Customer Success Acronyms every CSM needs to know [Infographic]


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Years ago, while on an extended leave of absence, I remember being hit with anxiety just thinking about all the acronyms that had made their way into the workplace while I was away. At the time, I was working in Education, a field riddled with industry-specific terminology. Overwhelmed and feeling out of the loop, I worried I wouldn’t know how to “talk the talk” when I got back to work

Not wanting this fear to be a barrier to my re-entry into the workforce, I taught myself what I needed to know. I brushed up on current lingo and trends and memorized any corresponding acronyms. This helped my confidence tremendously and made me feel like I actually knew what I was talking about.

When I transitioned my career toward Customer Success, I knew once again that there would be professional language gaps that I would need to fill. As I read articles and books, listened to podcasts, and enrolled in a Customer Success learning cohort, my notebook captured dozens of industry-specific phrases, ideas, and acronyms. I developed an infographic cheat sheet to keep things organized and shared it with the CS community on LinkedIn. People quickly rallied around the post, providing feedback and suggestions, ultimately yielding the top acronyms you see today. As I applied for roles in CS, my cheat sheet came in handy as I interviewed and met with CS leaders, gaining opportunities to engage in trade talk, acronyms, and all.

Now a year into my career as a CS professional, I’ve found myself drawn to some of these acronyms more than others. For any CS job seeker or professional new to the field, I’d recommend getting a tight grasp on as many acronyms as you can, as you’re bound to see them in many places.

In alphabetical order, here are my “Top 10 Customer Success Acronyms”

  1. Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR): In the world of subscription-based services, ARR is the key metric used to demonstrate how much revenue (money) a company takes in every year for the life of the subscription. Moreover, I’ve found that metrics for revenue often go by other terms, including (but not limited to): Annual Contract Value (ACV), Annual Subscription Value (ASV), Total Account Value (TAV), and Total Contract Value (TCV).
  2. Customer Experience (CX): If you’re feeling foggy on your phone and unsure of the difference between Customer Success and Customer Experience (CX), you’re not alone. I think of Customer Experience as the sum of all parts of a customer’s journey with a given company. The interactions and touchpoints, big and small, all add up to CX. I recommend giving this Zendesk article a quick read. It inspired me to create this side-by-side graphic of the two. You’ll find that while they both impact the customer journey, they do so in distinct ways.
  3. Customer Led Growth (CLG): I love this acronym in particular, as it’s really a mindset more than anything. In a CLG-driven company, it’s clear that all departments come together on one simple principle, and that is giving customers what they need to succeed and grow. Through strategically positioning the customer at the center of all decision-making, the “modus operandi” is one in which the entire company is committed, obsessed even, over the value that their customers receive.
  4. Customer Relationship Management (CRM): Simply put, CRM is a system or software that serves to track and manage customer relationships. In my own company, we use Hubspot to keep track of notes about client interactions for both current and potential customers. Other companies often use Salesforce. For folks new to CRMs, rest assured that these platforms tend to be very intuitive and easy to learn.
  5. Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT): The CSAT aims to gauge exactly what its name implies. As a frequently used metric in Customer Success, CSAT indicates how satisfied customers are with a company’s services or products. Measured via capturing customer feedback, it’s expressed as a percentage out of 100. An easy tool for customers and companies alike to interact with, it’s also quite limited in its depth and detail, and is subject to response bias.
  6. Key Performance Indicator (KPI)Key Performance Indicators are metrics used to help define, measure, and track progress in Customer Success initiatives. Amongst others, KPIs might include Churn rate, Customer satisfaction score, Repeat purchase rate, Free trial conversion rate, or Customer retention rate. As each company is different from the next, it’s critical to choose KPIs that measure whatever matters most to a particular brand’s success, not that of its competitor.
  7. Small to Medium Business (SMB): For any jobseeker out there reading job descriptions, it’s critical to be aware of a company’s size as you consider different names. Customer Success departments and roles vary widely, largely shaped by company size and revenue. Generally, a small business will staff less than 100 employees, while a medium-sized business employs between 100 and 1,000. Regarding revenue, companies that make less than $50 million annually are considered small, whereas those making between $50 million and $1 billion annually are considered medium. SMB companies enjoy the ability to act swiftly, prioritize creativity, and think in flexible terms. On the downside, budgets tend to be strained, necessitating conservative financial decision-making.
  8. Software as a Service (SaaS): Whenever someone unfamiliar with Customer Success asks me to explain what it is, I like to start here, by framing my conversation around SaaS. I find that it’s helpful to define SaaS, an application delivered over the Internet via a subscription-based service, by providing examples of well-known software that my audience is likely familiar with. Netflix anyone?
  9. Subject Matter Expert (SME): As a CSM at an executive-function coaching company, my background knowledge as a former educator only goes so far. While I am experienced, by no means am I an expert in the field? Thus, when I need access to specialized knowledge in a specific area, I call upon the wisdom of Executive-Function Coaching SMEs. These individuals hold sharp competencies that have been developed through years of education and experience in the subject of EF Coaching.
  10. Voice of Customer (VoC): Last but not least, VoC is my very favorite Customer Success acronym. As a CSM, I eat, sleep, and breathe VoC in my day-to-day. As my team serves as the company’s “connective tissue”, we collaborate and share feedback across all departments, always poised to represent and advocate for our customers’ voices to be heard. We acquire feedback from many avenues, including phone calls, emails, customer reviews and surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Thoughtfully, we synthesize our findings to share with the team at large.

Capturing VoC is never-ending work – and I mean that in the best way possible. Getting to know my customers allows me to stay challenged, engaged, and always on the hunt, yearning to learn more about who they are, and how I can best deliver value to them and our company alike.

In closing, the popularity of this infographic has served as a lovely testament to the sorts of people who find their way to Customer Success. The small act of sharing a simple but valuable learning tool speaks volumes to the CS community as a whole. As I continue to connect with others, I’m struck by seemingly recurring skill sets.  Customer Success professionals are efficiency creators, empathetic helpers, and lifelong learners. I’m proud to be a part of this community and will continue to keep engaging, learning, and sharing with the community.

About the author:

Mary Fukawa serves as Customer Success Manager at Beyond BookSmart, an executive-function coaching company whose core values include: commitment to customers, openness, kindness, integrity, and courage.

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