With the dawn of the subscription software economy, Customer Success (CS) is still a relatively new field, and how it’s being defined and measured across companies varies greatly. After launching and developing Customer Success teams at three different companies, I have learned what it takes to build a successful team.
The most important qualities of an efficient and effective Customer Success team include:
1. Proactive Customer Advisors NOT Reactive Support
Good Customer Success Managers (CSMs) identify and resolve potential challenges before they turn into problems for customers. Waiting for trouble to arise and then reacting creates a lag between problem and solution, ultimately resulting in dissatisfied customers. To accomplish this level of proactivity, use analytics to discover how customers interact with your product, how the customers are transitioned along the customer journey, and identify the key areas where your team can impact the customer experience with meaningful actions. For example, if your customers tell you they feel the questions asked during the kick-off were already answered during the sales cycle, then it is time to review your transition between Sales and CS so the kick-off is productive, with key reasons for purchasing the product already identified. This shows the customer that your organization is working together towards success, not in silos. Setting up short surveys after onboarding and/or periodic calls to customers after completion of onboarding can allow you to collect data and help you create a more proactive team. Regular training for your team and other cross-functional teams will also ensure the company is working with a proactive vision in mind.
2. Collaborative Teams Across your Organization
As every department plays a role in Customer Success, there should be a strong communication and collaboration between teams to ensure the vision of CS is consistent. One of the most important times in which communication comes into play is the transition of the customer from the Sales team to the CS team. The Sales team should be equipping the assigned CSM with all the information pertinent to the account. The CSM can then be knowledgeable about the customer right off the bat and avoid redundancies. This is a crucial time to prove to your customer that you are personally invested in their success and will be with them every step of the way. There is nothing more impressive to a customer than beginning the first conversation with their new CSM and feeling like they are picking up right where they left off with the salesperson.
3. Growth-oriented CSMs
Customer retention is often how Customer Success teams are measured, and may even by their main Key Performance Indicator (KPI). However, a good CSM doesn’t stop at renewal, the goal is expansion; to upsell and cross sell whenever possible. Make sure that expansion is the top priority for your Customer Success team; this is what separates the good from the great since ultimately the goal of the company is growth.
4. Implementing an Efficient and Value Driven Onboarding Process
There is nothing more frustrating to a customer than a complicated and slow onboarding process. The worst thing that your CSMs can do is get comfortable and not worry about churn because the deal has already been closed; I have definitely seen frustrated customers churn during the onboarding process. A good CSM will communicate and demonstrate the value of the product quickly and go to every length to make sure that the customer is using the product to its highest capacity. To develop CSMs who can do this, you must put in place a streamlined and strategic onboarding plan that may be customized for each customer, and provide your CSMs with the proper training and tools so that they can implement this onboarding efficiently.
5. Guiding by Strong Leadership
There should be no one more invested in Customer Success than the CEO. The CEO, as well as all senior management, should be accessible to CSMs who can bring them in on a customer account and ask for their assistance if needed. Since Customer Success departments are fairly new, leaders will have to do some trial and error in order to find what works for the company and what doesn’t. A leader who is not afraid to fail fast and move on to try something new is a necessity.
6. Strategies NOT Operations
The highest functioning Customer Success teams are strategy-oriented. Instead of just going through step-by-step tasks with the client, the CSMs identify the specific results that each customer is looking for and tailor a strategy that will make those results a reality. A successful CSM understands that each customer is unique and therefore the same strategy will not fit every situation. She/he must put in the time to understand what will best help each customer succeed and then communicate this clearly to the customer.
Establishing a strong CS team is essential for your company’s long-term health. It is the Customer Success team that nurtures the customer relationships. Owning a critical point in the customer lifecycle, CSMs have the power to drive clients to renewal or let them drift towards churn. Developing proactive, collaborative, and strategic CSMs who are guided by a strong leader and follow efficient and effective onboarding procedures will be important in creating strong and beneficial customer relationships, which will ultimately lead to growth and expansion for your company.
[Originally posted to Walkme’s blog on 2 August 2016]