ROI for Customer Success

If you think that calculating ROI for knowledge management or self-service is hard, try assigning a value to a customer success program!

Since customer success is usually an either/or proposition, where all customers (or all customers above a certain size) get attention, it is very difficult to prove, quantitatively, that customer success programs make a difference. Here are some alternative approaches:

  • Just say no to ROI analyses. Having a customer success program of some kind is pretty much mandatory and its success can be measured, but not through a standard ROI analysis. A good place to start would be to see that churn is decreasing over time.
  • Does more customer success mean more success? For instance, if you add a monthly check-in step, do you see more renewals, less churn, more expansion revenue? Then you have a good indication that the monthly check-in adds value.
  • Do you see lost opportunities due to a lack of a coherent customer success program? For instance, is a large chunk of support requests related to training? Are you surprised by unexpected contract terminations? Do you and your team spend a lot of time managing escalations? In each case, you can cost-justify a customer success program by quantifying the savings.

Have you tried to compute the ROI of your customer success program? What did you find?

Communities — Faddish Add-on or Core Support Offer?

Many thanks to Steve Desaulnier for suggesting this topic.

I remember working with primitive versions of support communities (we did not call them communities!) in the eighties but they were exotic support offerings; back then, the core support offering was phone support…  Now that communities have become much more mainstream, as well as more functional, can they claim a central place in B2B support? (The ship has sailed for B2C.)

Some vendors are using communities exclusively for certain types of support

I have a few clients who are using communities instead of 1:1 assisted support. A couple have done away with any kind of 1:1 support and are handling all technical issues through  communities. Others are pushing the resolution of low-priority cases to communities. Granted, these represent a tiny proportion of B2B vendors, but they demonstrate that communities can function as major support channels.

Younger customers respond well to community support

While middle-age customers tend to hang on to 1:1 support, younger folks are much more open to community support.  Generational pressure is certainly in favor of communities.

But legacy customers can embrace communities, too

Customers with legacy products tend to be older (strike 1 against community usage), they have more proprietary investment in their implementation, which means they expect more privacy with their support requests (strike 2) and they are used to 1:1 support (strike 3). Still, they respond well to carefully-tended communities, especially if they can see proof of vendor endorsement of the answers. And they understand that certain types of questions (a la “Is anyone out there doing X with the product?”) yield better answers in communities than through standard support cases.

Social support is not a replacement for communities 

Communities are often discussed in the same breath as support via social channels like Twitter. But how many B2B customers would request support via Twitter? And it seems that social support is often a reaction to horrible support via the standard channels rather than progress towards a better experience: fix your standard channels before leaping into social support.

Social support may establish itself as a new support channel, but communities meet a different need and are here to stay.

Communities can, and should be, the core of the support website

For historical and technical reasons, the support community often lives in a separate home, only loosely linked to the main support website. This is a mistake: communities should be a star attraction on the landing page of support websites, and fully integrated into the search function. Encourage users to start their visits with a search, which accesses the knowledge base, community, documentation, online training options, even the customer’s own cases in one fell swoop.

That first search often occurs outside the website, and that’s just fine — except that users often search outside because the search functionality on the website stinks! If you can provide not just a strong search functionality but a custom, filtered search environment (filtered by the customer’s assets) on the website, users will get better results from inside.

Communities can only become core if well-tended

Vendors who bemoan the low usage of their communities are usually guilty of benign neglect, if not aggressive neglect. Benign neglect means that there is one lone individual valiantly trying to keep the community afloat, begging the support team to please lend a hand. Aggressive neglect means that the platform is allowed to sit there, waiting for an elusive group of peer users to make the community work. Both are absurd approaches: if you want the community to be the core support offer, you must assign resources to posting interesting information, facilitating online meetups, and answering threads within a reasonable timeframe. If assisted support gets all the resources, customers will quickly figure out that logging a case is the fastest way to get help.

What’s your experience with communities? Do you see them as central to the support experience? Please share in a comment.

Segmenting Customers for Success – Cross-Post Alert!

Today Natero published a post I wrote on how to segment for customer success. If you think that ARR segmenting is the only way to go, you will find other ideas that may work better for you, and for your customers.

The FT Word – August 2016

The FT Word

The FT Word is a free monthly newsletter with support management tips. To subscribe, click here. The subscription list is absolutely confidential; we never sell, rent, or give information about our subscribers.


to the August 2016 edition of the FT Word. Topics for this month:

FT Works in the News

Want a good summer read?

It’s not standard beach fare, but now may be the time to finally read (or browse through) The Art of Support. Which of the 4 big jobs of support could you improve on?


Curious about something? Send me your suggestions for topics — or add one in the comments — and your name will appear in future newsletters.

Françoise Tourniaire
FT Works
650 559 9826

About FT Works

FT Works helps technology companies create and improve their support operations. Areas of expertise include designing support offerings, creating hiring plans to recruit the right people quickly, training support staff to deliver effective support, defining and implementing support processes, selecting support tools, designing effective metrics, and support center audits. See more details at

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