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Enterprise hits and misses - customer success needs a debate, but the metaverse doesn't need blockchains

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed August 15, 2022
This week - I try to ignite a passionate debate on customer success; will I succeed? Also: services firms face business model implosion. The metaverse is about (virtual) identity, but that doesn't mean it's about blockchain. In the weekly whiffs, I hand out a well-earned hypocrisy award.


Lead story - Debating customer success - why KPIs need to change

One thing I never tire of: creating an enterprise debate where it didn't previously exist. Phil started the debate - at least in my mind - with his landmark post, Why KPIs and value engineering play a growing role in customer success.

Phil sees "customer success" as a worthwhile discipline for enterprise vendors. Yet he also makes clear that the metrics need to shift, from vendor-centric KPIs to customer-centric KPIs:

Helping customers realize the value they're looking for thus becomes the core goal of the customer success function, rather than simply maximizing adoption and usage. Gainsight's Mehta says that the entire company should also be looking at those goals and refining its product development and go-to-market accordingly.

Phil acknowledges two crucial points:

  1. An outcome-based approach is still in the early stages ("customer success" really began with classic SaaS adoption metrics like churn).
  2. The KPIs to properly measure outcomes are not necessarily easy to nail down.

Yet, Phil does see progress. He shares several examples of granular KPIs that offer a more precise view of how a customer is faring. For example:

Like Zuora, Gainsight has defined over two dozen different business processes that its own customers implement using the platform, such as client risk management, onboarding hand-offs, and so on. It then relates these to KPIs during the sales process, working with the customer to define specific KPI targets, such as increasing gross retention from 82 to 84%. Finally, it creates a customer success plan, mapping out the tasks and steps to achieve those targets. The company plans to productize this process so that its customers in turn can create similar KPIs and customer success plans for their own customers.

By contrast, in his review of Zoho's analyst event,  No More Customer Successing: Can Zoho Be the Antidote to the Great Customer Success Cover-up? Josh Greenbaum issues a scathing view of so-called customer success programs. No doubt reeling from one self-congratulatory slide deck too many, he writes:

I’ve come to realize that the predominant form of customer successing, to coin a grammatically challenging term we probably don’t need, is basically not much more than a cover-up, like greenwashing, that is intended to make everyone feel good without ever doing anything that makes anyone feel any real pain.

After conceding that "greenfield" SaaS implementations can hit their targets with a narrow scope, Greenbaum adds:

For existing customers looking to transform, migrate, re-platform, and otherwise update an existing system, customer success programs aren’t really changing success rates. Success happens, of course, but no vendor has come forth with real data showing how it has improved customer success by creating a customer success program. None. I doubt they could prove it if they tried: I’ve never seen decent definitions of success or other metrics on how vendors track success in a truly objective way.

Ouch! I see plenty of fodder for debate here, from the viability of customer success KPIs to the scope of what's achievable. I also *think* I see common ground here, including the need for continuous project monitoring and course corrections. I'd say that's enough to compel these two onto a video to settle the matter, wouldn't you? I'll let you know how I fare.

Diginomica picks - my top stories on diginomica this week

Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here's my three top choices from our vendor coverage:

A few more vendor picks, without the quotables:

Jon's grab bag - Gary filed a couple of nifty tech-for-good use cases: Dune Group’s COVID-19 crisis website creates foundation for long-term success and How Deliveroo delivered one million meals to frontline NHS teams during COVID-19. Neil dismantles our insufficient attempts to confront AI bias in We won't eliminate AI bias - unless we get at the real root of the problem. Meanwhile, Chris parses a not-exactly-glowing report on the UK's data plans: UK data strategy - a surveillance state, claims security survey.

Best of the enterprise web

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

My top seven

Overworked businessman


While I was goofing out for a week, I missed a chance to hand out a special hypocrisy award:

Not sure why I got myself into a dither about this - "Uber Rewards" is an oxymoron at any rate.

Finally, I guess Amazon wanted in on the whiffs action - no problem.

See you next time... If you find an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses - in a good or bad way - let me know in the comments as Clive (almost) always does. Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed.

Image credit - Waiter Suggesting Bottle © Minerva Studiom, Overworked Businessman © Bloomua, Businessman Choosing Success or Failure Road © Creativa - all from Adobe Stock.

Disclosure - Workday, Planful, Rimini Street, ServiceMax, IFS and Salesforce are diginomica premier partners as of this writing.

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