8 min - Jul 17, 2023

Taking a Leap of Faith

by Lauren Thibodeau

So there I was.

Staring ahead at a milestone birthday and dreaming of a more intentional balance of work, family, and community.

Almost five years ago, I took a leap of faith to leave a great senior executive role at global SaaS company, Kinaxis (TSE: KXS), and start my own Customer Success (CS) & Customer Experience (CX) Advisory Services practice.

Some people in my network thought I was nuts. Fortunately, many were supportive. I was cautiously optimistic.

While there have certainly been low points – including having no paying work for the first three months, and seeing all my clients hit pause for the first two months of COVID – I’m happy to say I’ve more than crossed the hump.

I’m fortunate to be able to do what I love, help numerous companies become more customer-centric each year and see the rewards that brings them (higher renewal rates, more expansion revenue, improved customer and employee experience), and benefit from the intentional balance I envisioned, most of the time.

Over the past five years, I’ve heard many questions about Customer Success and Customer Experience from Founders, CEOs, COOs, and a wide range of functional leaders. Through a series of posts, I’ll share the most commonly asked questions and how I’ve gone about answering them.

My goal is to share content I hope you’ll find valuable, and continue to learn from your comments, reactions and questions.

In this first post, I’ll set the stage by providing some context before sharing a perspective on the questions: What is Customer Success (CS), What is Customer Experience (CX), why do they matter, and do you need to focus on both?

For Context

Throughout my 25 year career I’ve been fortunate to work with software and SaaS companies across the spectrum from startup to established, from enterprise to industrial, from born in the cloud to converting to SaaS, across industry verticals, both in-house and as an external advisor.

To name just a few, I’ve been privileged to work with or for:

  • Assent
  • Cognos
  • iBase-t
  • Kinaxis (TSE: KXS)
  • Klipfolio
  • Samdesk
  • PointClickCare
  • Welbi
  • Wicket
  • Zerotek

Over the past few years, I’ve discovered I add the most value by providing advisory services to companies with, or converting to, a recurring revenue model looking to ensure they’re following best and proven practices in revenue retention and expansion.

I collaborate with them to optimize post-initial sale revenue by establishing, elevating, and/or scaling their Customer Success and Customer Experience functions and practices. I specialize in facilitating Customer Journey Mapping because this provides a powerful visual tool to align the company around how to deliver value to customers every step of the way, in a customer-centric approach.

Clients and past employers have told me I have a unique ability to span both strategy and execution, and to rightsize the approach to their specific context, whether they’re an established company or a startup.

For Established Companies

For established North American and Global companies looking to scale and grow, I apply skills and knowledge gained from two decades working in large, global, publicly traded companies, combined with startup hacks that bring new ways of thinking to established companies.

I collaborate and lead established companies to elevate their CS/CX strategy & practices, breaking down internal silos to focus on the customer journey and value delivered, and measuring the results against key leading and lagging indicator metrics.

We assess their CS/CX current state across 5 pillars and 40 dimensions using my proprietary Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) Optimizer Assessment, prioritize quick wins, and develop a quarterly roadmap for key initiatives. I support companies to execute by sharing templates, facilitating working sessions, and establishing a cadence of accountability. We focus on areas where our work together will have the biggest positive impact on their customers and on their bottom line.

This has included projects for multiple clients to:

  • Map the Customer Journey from the Customer’s perspective for key customer personas, prioritize initiatives to most improve Revenue, Customer Experience, and Employee Experience, measuring the before and after impact.
  • Develop and implement comprehensive strategies to scale customer onboarding and training, measuring the impact on onboarding completion, time to value, training revenue and  margin. This has included leading companies to transition from giving training away for free to selling it as a high margin offering, with higher quality, that customers value more.
  • Convert Professional Services implementation methodologies from implementing vendor product features, to implementing customer-centric workflows that deliver measurable customer value.
For Startups

For startups, I often work through Canadian incubators and accelerators like Invest Ottawa and Volta in Atlantic Canada to advise companies 1-1 on building their Customer Success / Customer Experience function. We often hit the whiteboard on Day 1 and build together. I learn every day from their questions, and love seeing the rapid progress we can make together.

As part of my work with Invest Ottawa, I run a Customer Success & Customer Experience Peer Group as well as group workshops. There’s nothing like hashing out challenges with empathetic peers, and having time carved out to just think about what comes next.

