Customer Success Teamwork Makes The Dreams Work
The Liverpool football (soccer) team of the 80s. The Chicago Bulls basketball team of the 90s. The New England Patriots American football team of the 2000s. Plus many more teams can lay claim to being a great team, but what are the ingredients that make up a great team. Many teams will have a superstar or two in their ranks, but is it that superstar that makes them that great team or is it the sum of the total parts? What about that missing role from your team? Often good teams identify a missing part or player that transitions them from the “good” to the “great”. So, what does that change bring? Often that additional player brings a balance to the team that ceased to exist before, it allows your original players to play to their strengths whilst not distracted by other responsibilities, it ensures clarity on accountability and it maximises the opportunity to be successful.
So, does this transfer to business and specifically to the Customer Success organisation? Yes, in a word. My previous VP of Global Services at Autodesk, Roberto Sigona often spoke about the Customer Success Manager being the quarterback of post-sales interactions so let's take that metaphor further. So, Tom Brady may be that quarterback pulling all the strings, calling all the plays and directing the strategy but he can’t be successful without his running back, his wide receiver, his full back or his tackle, or a number of other players. So, as a Customer Success Manager can you be successful without your colleagues, be it in marketing, support, sales, operations or professional services? If you can or are currently being successful I would argue that it is only for the short term and for long-term, sustainable success you need to come together as one team with colleagues that have skills that you may not have.
However, this is when it gets more complex and arguably more controversial. When building that great team, or that great Customer Success organisation do you just rely on the resources available or do you go out and build the team you want with the exact skills you require with the right personality to fit your team culture and dynamics? I guess there is a desired state and a realistic one, but let's take it to the desired state. When does your Customer Success organisation go from being a team of CSMs to one that includes specialist functions with the aim of providing specific, niche skills and critically who are these additional “team-players” who will take your good team to a great team?
1. Customer Success Operations –
It has been long and widely accepted that a successful sales organisation performs to its optimal level with a Sales Operations function supporting it. Most CEOs therefore don’t question or challenge the CRO, or VP of Sales to the need to hire one. However, this same logic should be applied to a Customer Success organisation but very rarely gets the same level of acceptance.
So, what does or could this role bring? A Customer Success Operations Manager takes ownership for the key CS-related data and outputs of data to the wider business, owns the key customer success processes and therefore maintenance of them, reports team performance aligned to KPIs/MBOs, and if relevant maintains and owns the Customer Success platform.
And the benefit of all of this is a more efficient, a more focussed and ultimately a more successful team of Customer Success Managers.
2. Customer Success Marketing –
The main focus of customer success based marketing is wholly centred around advocacy. Customer Success Marketing lives in post-sales with a reporting line identical to Customer Success Management; i.e. Through to the Chief Customer Officer. Advocacy demand is increasing and therefore needs to be managed through the Customer Success Marketing function. The demand increasingly comes from sales and marketing (pre-sales) and the supply will come from the Customer Success Managers but how do you ensure the supply meets the demand?
Reading a recent article from Gainsight, they have created a target for their CSMs of a set number of CSQAs (Customer Success Qualified Advocacy) per quarter which focuses the CSM team on a constant flow and pipeline of advocacy. This I think is a great idea and without having a target and ultimately maybe even a reward for hitting that target then arguably the focus is not there, and the pipeline is bare.
Now it is easy to associate advocacy outputs just supporting “Land” opportunities in the form of a case study demonstrating value and RoI in a specific or particular manner. However, advocacy covers a range of outputs not just supporting new business drives but also, retention and expansion. Therefore, advocacy is self-helping for the CSM team ensuring event speaking, webinar involvement and guest blog posts drive mutual expansion, deeper penetration and peer-competitiveness.
It has long been proven that humans respond better to examples, to story-telling and to real-life scenarios of a use of a product, solution or service and hence why advocacy is so critical in your customer success organisation.
3. Customer Success Onboarding –
Ask Customer Success leaders and professionals the world over and I am sure most of them will admit to the onboarding phase being the most critical in setting customers up for success. Saying this, when does it become an option to look at a specific onboarding role or function within your customer success organisation? For me you have two key drivers for this; firstly, are you onboarding vast numbers of customers per week/month and this is causing a resource and time drain on your existing CSM team. Secondly, you have a complex product or service that requires vast training, support, consulting before your customers start to see value in their investment. If the answer to either (or both) of these is yes then I would suggest a dedicated onboarding function is one to look at.
The measurement of success for a specialist onboarding function has to be Time To First Value (TTFV) and you want to be reducing that number of days pre-introduction of the function. The quicker a new customer sees real, tangible value and RoI the more confident they are in making the right purchasing decision, validating and verifying all the work they did selecting your company.
These are three of the roles that you may want to consider when building out your customer success organisation; remembering that it is not just about your Customer Success Managers who have responsibility for delivering value and RoI to your customers. They need the support of the wider business and specifically individuals with certain skills that they may not have. As your customer success organisation continues to grow and expand I am sure there are other roles you may want to consider. Looking around over recent weeks there are several customer success related roles that go some way to supporting your Customer Success Managers and adding value in their own right: Customer Success Analysists, Customer Success Architects & Technical Customer Success are just some that are being recruited for today.
"Great things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people" - Steve Jobs
Matt Myszkowski - experienced Customer Success leader & founder of CustomerSuccessMatters