One of the challenges of managing a team of customer success employees is how to measure performance.   While what and how you measure a customer success employee will depend upon their exact job function, we do want to discuss one pitfall we recommend you avoid.  We will publish another article soon with more in-depth advice and tips on how to measure a customer success team.

If you’ve been following our blog, you know we frequently write aboutcustomer engagement scores(and if you’re not following our blog, you should!).   The customer engagement score is a great way to measure how engaged your customers are as it takes into account how frequently they use your product, what they use, and so on.  Because of this, it seems like a great metric for measuring your customer success team (what is the avg. score across their customer base, how much do they increase the score by, etc.).  That being said, it is a good metric to look at, but it shouldn’t be the only metric you use.

The primary reason for this is you’ll end up incenting your customer success team to treat every customer the same.  This happens because your customer success team knows what impacts the score.  For example, let’s say you have 4 features in your product (A,B,C,D) and everyone knows if you use A or B a customer doesn’t churn as they’re sticky features.  C and D on the other hand provide value, but aren’t super sticky.  So, when you create your engagement score, you’re going to weight A and B a ton, not C or D.  Well, what do you think your customer success team will do?  They’re going to only push A and B and C and D will fall to the side.

At first glance, you might think this is a great thing as those are the sticky features!  But, what if a customer bought to use B and D and their customer success or onboarding consultant only focuses on A and B while just touching on D, will the customer be happy?

You might want to push back and say the customer success employee only needs to focus on B and D because B is sticky, so if the customer is using B then they’re engaged, will have a good score, and the customer success employee will look successful.  This is true, but the customer’s engagement score wont be as good as if they’re using both A and B, so if your employee is motivated to have as good a score as possible, they’re still going to push both A and B, but not D as they want the best score possible.  Even if your team isn’t super competitive, they’re probably smart, so if you’re measuring people on the average engagement score across their customer base, they’ll know that if they can get as many customers using A and B as possible, those high scores can offset the lower scores of customers who don’t use both features.  So they are incented to not give up until a customer uses both.

Now, you might say you don’t need to have as high a score as possible for your customers.  Maybe you just want them over a certain threshold, so if the customer is using A or B, their score will be high enough.  For example, maybe you measure employees by saying 90% of their customers need to use either A or B.  In this model, they wont be incented to push both to every customer.  While that may be true, a few things can happen.

The first is that if a customer purchases and they are not interested in A or B, your customer success employee could simply ignore them knowing they’re a high churn risk anyway and will not meet their goals.  So they’ll spend their energy on other customers and write this customer off as one of the 10% who don’t make it.  This isn’t good because a customer like that might still be very happy with just using C or D, but with the one size fits all approach, they’re not going to get much attention from your customer team.

Secondly, when you only care to meet a certain threshold, once that threshold is met, your customer success employee is no longer incented to work with the customer and make them even more successful (so into a case study or promoter in your NPS).  Just like above, they’ll stop working with that customer and move to another customer.

Therefore whether you try to use the threshold approach or the total score approach, you’re going to impact your team’s behavior by incenting them to do what’s right for them, not the customer.

That being said, your customer engagement score can be a component of how you measure your team.  For example, if you combine engagement with activity, you could use the threshold approach above but also make sure your team continues to call customers once they hit the threshold.  Therefore, they are incented to reach the threshold but also incented not to stop contacting them.  So, don’t write off the engagement score as performance metric, just don’t make it the only metric you use.