And based on what I wish I’d known MUCH sooner working for established SaaS companies, I lead original Canadian-centric SaaS metrics research so Canadian SaaS startups from coast-to-coast know from Day 1 which SaaS metrics matter most at each stage, and what great looks like. This helps them optimize for the right metrics at the right time, set better internal goals and KPIs, and have more productive effective with investors and lenders.

I reserve a limited number of 1-1 spots each month to mentor Canadian SaaS startups on SaaS metrics at no charge to them, regardless of whether they’re part of an incubator or accelerator program. In the past year alone, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with 42 Canadian SaaS startup founders and leaders from across Canada, building everything from better physical retail experiences to secure credentialing without sharing PII (Personal Identifiable Information) to better meal planning and grocery shopping experiences.

So given that context, let’s turn to a few foundational questions I’ve been asked when it comes to Customer Success & Customer Experience.

What is Customer Success?

People use this term today to mean one or more of: a philosophy, a business approach, and a functional discipline.

I especially like this two-pronged definition from Gainsight, a leading Customer Success platform vendor:

  • Customer Success is the CONCEPT of achieving business growth by adopting a customer focused approach.
  • It is a BUSINESS METHOD that uses your product or service to help customers achieve their objectives.
What is Customer Experience?

Here I like a combination of definitions from Forrester:

  • Customer Experience is how customers PERCEIVE their interactions with your company.

And Forbes:

  • Customer Experience is the CUMULATIVE IMPACT of multiple TOUCHPOINTS over the course of a customer’s interactions with an organization.
Why do they matter?

They matter because:

“When done right, Customer Success preserves a company’s book of business, opens up doors for additional opportunities, and creates lifelong advocates in our customers.”

– Maria Martinez, COO at Cisco, former President, Global Customer Success at SalesForce.

Yet unfortunately:

80% of businesses believe they provide “superior” customer service, but only 8% of customers would describe it in such glowing terms. US businesses collectively lose an estimated $83 billion a year due to shoddy customer service and delivering a poor customer experience.

– Entrepreneur.com

Do you need to focus on both?

Hands down yes!

Customer Success as a function typically kicks in when a customer agrees to buy your product or service. Before then, they’re a prospect, nurtured by sales and marketing, either directly or through your website and emails.

In the best cases, especially in a sales-led company selling to enterprise clients, Customer Success is tightly aligned with Sales and gets involved even before the customer signs on. Customer Success partners to understand the customers’ business goals and ensures a smooth transition from sales through implementation, onboarding, adoption, and delivery of value.

But if you’re only focused on Customer Success without thinking about Customer Experience, you’ll miss the bigger picture from your customers’ perspective.

Customer Experience is the platinum thread that can unify functional departments and ensure a consistently positive experience across the collection of interactions a customer has with your company. Done well, CX breaks down functional silos. In companies of a certain size, it requires a cross-functional mandate and executive level leadership by someone like a Chief Customer Officer or a Chief Customer Experience Officer. And because customers interact with multiple departments throughout their journeys, CX initiatives need to be cross-functional and highly collaborative.

By focusing on Customer Experience across the customer journey in conjunction with best practices in Customer Success, you’ll optimize both the value customers receive and your own recurring revenue.


Do these definitions match how you think about and deliver Customer Success and Customer Experience?

#CustomerSuccess #CustomerExperience #AdvisoryServices #Entrepreneurship

About SaaSCan

SaaSCan provides Customer Success and Customer Experience advisory services to help SaaS companies optimize their recurring revenue. SaaSCan also conducts SaaS metrics research and benchmarking. Learn more on the SaaSCan website.

About Lauren

Learn more about Lauren Thibodeau, SaaSCan Founder and Principal Consultant, in her LinkedIn profile.


Recent Insights

Early Stage Growth

SaaS and Tech Company Valuations, with Ed Bryant

2 min - Feb 23, 2024
Early Stage Growth

The SaaSCan Guide to Accelerators and Incubators for Canadian ...

1 min - Nov 19, 2023
Early Stage Growth

The SaaS Metrics That Matter Most for Startups in 2024

1 min - Nov 13, 2023

SaaSCan™ Insights

Get the latest research and insights from SaaSCan.

* indicates required

Back to top