Customer Success (CS) teams are evolving into a primary growth driver for companies in all industries. Organizations are constantly innovating how their customer success managers operate.
Enterprise organizations are leading many of these operational innovations. They must find sophisticated, yet simple, solutions for their complex companies. And that’s why we were excited to get enterprise CS leaders together to talk about new developments in CS and trends for the future. At CS Unplugged: Enterprise Edition, we were inspired to hear about current best practices for solving CS problems globally and creating winning customer strategies that drive growth.
Here are seven of the most important things we learned.
1. Data Needs Centrality and the Right Team to Scale
It’s not just data. In our panel discussion, Utilizing Your Customer Data to Scale Effectively, leaders from Molecules, Concur, PagerDuty, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise discussed how the data could fail when interpreted tangentially. These days, it’s common sense that data should drive scalable customer success. It’s the “how” that’s tough. We talked about how data centricity and teams were both crucial. These were some key takeaways:
- “Scalability starts with an early warning system,” said Manjula Talreja at PagerDuty. They can help shape how individual customers are engaged and retained.
- Scaling with data is about scaling your operating model with the right team members. Business alignment, data analysts, architects, and scientists all matter. “But it doesn’t take a team of 10, 20, or 40 folks to do it,” Talreja told the audience, adding that her team is made up of five leaders with different strengths. Small teams can make it happen, too.
2. Lead with Expertise
It’s hard to be an expert in all the products your organization may have, not to mention all the product uses and the roles of your customers across different teams. Add marketing, commerce, data integrations, analytics, and collaboration tools, and the burden becomes heavy.
Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh at Salesforce suggested appointing specialist success managers with their specialized expertise identified in a skills database. If a customer uses a lot of marketing and commerce technology, an expert in those skills can help them with implementation. That expertise might be a cloud, an industry, or a product area.
Consider secondary specialists for engagements where one CSM can’t do it all.
3. Go Outside Traditional Account Management to Serve Customers Best
Generating the sales pipeline, nurturing relationships, selling additional module add-ons, and handling renewals as a trusted advisor are multiple jobs. We talked about orienting CS around the customer journey, rather than around functions.
“Our entire go-to-market strategy was really to stop talking about functions internally,” said Katie Bianchi, Senior Vice President of Customer Success at Splunk, who defined each stage of the journey and appointed customer success managers for each step. She encouraged organizations to separate the roles of CSM and Sales Engineer and also to define terms, such as “adoption” and “technical adoption.” This journey-centered approach is more scalable but challenging to develop for existing sales teams.
The participants also proposed some ways to keep teams aligned:
- Offering refresher classes on overarching company goals (Margo Martin at Deltek)
- Finding sponsors to amplify the message to internal teams (Jane Graham at UKG)
- Conducting branding initiatives to clarify team goals, then sharing stories of renewal wins (Graham)
4. Quantify and Templatize Executive Business Reviews
Executive Business Reviews (EBRs) can help customers get more out of their relationship with you. But following pandemic restrictions, members of our panel discussion, Is the Executive Business Review Dead?, wondered if EBRs would be going away after years of difficulty meeting clients face to face. “It’s shifted,” said Gainsight’s Kate Peter, “from taking someone out to dinner to asking, ‘How do we do that in a virtual world?’”
In reality, EBRs are thriving, and there are some simple ways you can employ them at scale. “First, use a template that becomes part of a client adoption plan, then share that adoption plan with customers during EBRs,” said John Sabino, Chief Customer Officer at VMWare. It’ll give you an opportunity to explain the product over time and show business performance assessments against peers. Make it outcome-based and quantify success: what does it mean to move from good to great?
5. Prioritize Better Onboarding During the First Year of the Customer Lifecycle
Start with alignment on how quickly customers can reach their expectations. Here are some ways:
- Set up an onboarding team: Bret Connor, Chief Operating Officer at Athena Health, said that during the pandemic, clients were coming to vendors with specific questions about how to help their own customers or how to get set up. A dedicated team can provide coaching on how to get value quickly.
- Clarify how new clients move from sales to CS teams: Alexandra Roza, Vice President of CS at Tableau, said, “It’s about having a clear handover from the sales team to the customer success world because from a customer success perspective, we may not have been involved in those conversations.” Yet, CS teams can and should start onboarding before an enterprise client comes on board, using all the information available.
- Personalize: Roza also encouraged the audience to try an omnichannel approach, offering multiple channels clients can use to get information. Embed information within the product, as not everyone wants to speak to a vendor. Pop-ups, videos, and guidance within a platform can personally guide users.
6.The Real Risk Is with Customers You May Not Be Concerned About
“Risk is unknown by definition,” said Erika Cowen, Vice President of Customer Success at F5. “And so, funnily enough, I have a mentality that red and yellow clients are actually not really that risky. We know what’s going on there. Unfortunately, at that point, the real risk is the iceberg under the waterline in our green clients.”
In other words, risk resides in unknown variables, so handling risk starts with uncovering problems beneath the surface in so-called green clients. To be proactive, you need to use the data you have to identify risks and address them early.
Vice President of Customer Success at IBM, Kim Humphrey, added that where risk is concerned, make your mantra, “No surprises.”
7. Drive Growth from Product Qualified Leads
What are customers’ objectives? How do they use the product? These aren’t always aligned, but it takes data to see how and where things are out of alignment—and for which segments. In our panel discussion, How Product Experiences Ensure TTV and Ultimately Growth, Harshi Banka at Gainsight, Ben Stein at Salesforce, Angel Rogers at Rockwell Automation, and Ryan Davidsen at Inovalon Holdings discussed that when users have personal experience with a product, they can offer a wealth of information about how to bridge three areas: product, objectives, and workflow. So, tap this data from trial users.
When Davidsen couldn’t figure out why users weren’t completing a very important process within their app, he used this approach: “We identified use cases and analyzed how often this was happening and where they were stalling out. We saw where they were getting confused, where their behavior was less predictable, and those turned out to be really good areas to put some kind of prompt or in-app guided help.”
Had they not reached out to customers, the team never would have found how to bridge the gap.
Using Better Insights to Scale CS
We touched on lots of processes and trends, from personalization to removing silos and utilizing product qualified leads. All are coming to the fore to give CSMs better tools to scale. If companies today are to align with customers’ needs, they must have new tools to do it.
On the topic of CS practices, these panels and speakers just scratched the tip of the post-pandemic iceberg. But they offered some great insights you can use to propel your CS efforts forward.
For more information about the Gainsight tools that can help you put some of these tactics into practice, schedule a demo.