Unearthing the power of the Customer Maturity Index

Tom Maxwell
Sep 14, 2017 · 6 min read

If you’re in Customer Success, and more specifically, in B2B SaaS, you’ll want to take a really good look at the Customer Maturity Index. We at Practice Ignition have just adopted it as the fundamental methodology that underpins all of our processes for Customer Success.

What is it?

Boaz Maor, VP of Customer Success at OpenGov and Ralf Wittgen, CCO at Promapp Solutions got together in Silicon Valley one day and had a conversation that lead to the conclusion that the Customer Health Score is broken (here’s more info on Customer Health Score). Or at least, it doesn’t tell you absolutely everything you need to know about your customers. Further, it doesn’t truly differentiate one customer from another whom might share some key segmentation characteristics (size, location, ARR). Although they “fit together” because they look the same on the surface, the reality is Customer A and Customer B are completely different, with different needs and desired outcomes.

So with that, Boaz and Ralf identified a Customer Maturity Index (CMI). They’ll do a much better job of explaining how it works, so please click on the last link to understand the details. But I’ll jump to the outcome that the CMI provides.

You aren’t going to do away with your Customer Health Score entirely. Instead you’ll use it in conjunction with your CMI. When it comes to deciding how to move forward with your clients and the playbook you should apply, the matrix looks like this:

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There’s some powerful stuff here. Why waste resources on Low CHS/Low CMI clients, when you can focus your energy on driving the clients that have greatest potential, wether it’s saving them, retaining them or expanding and leveraging their advocacy. This is some cool stuff.

Every thing that I read in Boaz’s articles just made sense to me. It’s logical and for where we are in our business lifecycle, it felt really easy to implement because we had a few years of gathering intelligence on our client base.

Our app, like many others out there that exist to change the way a business goes about it’s core function, requires a significant amount of change management and in many cases, a seismic shift in the thought processes behind growing a business. Some of our clients find it really easy and start kicking butt immediately. Many require lots of help from our team, who are playing the role of the business coach, beyond just software implementers. Some simply just don’t get it and don’t do anything with our app, despite our best efforts. This is why the CMI became critical to us. So we implemented it.

Guy Pearson (CEO and founder of Practice Ignition) and I got together one day and had a crack at attempting our own CMI. Full disclosure: we are still working on implementing it fully, but so far so good. Here it is in it’s first pass:

My handwriting is shocking, but all you need to know is it closely follows the framework that Boaz and Ralf provided, with a couple of adjustments to suit the cloud accounting industry that we serve.

I can tell you that it came quite naturally to us in terms of identifying the qualifiers that we wanted to measure, but that’s because A) Guy is a reformed Cloud Accountant himself, so his unique insights into the psyche of an accountant was invaluable B) For the last three years, I’ve spent at least 20–30 hours a week talking to our clients, so I’ve observed a lot of the characteristics that helps our clients be successful. If you are a little earlier on in your business lifecycle, this might be a little bit more difficult, but not impossible.

So now we have a CMI and we started think about ways we can leverage it to design our process of pro-actively supporting our clients. This is where things got amazing.

The CMI became the way we were able to segment our client base, drive our customer education and content strategy, and develop a means to upskill our CSMs quickly.

I’d like to leave you with the observations that I’ve uncovered since we started building our CMI process:

1. It can (and should) drive your education content strategy

For me, the point of customer success is quite simple really; it’s to help our customers be more successful. The CMI qualifiers help identify the areas where success is made or broken. So once we were able to identify the qualifiers, we were then able to identify the content that we needed to deliver, so much so that we were able to map out at least 12 months of content (delivered on a weekly cadence, at least) for a brand new customer. It looks like a little like this:

Again, apologies for the handwriting but I hope that makes sense. Here are a couple of examples of some content we will deliver:

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As you can see, the content that a low maturity client needs to see, is drastically different to someone with a higher maturity score. We decided to split the score the way we have, purely because we have a metric shit-ton of content we need to write. We plan on iterating this even further to be even more specific to the score.

But best of all, we can automate this using intercom. Right now, we simply tag and segment the clients in intercom based on their category scores. This puts them on their appropriate journey and ensures they receive the right content for them. Pretty cool. We hope that this can be automated even further, but that requires the CS platforms to embrace CMI.

It’s a segmentation methodology that levels the playing field

In customer success, we always talk about putting the client at the centre (I’m Australian, hence the spelling) of everything. The CMI helps us identify who we should nurture and who we should let churn, but this is still looking inward. The true power is when you use it to look outwards.

In my opinion (which is shared by Boaz and Ralf), is that our goal as CSMs is to help increase a customers’ CMI Score. We should always be trying to move them up to the top right quadrant. If our focus is moving our customers’ score upwards, then everything else is semantics, and the expansion/retention revenue will follow.

So instead, what we are able to do is identify those with the most potential, and allocate more of our CS resources accordingly. Those with a higher score go into our high-touch process. Those with a really low score go into tech touch. This stops the focus on just those that pay us the most. Granted, one of our categories is customer size, so we aren’t shooting ourselves in the foot entirely, but it’s not the only reason why we would give someone white-glove treatment. Why couldn’t a really small, ambitious accounting practice not turn into a really large, innovative accounting practice, and if we can help them do that, we have a lifer folks….

it’s a framework for training that accelerates a new CSM’s ramp-up time.

Put simply, We have identified the areas of expertise we need to best improve our clients’ CMI score. We have a (yep) metric shit-ton of content and lots of in-house expertise. What this means is we can hyper focus the learning experience for a new CSM to the team. We train on the CMI qualifiers. What it really means is that we can afford to potentially hire CSMs with not a lot of experience, because we have all the knowledge already at our disposal. This means that we can start someone quickly, ramp them up to the point where they are confident, and then compensate accordingly (note: this is just a theory right now, but I think it holds water).

So there is our CMI journey to date. One final point was that I found it incredibly easy to get buy-in on the process from the rest of the teams. The logic behind it just makes sense. I’ll try and keep everyone posted as we progress and iterate, but so far we love it. Thanks Boaz and Ralf for being so innovative!

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