Recently I had the honor of leading a roundtable discussion on how organizations should design and implement a customer success function. Especially as more and more customers are deploying SaaS solutions and the world of networked services becomes even more pervasive, conversations like these on building and managing teams of effective Customer Success Managers (CSMs) are becoming increasingly valuable.
The Customer Success Association, led by Mikael Blaisdell, requested that I present my insights at their East Coast conference in Boston. It was an incredible experience to share the BetterWorks customer success story and provide guidance to other leaders, some of which were representing companies much older and larger than us.
Rewind to a year and half ago when I was just joining BetterWorks as the second customer success team member. BetterWorks didn’t have a public website yet, but what they did have was a customer success co-founder/lead and a vision for that operation. Being so close to our team’s infancy, coupled with an intense year and a half of building out our CS playbook, driving the VIP community, hiring strong talent and proving our value, afforded me an unparalleled experience. BetterWorks magically stuffed 8 years of industry experience into 18 months.
Jumping back to the present, it seems like a no brainer that others would want to hear the BetterWorks year one strategy for designing and building a customer success function.
During the interactive roundtable at Customer SuccessCon East I covered the following topics:
Creating Value: Internally & Externally
Your initial CS leads don’t just own account roll out and relationships. They are strong generalists that can help close deals and build valuable processes, while augmenting staffing. The right CSM is one part sales engineer, one part account manager, one part trainer and one part support person who creates value within a team and externally.
It’s also important for CSMs to document this value and share it with their team. For example, if your CS team had an exceptional win with a strategic client or conducted X number of on-sites, trainings, webinars in one week, prepare a slide or two and include it in your team meetings or emails.
Customer Success is a growing field, especially on the East Coast. So even though the existing talent pool for customer success managers is small, you can focus on hiring builders. These are the individuals who will help you create the playbook and processes while getting results from day one.
Building a Playbook/Process
Iterating on capturing successful paths to delivery is a process in and of itself. Build your playbook by capturing the steps required to produce reliable outcomes—it will help you understand the effort, time and complexity to execute.
Productizing Your Service
Treat your service/offering as a product, not an afterthought. For example, build a customer page on your website.
Choosing Your Technology
Leverage affordable technology that integrates with other solutions to support processes you own. We use Zendesk and JIRA to create an end-to-end feedback process.
There was a wide range of CS expertise amongst the group of leaders attending the session. I met organizations that were morphing different departments into a master customer success unit, others who were in our shoes from two years ago and building the foundation for customer success in tandem with building out the company, and others who were 3-15 years old grappling with introducing their very first customer success function.
Customer Success is an amazing field because of the people the profession draws in. This roundtable is evidence of that: a packed room of strangers who are all motivated and excited to learn and share their individual expertise with each other. I’d be honored to participate at next year’s session.
Discussions like SuccessCon are personally invigorating because it’s all validation that BetterWorks built a solid CS foundation. Per my promise, I’m sharing the presentation link here.
And if you are itching to join the conversation sooner, I encourage you to come to one of the upcoming BetterWorks Customer Success Meetups in New York City. The topics, connections and potential growth are endless.