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The Customer Success Data Gap

By Jay Nathan

Too many SaaS companies deploy Customer Success Managers who capture and share anecdotes and stories instead of using data to generate insights that tell a cohesive story.

We have data everywhere. Contact data, company demographics, usage statistics, email open rates, financial data, support tickets, commercial terms, contracts, and the list goes on.

And it’s all disconnected…

I work with both large and small companies, and regardless of size they all have the same problem. Every company has data that don’t correlate sitting in silo databases. Each department uses the data available in their silo to create a version of truth that only applies to them.

As a result, no one in the business has a holistic view of the customer experience. And in a SaaS company where all departments are connected, every shred of data can mean something.

CRM platforms have promised a “360 degree view” but they don’t deliver. They are more focused on Sales than on customer insights. And a proliferation of point solutions for customer engagement hold pieces of the story that never make it back into the CRM. Even if integrated, our CRMs house mountains of data that are never transformed to insights.

This the Customer Success Data Gap.

Customer Success requires customer insights. Insights are unlocked from data. I see far too many SaaS companies deploying Customer Success Managers who capture and share anecdotes and stories. Far fewer using data to generate insights that tell a cohesive story.

This causes us to fixate on the wrong priorities, and we solve individual customer problems instead of solving for the priorities of the market we serve.

Closing the Gap

So then, how do we close the Customer Success Data Gap? We have to treat customer data as seriously as we treat sales pipeline data. Here are three ways to begin:

  1. Build Customer Operations Capacity – Make it someone’s job within your organization to think about customer data aggregation. This doesn’t have to be full time, but someone should think about it – the earlier the better.
  2. Centralize Data – Pick a tool that allows you to centralize customer data assets. The repository should allow data to be aggregated, correlated, and analyzed. Ideally we can also use this repository to trigger actions we should take with customers.
  3. Analyze for Insights – Ask questions and go to your centralized customer repository for answers. You’ll find answers and you’ll generate more questions. As you iterate, you’ll understand your customers better than you ever have before.

I realized that it’s much easier to make the three points above than is to execute on them. However, the idea is to start small and start today.

This may mean making your co-founder responsible for customer ops, using MySQL as a data repository and having a contractor queries for you. But as you grow, these efforts will become more sophisticated and early investments will pay off as you strive to automate and scale your business.

Published April 10, 2017
About the Author

I've spent my career working in technology companies to build customer-centric teams, processes and technology platforms. In 2017, I founded Customer Imperative, a consulting firm that helps fast-growing B2B SaaS companies improve renewals, increase expansion sales and scale customer engagement. See full bio ›

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