What’s in a Name? The Many Uses of “CSP” in Customer Success

July 11, 2022

Marley Wagner

Category: Customer Retention, Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Operations, Customer Success Strategy, Customer Success Tools

Let’s say you’re reading an article about Customer Success. (Not exactly a leap of imagination, is it? 😆). Then, without explanation, the author uses the acronym CSP. Without any other context, do you know what it stands for? In Customer Success, we do use a lot of three-letter acronyms, and they can get pretty confusing. CSP, in particular, can be used to refer to a bunch of different things. It would be wonderful if we could all agree on one definition for CSP, but how do we go about getting everyone on board?

Perhaps we could take a vote? Voting is kind of a big deal this year. The CS industry (we know CS is Customer Success already, yes?) can get together and pick their favorite choice for what CSP really stands for. We could do it via online poll or at one of the many back-in-person industry events coming up later this summer and into the fall. It sounds like fun!

Before we do, though, let’s get to know all the choices for the “P” – who uses what, why it might make sense, and what we think might make the most sense.

The letter of the day is “P”

Now clap your hands to the letter of the day. Clap, clap!

What’s the letter? What’s the letter? What’s the letter?

The letter of the day is…P!

I couldn’t help but include that little earworm. Elmo sure knows his songs! (If you have a child under the age of 10, I do apologize.) Catchy tune aside, the letter P shows up in a lot of Customer Success lingo. We’ve got plans and programs, people and professionals, personalities and presentations. And even more still if we look beyond just our own industry – from the Colorado State Patrol or a Certified Safety Professional, to Cloud Services Providers and Content Security Policies. No wonder CSP has become so confusing. Yet, despite the avalanche of P words, a few strong contenders have emerged to take the lead in the race to see who gets to be the real CSP.

Customer Success Professional

Gainsight has used CSP to mean Customer Success Professional in reports and blog posts. In 2019, they produced a State of the Customer Success Profession report, going into great detail on the projected future of CSMs and CS Ops personnel. We can see why CSP is handy in this context. Customer Success used to be a smaller discipline, but now that it’s exploded onto the business scene in a big way, more organizations are growing their CS capabilities. This means the roles within Customer Success organizations are diversifying. It’s not just leaders and CSMs anymore. There are support roles and CS Centers of Excellence with different branches and CS specialties. The landscape of this profession is evolving. So, to talk about all the CS roles that are now out there, you might need an acronym to encompass them all – Customer Success Professionals or CSPs. Our recommendation – let’s stick with CS Pros for short here.

Customer Success Plan

Then, we’ve got Customer Success Plans. Customer Success Plans are the blueprint for a customer’s successful journey with your company. They help you and your customer define strategy and goals and act as a guide for engagement throughout the customer lifecycle. The best Customer Success Plans include key steps for a smooth handoff between Sales and CS to kick off the relationship with a great start. There are lots of ways to create one. Every CS organization should have a format that works best with their internal processes and procedures (more P words!) TSIA has been known to use CSP to mean Customer Success Plan. However, they are also known as Success Plans or Joint Success Plans, so we’d vote against using CSP to define this one.

Customer Success Platform

Automation. Scalability. Standardization. Communication. Visibility. No P words in that list, but these concepts are at the forefront of every forward-thinking CS leader’s mind. And at the heart of that transformation strategy sits a very important CS technology: the celebrated Customer Success Platform. In the past, many CS organizations had to make do with software that wasn’t designed with CS in mind. Today, it’s far more common for growing Customer Success teams to get a shiny new tool to help them streamline and scale customer engagement. CS Platforms are the crown at the top of any CS tool stack, and we expect them to continue to be rapidly adopted by CS teams large and small. Perhaps, for this reason, many have adopted CSP to mean Customer Success Platform, including Totango and Salesforce.

“P” is for Platform, and that’s good enough for me!

If you want to know our opinion, we vote for CSP to officially mean Customer Success Platform. Of course, we have a lot of love for CS Plans and CS Professionals, but if we’re going to land on one solid default for this abbreviation, we choose the one that aligns best with our vision of a bright digital future.