Be My Valentine: A CS Leader’s Guide to Wooing Our Friends in Finance

February 2, 2022

Marley Wagner

Category: Customer Retention, Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Maturity, Customer Success Strategy

Money may not be able to buy you love, but we are living in a material world, and I’ve heard that very few people like scrubs. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us in the Customer Success world that revenue is kind of a big deal to a business. And let’s be real here – especially to those on the financial side of the business. They deal in these facts and figures all day long. As Customer Success organizations continue to gain attention and recognition for growing revenue, it is increasingly critical that we reach out to our hardworking peers in Finance to join forces more often.

I know that historically, Customer Success doesn’t have the coziest relationship with Finance, but this Valentine’s Day, I’m determined to help you change that. It’s time to put our hearts on our sleeves, get out there with a big (metaphorical) heart-shaped box, and ask our colleagues to take this relationship to the next level.

That’s right. We’re going to ask Finance to be our Valentine.

Miss U

In 2020, Customer Success verified its strong ties to Sales, Product, and Marketing organizations, but only 51% of CS teams worked cross-functionally with Finance on a regular basis. 2021 denoted a further drop in CS-Finance relations, with less than half of all respondents to the annual Customer Success Leadership Study saying they work with Finance regularly to help meet their objectives. This cold wall of silence between our departments must end! We need the support of our fellows in Finance to accomplish critical goals, provide vital input on key metrics, and offer guidance for larger-scale planning and initiatives.

Finance benefits too, of course. After all, Customer Success is the delicious chocolate coating tying all that gooey customer experience goodness together. We already know that customer retention has a positive financial impact on the business. Quality of customer experience links directly to revenue growth. Some even say CS has a big part to play in the revenue growth engine of business. When CS succeeds, Finance succeeds. It just makes sense that Finance and CS partner to accomplish their mutually beneficial goals.

Speak their love language to build stronger ties

Unfortunately, it’s going to take more than candlelight and candies to woo our friends in Finance. To get them to be your Valentine, make sure you’re speaking their language.

What is the love language of Finance?



Delicious KPIs!

The best way to build a relationship with Finance that will support Customer Success, in the long run, is to find out where the common ground is – what metrics you share or CS feeds into – and remove barriers to that data. Ask them what data outputs they need to forecast and build their financial projections. Strike up a conversation about the insights we gain from these metrics and see if there are places where they could be improved.

Today, 76% of CS organizations have a charter to renew subscriptions, but the best KPIs to measure this customer growth are still being discovered. TSIA has identified a few, like Dollar Renewal Rate (DRR), a gross dollar renewal metric that feeds into other KPIs, and Dollar Expansion Rate (DER), an exciting metric related to growth. Then, of course, there’s the new king of CS metrics, Net Revenue Retention (NRR), which measures a business’s net ability to both retain and grow revenue from an existing customer base. There is nothing like the mutual love of subscription revenue metrics to get the motor running! ROWWRR!

We belong together

When CS and Finance get together, they can move mountains. One Customer Success/Finance team-up helped optimize the business’s entire customer-facing strategy. Finance helped the CS group build the business case to merge several disparate customer-facing teams under the umbrella of Customer Success, led by a Vice President who now reports directly to the CEO. Finance is perfectly positioned to help CS leaders build business cases like this when big moves become necessary as CS scales and grows.

Silos between the two groups only invite heartache. They might mean that Finance is kept in the dark when their policies and procedures negatively affect the customer experience. They might mean process optimization initiatives get stuck without access to Finance’s expertise. Keeping silos in place will only lead to more nights crying into your pillow.

Don’t settle for unrequited love

Relationships are a two-way street. While all the above is true when it comes to building bridges, Finance needs to be willing to meet you halfway. Don’t let them sell you short. Our departments need to invest in each other if we’re going to foster and grow these beautiful customer bases our organizations have poured so much of their hearts and souls into cultivating in the first place.