A Q&A with TSIA’s Phil Nanus

Customer Success (CS) adoption is on the rise and has reached a tipping point: more than 52 percent of the companies surveyed by TSIA in a 2017 study have established CS practices within their organizations. No doubt, many more will follow in 2018 as the business case for CS is undeniable. Recently, I had the chance to catch up with Phil Nanus, TSIA’s VP Research, Customer Success, to discuss the survey findings and get his advice for Cisco partners in the early stages of CS adoption.


Q: What are most businesses hoping to gain out of a Customer Success practice today?

Phil:  CS teams are being born out of sales and support directives, but ultimately they rally around one of these three charters: Adoption, where teams focus on helping customers extract value from the technology already purchased; Renewal, where teams concentrate on retaining customers beyond the point of existing contracts; or Expansion, where the CS emphasis is to grow the existing relationship with customers to include new licenses or cross-selling a new piece of hardware/software related to the original solution. Adoption and Retention remain the primary charters for most CS organizations (at about 90 percent between the two), however many organizations use their CSMs for lead generation and other expansion activities.


Q: What can partners do to promote company-wide adoption of a Customer Success culture?

Phil: We find that organizations that evangelize CS internally on an ongoing basis really help permeate it into their cultures. Some companies get creative about promoting CS initiatives, too. For example, they might capture the essence of their charter with a graphic and attach it to an employee lanyard as a way to constantly reinforce their goals and the overall CS movement internally. Above all, establishing a charter is important to company-wide adoption. It defines the purpose of CS within the organization and demonstrates leadership buy in. The charter should start with a CS vision statement, such as “to create customer growth and value realization.” It should also describe how that vision will be achieved – for example, “by leveraging a lifecycle framework and offering strategic customer care.” Also, the charter should cover why CS matters. For many organizations, CS is implemented to support customer outcomes and revenue growth amidst the challenges of today’s consumption-driven economic models. Essentially, the charter should speak to how your company is optimizing adoption, expansion and retention at every stage of the customer lifecycle.


Q: What should Cisco partners consider when mapping out the role of the Customer Success Manager (CSM)?

Phil: The land phase of the customer lifecycle will always fall within the domain of the sales organization, but we encourage businesses to move from defense to offense when exploring how to better support the customer beyond the initial point of sale. It is here that we see CSMs taking more ownership of customer adoption, renewal, and expansion. Today, CSMs work with other service groups, such as education and support teams, to facilitate user actions that encourage service adoption (for example, through onboarding and user analytics). But CSMs are also playing a larger role in retention and expansion, supporting lead generation of cross- and upsell opportunities. The convergence of CS, particularly in relation to sales and marketing, can represent more cost-effective sales motions for companies throughout the entire customer lifecycle.


Q: What are the must-have skills that partners should seek out when hiring a Customer Success Manager?

Phil: The CS skillset is really three-fold and starts with a ubiquitous customer service mindset, including strong people skills and the ability to directly interact with customers on a day-to-day basis. Secondly, he/she has to be a super user of your technology. They don’t have to be able to implement technology at great technical depth, or troubleshoot break/fix type problems, but they do need an in-depth grasp of the ins and outs of your technology set. Finally, CMSs require a functional skillset. The more vertical/industry-specific your tech is, the greater the need to match that up to the CSM profile so individuals can help intersect the customer’s business goals against the day-to-day usage of your technology.


Learn more about developing a Customer Success culture at your company

Implementing a customer success practice within your organization will require a shift in thinking for your entire company. Visit SuccessHub to take advantage of partner-focused programs, tools, insights, and methodologies all there to help you build your own practice. Cisco has invested in these resources to help our partners fast-track their CS initiatives to gain a competitive edge, increase customer retention, and drive profit and revenue. The business case for Customer Success is clear, and we stand ready to help you get started.


Scott Brown

Senior Vice President

Global Virtual Sales & Customer Success