As your customer success team scales, it becomes harder and harder to build a cohesive, collaborative, and high-performing workgroup. Here are 10 tips to building a high-performance team that can scale and grow with your business.
Customer success is a moving target. It is an evolving profession and thanks to the pandemic, customer success has become an indispensable part of any company's success. In a subscription-first economy, companies have shifted from a transactional account management relationship with clients to a customer-first and customer-centric relationship. Sales, marketing, and product development have always been more or less the same, but now with a customer success disciple, CSMs and customer success team have become essential and indispensable for modern SaaS companies.
For companies to continue to grow their revenue, build advocacy, and become a true business partner to their customers they not only need to maintain the goodwill of their customers, but they have to ensure that their customers are becoming wildly successful in achieving their goals with their product. This is where the customer success team comes in. Customer Success Managers are primarily responsible for helping customers understand the value of your product but also helping them achieve their business goals.
Building and scaling a customer success team is not the easiest task, but in order to build a cohesive and high-performing team, there are some key steps and actions you can take in order to ensure you are building for success. Over the course of my career, I have helped build out international customer success teams that have focused on customer retention, advocacy, and overall business growth. I have outlined how to do this in 10 simple steps. Do not be mistaken, this is not an easy process, but through my trial and error, I have determined the top 10 actionable steps needed to build a high-performing customer success team. I am confident if you follow the tips below you and your team will see similar success in half the time.
In this article we will dive into the necessary steps when forming a successful Customer Success team:
- The Customer Comes First
- Define The Customer Journey
- Onboarding, Onboarding, Onboarding
- Get Feedback
- Improve Communication
- Create a Playbook
- Build a Sustainable Pipeline
- Segmentation Equals Better Customer Experience
- Pay Attention to your Tech Stack
- Pay Attention to the Data
10 Steps to Build a High-Performing Customer Success Team
1. The Customer Comes First
Start with talking to your customers - Seems simple enough, but really the best way to design your customer success team is to actually speak to your customers as often as you can. Not only should you be speaking to them about your product and any feedback they might have, but get comfortable with being uncomfortable and ask the tough questions. Ask your clients what they are looking for in a CSM, ask them if they are likely to renew with their subscription, and ask them what more can you do to ensure they are wildly successful.
2. Define The Customer Journey
Map out your customer journey from multiple perspectives - Once you have spoken to your customers now it is time to roll up your sleeves and get to work plotting out how to make them successful with your product. Think of the entire journey a customer has with your product from the initial demo to the project kickoff call, to onboarding, all the way to the renewal stage. It is important to not only think about actions that you hope your customer will take with your product, but think of the customer journey from the perspective of the customer. What goals are they hoping to achieve and by when?
3. Onboarding, Onboarding, Onboarding
Create a stellar onboarding process - This is mission-critical to your customer retention rates. It is a proven fact that ensuring your customer loves using your product and getting a quick return on investment in the onboarding phase will ensure the lifelong success of that account. Also ensuring that your customers know how to use your product and what goals they have with your product as early as possible in the customer journey is extremely helpful for how your customer success team tackles that account.
4. Get Feedback
Create a customer survey at each TTV (Time to value) milestone - When mapping out your customer journey it is important to also add milestones of TTV into the journey. For example, your customer should have gone live with your product after a 30-day onboarding program. Once this time and milestone has passed and your customer has completed onboarding, send them a survey. Ask the critical questions about what they thought about onboarding, how onboarding can be improved and if the CS team helped them achieve their goals. These surveys will help you reiterate and perfect your customer journey.
5. Improve Communication
Become your customer's advocate - One of the most important reasons to have a customer success team is that by working directly with your customers every single day, your team are the best people to represent the customer and advocate for the customers needs in internal meetings. Make sure your CS team is sharing on internal Slack channels about what the customer thinks are the highlights and lowlights of using your product. If needed, plan a weekly meeting where your customer success team meets with the product team to communicate customer feedback and pain points.
6. Create a Playbook
Create scalable customer success playbooks - As you acquire more customers and define your customer journey you will go through the pain points of growing and scaling the CS team. In order to make sure each of your customers have a stellar experience with your CS team as well as with your product you need to start to replicate processes that have proven to be successful. If one of your CSMs has a killer EBR (Executive Business Review) deck, ensure you use that as a template to make sure other team members know how the EBR playbook works. The same goes for the renewal process, every one of your customers will need to (hopefully) renew their subscription with your product. If your team has had numerous successful renewals, use the successful renewals they have completed and apply it to your wider customer base. Creating playbooks for your team to use will make a CSMs time more effective, but will also help them spend less time on admin tasks and more quality time with their customers.
7. Build a Sustainable Pipeline
Recruit the right people at the right time - The role of customer success within organizations has not only grown over the years it has also become indispensable. This is because CS teams are now collaborating with multiple departments throughout the company and modern companies now know that the customer journey is actually the beginning once a customer is “acquired” With the importance of CS front and center now it has equally become important to hire the right people at the right time. Great CSMs are hard to come by and it can take anywhere from months to half a year to find the right candidate.
My tip is to always keep hiring. Also give yourself enough time to hire and train your new CSM. In my experience it takes anywhere from 1-3 months of training before a CSM can really understand their customers and the product. Most CSMs have a book of business of roughly 20-60 accounts. If your company is bringing on 10 new customers a week you are going to need to hire appropriately in order to have CSMs to handle those additional customers.
8. Segmentation Equals Better Customer Experience
Segment your customers - This is something to think about as your company grows and as you acquire different tiers of customers. You might have some enterprise customers, but you might have quite a few smaller accounts as well. As you grow and scale it is important to segment your customer base by revenue, geography, product etc. When you segment your customers you are able to give them the right level of support, education and resources to make them successful. One of my biggest learnings throughout the years is to remember that not all customers are of equal importance and as you segment the customers you will start to learn that.
9. Pay Attention to your Tech Stack
Give your team the right tools to make them successful - There are so many CS tools and softwares out there today. The last time I checked there were over 30 purpose-built software tools that are designed to help CSMs do their job. FROGED is one of them. When you build a CS team and department, make sure you give them the tools to help them make their job easier. It is easy to have CSMs use your CRM tool or your marketing automation tool, but in order to really help your CSMs and thus your customers, make sure you have the right tech stack in place.
10. Pay Attention to the Data
Always know and use metrics - Sales and marketing always have metrics that they are tracking and putting all their efforts and energy towards in order to reach their goals. Customer Success is no different. It is important to showcase that CS is not just there to make the customer happy, but that CS is truly driving business value. NRR (net revenue retention) should be your north star metric along with a few others, but when you are asked about NRR or the current ARR (annual recurring revenue) you should know these numbers and also know the growth and impact CS has on the positive trajectory of these numbers. At the end of the day, your business is looking to grow and CS can help with that growth, but it is important to always tie CS actions and objectives back to key business metrics so the wider business can understand the value CS brings.
These are just some of my key learnings from building a customer success team from the ground up. If I can leave you with any advice as you start to build your team is to continue to support your team by focusing on building a customer-centric culture across your business. If you do that you will soon see tremendous improvements in your customer’s success, growth, and retention rates. It is not easy to build a highly effective customer success team, but if you follow my tips and tricks it will help you reach your north star. Good luck!