With the Customer Success Festival kicking off tomorrow, we're running a few pre-event Q&A sessions. Joining us today is Rebecca Nerad, Vice President of Customer Success at E2Open.

Her talk is on February 10th and if you haven't already, it's not too late to register for her presentation.

We caught up with Rebecca to discuss her upcoming talk, her views on CS and sales, and her advice for both teams going forward.

Read on for important insights on customer success in 2021.👇

Hi Rebecca! First of all, could you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your upcoming festival talk?

I’ve been in Customer Success for the past 20 years - well before we even used the term Customer Success.  I am passionate about bringing customers long-time value and delivering business outcomes.

I work in the Supply Chain software space.  I’m the Vice President of Customer Success at E2open, a global provider of a connected and intelligent end-to-end supply chain platform.

In the Future of SaaS Customer Success Festival, I will be sharing my point of view on the time honored debate as to who should own Renewal and Expansion revenue.

Can you provide a quick teaser for your talk—which department should own the revenue for existing customers?

I will share pros and cons for both approaches, and recommendations for when renewals should be owned by Customer Success and when they should be managed by Sales.

Would you say customer success is part of sales? If not, what stands it apart?

Every employee has a responsibility to “sell” - to deliver great products and services for our customers so we can retain revenue and grow the business.  But Customer Success has a distinctly different responsibility than Sales.  We are a trusted advisor first and foremost, accountable to the relationship and ongoing value.

On the renewal ownership debate, what sort of ownership models can help SaaS businesses guide their decision making?

Numerous factors affect who should own the revenue.  If CSMs are easily able to drive clients to achieve value, they can typically manage renewals.  

Complexity and size of the organizations play a role.  The longer the sales cycle, the larger the initial time and cost to build a relationship, the less it makes sense to transfer renewal responsibilities from Sales to a CSM.  

Also, the more expansion revenue comes from extending similar options - e.g. higher consumption or expansion of features - the more it makes sense for CSM to drive it.  As new products or business units influence new opportunities, the Sales teams should own these responsibilities.

What are some creative ways to integrate growth targets into CSM roles?

Whether or not Customer Success owns the renewal responsibility, revenue targets should be tied to our metrics.

Initially, organizations may link a goal to a Business Unit instead of to individual CSM behavior.  As the company matures, it will look to Churn Reduction for assigned accounts, in the form of Gross Customer Retention or Net Churn, and then at the ability to identify Churn Risk (forecast vs. actuals).  

Increasingly, Net Dollar Retention (NDR) is being used to evaluate behavior of the existing revenue base. CSMs can be incentivized for cross-sell and upsell lead generation.

Is it essential to make sure customer success and sales maintain customer advocacy at a business’ core? How can people go about achieving this?

Advocacy is fundamental.  Leading companies track advocacy, define clear program ownership and measure internal and customer activity.  CSMs can be rewarded for providing customer references which turn into case studies or video testimonials.

Is it a good idea to avoid providing customers with multiple points of contact? As in, align customer success and sales to limit excessive communication?

I have yet to see “excessive communication” as a problem. Lack of communication or uncoordinated communication is another story.

Multiple points of contact can be a real challenge when roles and responsibilities are unclear.  When well understood, however, specialization of roles can improve the customer experience.  

CSMs need to understand the products to advise customers how to deliver business outcomes.  Sales should focus on sales agreements, the competitive landscape, revenue recognition, etc. Internal teams need to strategize on who is playing what role, when and where.

Can you see customer success having a bigger role in sales in the future?

Customer Success leaders are becoming increasingly more involved with revenue. Instead of being seen only as a cost center, CS teams are critical to preserve recurring revenue and have begun to own more direct revenue responsibility. Customer Success will continue to influence cross-sells and upsells but should continue to remain separate from the pure Sales function.

Finally, what do you love most about working in customer success?

In Customer Success, our role is to be an advocate and a storyteller.  We connect and we add value.

I love building relationships with customers and mentoring my team.

Want more top customer success tactics?

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