The Customer Success Maturity Model Part 3: “Transform” Capabilities (Optimizing CS)

April 26, 2021

Marley Wagner

Category: Customer Experience, Customer Retention, Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Maturity, Customer Success Strategy, Digital Customer Success, Monetizing Customer Success

In the third installment of our three-part series on the ESG Customer Success Maturity Model, I’ll share the characteristics it takes to Transform your CS organization into a proactive, predictive powerhouse (look at that alliteration!) of customer happiness and retention. If you haven’t read parts one and two on the Build and Operationalize phases of our model, I recommend tackling those first.

The Transform phase is one of growth and has everything to do with streamlining and scaling to meet your ultimate potential. If phase one – Build – is all about getting your feet under you, and phase two – Operationalize – is finding a good jogging pace, then phase three – Transform – is your CS organization running at full speed.

CS doesn’t operate in a silo, and neither do your CS capabilities

Once you’ve solidified these CS capabilities, you’ve got a fully developed Customer Success program. Now you can dust off your hands, pat yourself on the back, and…relax. Congrats! You’ve done it! Queue the parade!

Record scratch.

Actually…that’s not entirely true. I’ve spent a lot of time during this three-part blog series talking about the many capabilities Customer Success teams need to be “mature,” but there is one big caveat to CS maturity that you need to know. You’ve probably already guessed it, you smarty-pants, you.

The ESG Customer Success Maturity Model is not linear. You don’t have to accomplish one capability in order to achieve the next rung on the ladder. Even if you’re in the earliest stages of Customer Success, you can start implementing (nearly) any of the 17 capabilities right off the bat. You might start with a fantastic human capital management program for your CS team. Or, you might be squarely in the Operationalize phase but still have to work to do on your customer segmentation or engagement models. As a Customer Success leader, you’re probably working on all of these capabilities all of the time. Everything is interconnected.

We broke these categories and capabilities out in this way to make it easier for CS leaders to focus on the critical elements of successful CS. And, if I’m being honest, the job is never truly “done.” That’s what is so great about Customer Success. When it comes to evolution and growth, the sky really is the limit. There are always opportunities to improve and iterate, ways to make your customer experience better, more streamlined.

We’ve taken the concept of a mature CS organization and broken it into this framework to make the daunting task of constructing a scalable, effective practice more manageable and more efficient. A 2020 Forrester report determined that a well-designed Customer Success program can yield a 91% return on investment over a three-year period. Yes, you read that right. 91%. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s help you get there. Here are the final six capabilities for a well-designed Customer Success organization.

The capabilities you need for your Customer Success to be best-in-class

Without further ado, these are the capabilities that will Transform your CS organization into a best-in-class practice that outshines the competition.

12. CS Roadmap

A Customer Success roadmap is a detailed view of your organization’s goals as well as your plans for how you’ll reach those goals in the near and long term. Much like a business plan, your CS team needs a roadmap to organize the complexity of building a robust CS practice. At first, this roadmap might be simple and straightforward, but as you mature, your plans will become more comprehensive and include a complete ecosystem of cross-functional capability and accountability with other teams like sales, marketing, product, and support.

13. Scaling with Systems

It’s no secret that we think technology and automation are the bee’s knees, but you really can’t scale Customer Success without the right software and digital tools in place. Undoubtedly, you already have tools that can provide some level of analytics and insight. Still, you won’t truly transform your organization until you embrace specialized CS tools that can work with your legacy systems to boost productivity, improve customer experience, and optimize your CS strategy overall.

14. CSM Proactive Planning

In the early stages of Customer Success, CSMs have a tendency to fall into supportive, reactive roles as the organization finds its footing. But once you’ve leveled up, it’s critical to ensure your CSMs have a plan of action to follow based on advanced analytical insights, customer segmentation, and customer journey maps. Their time should be balanced between a smaller percentage of the reactive activities they need to perform and a higher percentage of the proactive initiatives Customer Success is known for.

15. Digital Communication

Technology can do more than optimize systems and provide insight. Email automation can keep your customers engaged and eliminate repetitive CSM tasks. In-app engagement software can streamline your customer adoption experience without the need for live CSM intervention at every single moment of the customer journey. Community platforms can help educate your customers and provide unlimited, autonomous support from onboarding to expansion. Digital communication via automation is critical to scalability and a key signal of an advanced Customer Success organization. The upfront investment in this capability significantly reduces cost-to-serve in the long run and drives more predictable renewals and revenue growth. It means you’re thinking and planning for the long-term – definitely a characteristic of mature organizations.

16. Human Capital Management

One of your most incredible resources in Customer Success is the Customer Success Manager. Your CSMs are the lifeblood of any CS organization. Without top talent, all the other things on this list become much more difficult. That’s why we count human capital management as a sophisticated trait that enables Customer Success teams to truly transform. Do you have a methodology in place to define, find, and train your CSMs? Is each team member given a consistent onboarding experience and opportunities for advanced training and growth? How about a defined career path and milestones to reach those new heights? If you said ‘no,’ you’ve got some work to do because creating a consistent CSM experience leads to a consistent customer experience. Engaged and productive CSMs are better able to grow an engaged and happy customer base.

17. CS Monetization and Funding

I could write an entire white paper on Customer Success monetization. In fact, I have. But to put it simply, every CS leader dreams of reaching this rung of the Customer Success Maturity ladder, but few so far have done it right. It’s the final capability in our model for a reason. Before even thinking about charging your customers for Customer Success, you need to be really good at it. You should have some element of every other capability in place, or you risk crashing and burning and taking your CS team down with you. The bright side is that done right, companies who succeed in monetizing (i.e., charging for) CS see an average of 2X revenue growth from customers who purchase paid CS plans.


That’s it! We did it! I’ve summarized all 17 capabilities on the ESG Customer Success Maturity Model in this blog post series, but there are countless approaches, techniques, and possibilities for establishing each one. If you need a little help or want to learn where you are on the Maturity Model, contact us for more information.