Reviews
- Education/Coaching/Enablement Sessions, vision creation and roadmap planning
- Identify technology and training gaps and facilitate PoCs to meet defined success criteria
- Monitor and escalate customer technical support cases and satisfaction feedback
- CSM acts as an extension to our One Technical Team (OTT) – customers can call on the wider OTT/AVEVA technical resources to achieve their business outcomes
CSM – Consultancy, Mentorship, Partnership
The rise and rise of Customer Success Management marks an important paradigm shift in the era of digital transformation. It blurs the lines between and combines the skills of vendors and customers and places the success of both parties into the hands of those best qualified to deliver it. Without intending to get too lofty about it, the world needs industrial digital transformation and the mindset and skills of the people in industry to face down challenges of global warming, growing populations and resource scarcity. The world cannot continue on the path it has taken for the past couple of hundred years.
This is why we believe digital transformation is a powerful force for good for the future of industry, the people who work in industry, and for humanity. In a more immediate sense, companies that are not undertaking a proactive digital transformation journey are quickly becoming uncompetitive and unsustainable. Success, in the digital transformation era, requires change, and that change is there to be seen all around us.
An evolved approach to technology adoption that makes success the responsibility of vendors and customers alike significantly improves the reach, potential, and likelihood of success for digital transformation projects. Importantly, it brings together the people, processes and technology that define digital transformation and helps them work harmoniously on every project. Your Customer Success Managers will soon be an extension of your team, and we’ll wonder how we ever achieved anything before they existed.
Contact us today to discuss how our Customer Success Managers can support your team.