The Impact Operating Model for Customer Success

There is 1 thing that basically every SaaS leader loose sleep over. It was our CEO's case in his previous career being CEO of a SaaS business and he hears all the time when he talks to CEOs and Founders:

It's CHURN. Or more accurately poor NRR.

Why do we loose sleep over this?

Well of course, it's the main KPI of our business, we loose revenue, we miss out on growth etc. But the real reason we loose sleep is that we don't feel we have control over it. We do not know what it will be and we do not know what we should do.

We tried to solve this by creating a model that not only predicts your Net Revenue Retention but also drive the actions that will improve it -- and we have the results to show for it as well.

Similar to Sales or Marketing where you have clear methodology, we have a model for Customer Success - we call it the Impact Model. 

It looks like this: 

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Let's dive in: 

1. It starts with the customer 

Lincoln Murphy beautifully defines Customer Success as follows: 

"Customer Success is when our customer achieves their desired outcome through their relationship with us" 

For this to happen we need to do two things:

1. Discover Customer Goals and help them achieve them. 
Perceived satisfaction is not enough to make a customer stay. In B2B, they need to be able to prove to themselves and their superiors that the product is producing results. They need to know they are achieving what they set out to achieve with your product. 

2. They need to have the appropriate experience getting there. 
Achieving goals is not enough, it should also be a good experience. Here's where everything from UX to Support comes in. As well as setting correct expectations and following through on them. 

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Basically, if we can help the customer achieve outcomes that affects THEIR business positively, it will lead to: 

2. Outcome: NRR goes up 

Great Customer Success aims to achieve the following outcomes: 

- Better retention 
- Better expansion 
- More advocacy 
- More eternal users 

Ultimately: better NRR.

These are all outcomes that affect OUR business. 

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So: Our customers' positive outcomes lead to our positive outcomes.  

Then one question remains: 
- What can we do to affect this? 


3. How we operationalise (and predict) Customer Success


Customer Success operations can be divided into three categories: 

1. Impact Metrics:
- How we measure customers' progress with our product 
- How we measure the performance of our CS-team 

2. Impact Processes: 
- How we work with Customer Success to help customers achieve their goals with the best possible experience. 

3. Impact Enablers: 
- What we use to help put our processes into action as efficiently as possible.  

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Let's go through them one by one: 

Impact Metrics

The first step in becoming a more efficient Customer Success organisation is to become data-driven. Without data you're guessing in the dark. 

Measure usage: Are users logging in daily? Are stakeholders viewing dashboards? What features are being used?  
Measure feedback: Analyse the data collected from your surveys to get an idea of the experience your customers are having using your product. 
Measure support: 
Know how quickly your support team is getting through tickets.


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Translating your Customers' progress into data is crucial to understand how you're ultimately affecting the outcomes you are getting. Here's is where many companies fail today: they cannot understand or predict why customers churn, for instance. 

The second step is to start measuring the performance of your CS team. More companies do this, but they get it the wrong way around. We recommend to first make sure you're measuring customer progress and THEN look at the KPIs of your team. 

Good KPIs to look at:

Time to value
The duration it takes for a customer to realize the initial value or benefits from a product or service after purchase or implementation. It is a critical metric that reflects how quickly a customer can achieve their desired outcomes and start experiencing the promised value.

Expansion rate
The rate at which existing customers increase their spending on a company's products or services over a given period. It reflects the success of upselling, cross-selling, and increasing product adoption within the customer base. A high expansion rate indicates that customers are finding increasing value in the product.

Churn rate
A high churn rate indicates that many customers are leaving, which can be a sign of dissatisfaction or poor product-market fit. Conversely, a low churn rate signifies strong customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Bad KPIs to look at:

Number of meetings
A meeting has not achieved its purpose just because it took place. Just looking at how many meetings are being held is a bad proxy for the success of customers. 

Happy customers does not mean successful customers. And even if it did, NPS is probably not the best metric to go by for CSAT in B2B. 

Know your numbers first, then start looking at: 


If you work in Customer Success, this is the part you'll probably be most familiar with. It's what most companies figure as enough to have a working CS function. 

Common Processes: 

- Onboarding 
The structured process of welcoming, educating, and supporting new customers as they begin using a product or service. The primary goal is to ensure customers quickly achieve value and success with the product, leading to higher satisfaction and retention.

- Expansion
The strategies and activities aimed at increasing the value a customer derives from a product or service, leading to additional revenue for the company. This can be achieved through upselling, cross-selling, and increasing product adoption within the customer's organisation.

- Retention 
The strategies and activities focused on keeping existing customers engaged, satisfied, and loyal to a product or service over time. The goal of retention is to minimise customer churn (the loss of customers) and maximize the lifetime value (LTV) of each customer.

- Success Plans 
The strategic, tailored documents or frameworks designed to help customers achieve their specific goals and desired outcomes with a product or service. These plans outline the steps, milestones, resources, and timelines necessary to ensure the customer realises maximum value and success.

- Advocacy 
The process of cultivating loyal customers who actively promote and endorse a product or service to others. These advocates can play a crucial role in driving brand awareness, generating leads, and influencing potential customers' purchasing decisions.

Time to reveal a secret: they are not enough.

This is the message we're trying to nail in with this model. 

Another problem is that most CS teams tackle processes with a kind of set-it-and-forget-it approach. They don't measure, evaluate, and optimise the processes over time. 

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Take time every quarter to look over your processes and iterate them based on results and feedback from customers. 

Truly optimising your processes however requires more than brainstorm meetings and feedback. You also need to get some help from: 


An enabler is anything that help you make your processes more efficient. In other words the tools and tactics you employ to make sure the KPIs of every processes are as good as possible. 

Startdeliver is an enabler for Customer Success. It's a platform that help you tie together every part of this Operating Model. It makes all your processes easier and more efficient. 

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Playbooks are also enablers. For instance, a Playbook for the process Success Plan is what we call Goal Discovery -- a series of questions that helps CSMs find the true goal of a customer. It could also be the different meetings in your onboarding process that makes sure a customer is onboarded as efficiently as possible. Or simply automating your workflows. 


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Ultimately, metrics, processes and enablers are the machine that powers your Customer Success function. They are what helps customers achieve their desired outcome -- which means, they are also what helps you achieve your desired outcomes as an organisation. 

Here's the kicker: 

Once you start measuring everything, and connecting your operational actions to changes in outcomes, over time, you can start predicting your outcomes by your operational performance. This is key, and it's the whole point of this model. 

We've seen astounding results from implementing this model for our customers over the years, so we thought it was time to share it to everyone. 

If you have any questions about the model, or our platform, don't hesitate to reach out. We'll make it easy for you :) 👇

Get to know a new way of working with Customer Success: