Can You Introduce CS During Hyper-Growth? Absolutely! Image

Can You Introduce CS During Hyper-Growth? Absolutely!

Introducing customer success both as a methodology and working practice into a business can be difficult.

No matter the stage, be it a start-up or a scaling organization, weaving CS ideology and procedures into your current environment is often met with impediments, and yes, resistance.  

People don’t like change, even if the shift promises them success. Many won’t believe it until they see the proof. This situation is especially true when the company is in hyper-growth and introducing specialized customer success technology. For Gainsight, one of the best examples we have seen of a company successfully incorporating CS as an ethos and a technology in a time of hyper-growth is Totaljobs.

A Unique MarketSpace

Totaljobs is an online recruitment platform or job board company based in the UK. Over 300,000 jobseekers visit their platform daily, attracting 20 million visits and over 4.3 million applications every month. Totaljobs joined with Jobsite in 2018, becoming UK’s most prominent and leading hiring platform. Their partnership allows employers to advertise jobs across both platforms from one system. 

The number of potential candidates has increased with the addition of StepStone Group, a global e-recruitment business. Together they have an incredible presence in the field of employment enablement. With a combination of products, services, and customers come hyper-growth and astonishing scale. To introduce customer success into this situation can be a process with burdens and benefits.

The former Chief Operating Officer of Totaljobs, Nigel Sterndale, sat down with Gainsight’s EMEA Regional Vice President, Adam Joseph. Nigel enlightened him of how they traversed implementing customer success in a highly scaling company that did not have a traditional SaaS profile.

The Story Begins

We often hear stories of a company integrating customer success into its business when things have stalled. There is a loss of customers, and they are looking to preserve and grow their install base, which becomes the foundation for scaling their company. When a company is in hyper-growth, primarily through a merger or acquisition, one of those company’s usually has some form of CS in their practice. Yet, that was not the case for Totaljobs.

Every year, Totaljobs performs a customer engagement survey via a third-party reviewer. It gave them a suitable cross-section of customers with good feedback on their experience working with them as a supplier. The review enabled Totaljobs to look at themselves, the quality of the service they provided, and compare their offerings with other players in the market space.  

For the past few years, no one has had outstanding scores because of the COVID 19 pandemic effect on the job market. Totaljobs recognized there was room for improvement.  What was surprising to them was that their survey scores were dropping. In mid-2019, this became the problem to solve. Nigel formed a group to brainstorm the issue, hoping to provide answers to reverse the negative momentum and stay at the top of their industry. 

Another issue arose during the same time period. The owners at the time, StepStone Group, which in turn was owned by the German media conglomerate Axel Springer, charged them with devising a value creation plan (VCP). This initiative would illustrate how Totaljobs could accelerate growth over the next three to four years. That type of scaling was at least three times the kind of growth rates they had at any point previously in company history.

Enter Customer Success

Unfortunately, Nigel did not understand customer success in the classic SaaS sense. Instead, he was looking to solve their customer experience issues. They employed the Carter survey, which examines the customer lifecycle over 12 months—from the presale or consider phase to a full-on engagement. It looks at how the product performs, how it creates an experience for the user, and the communication surrounding both. 

What Nigel and his organization discovered was that while they were successful with acquiring new customers, they weren’t good at managing the lifecycle of existing customers. They saw that most of their customer communications centered on renewals through feedback. To fill the gap, they wanted input from every representative within the business that was either impacted by or impacted customer experience. Most tend to think about this in reference to the contact between customers and Sales. Perhaps even the support team or finance regarding payment. But they didn’t realize how customer experience had a very long reach. At the end of their discovery process, they found that most of the company was involved in those communication motions. 

During this same time period, Nigel and his team ran a series of workshops to define a fantastic customer experience. Additionally, they consulted with and surveyed customers about what excellent customer service might mean to them. Lastly, a sales director on the team had worked with a company that used customer success to improve the overall customer experience. What Nigel learned through all the input received was that the customer experience needed to be “seamless.” 

Through the same sales director, Nigel was then introduced to Dan Steinman, Chief Evangelist and former General Manager of Gainsight EMEA. After their conversation, Nigel began to study the subject of customer success. He read the book “Customer Success: How Innovative Companies Are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue” and attended the Gainsight Pulse EMEA conference. Nigel’s educational journey helped him understand how customer success is different from support and its importance to a subscription-based or recurring revenue business. 

Though Totaljobs is more of an advertising medium, their customers are on a subscription basis. Nigel surmised that they could manage the customer relationship more effectively by separating the sales and renewal processes. Nigel and his team needed to focus more on the customer experience by ensuring customers get maximum value from their purchased products. Even though this may seem like a ‘eureka moment,’ and the natural process would be to incorporate CS ideology and strategies, it is not always an easy transition. 

How to Get Buy-In

Getting stakeholders involved and C-suite buy-in can be difficult, especially when establishing budgets and releasing the financial resources. Still, Totaljobs gave Nigel and his team an initiative to accomplish. They wanted a VCP and an acceleration of growth. Nigel believed that they could not rely on the same processes that enabled them to get where they were to propel them to where they needed to be. 

The trajectory of growth was not going to match stakeholder expectations. The actual growth was not found in new customer acquisition as much as it had to come from retention. But retention meant different things to various teams in the company. Nigel and his team had to prove that the best definition of retention was to retain the current customer base with an amplified and seamless experience. This retention would preserve the base through renewals and potentially increase new revenue from existing customers.

To prove it, Nigel brought in a business analytics team. Together they determined that with a reasonably nominal impact on retention of about a two percent increase in the customer install base, Totaljobs could see a growth of £4 million or over $5 million of new revenue. 

That got the C-suite and stakeholders’ attention!

According to Nigel, this was not about winning new business. And in some cases, not even about getting current customers to buy more products. “This is just actually about doing a better job of looking after your customers, and then, they were more likely to renew,” Nigel said. “So that was the starting point. We broke it down by every customer set, and that became part of the VCP.” 

Totaljobs had the opportunity to drive down the cost base without significant cuts across the organization. This cost-cutting measure was a new effect for a whole new team and new department. They started to look at the entire company through the new customer success lens. Nigel and his team had to decide if they wanted to provide this service to all customers or develop a certain kind of segmentation of customers. Then, how many customer segments and accounts could the average account manager oversee? Initially, they settled on about 30. 

The Role of Technology

In retrospect, Nigel admits that he was probably naïve in thinking that Totaljobs did not need a customer success platform. That was partly due to Totaljobs’ significant internal technology resource that builds all the platforms they use. Additionally, they had a rich partnership and deep use of the customer management software —Salesforce. So, they had the belief that they didn’t need CS technology. It didn’t take very long to discover the truth.

They began the process in a small way, with a director of customer success and about four Customer Success Managers (CSMs). Though they had the budget for more staff, they wanted to be pragmatic and purposeful. However, even with the small amount of CSMs, the impact of CS was becoming evident in survey results and other customer feedback almost immediately. Nigel and his team built off that proof.

During the initial phase, Nigel discovered that there were two things he needed to accomplish. One was the early indicators of CS. Most CS teams have established metrics for both companies and customers. What Nigel wanted to document and know was usage performance, both by the company and by individual users at those companies. To accomplish this feat, Nigel needed input from multiple data sources, centralized in one location to be utilized by CSMs for efficiency.

The second need to overcome was a CS practice model that incorporated both their high touch customers and the long-tail of smaller or tech-touch customers. Their existing system could not elevate the predictability of issues that enabled CSMs to respond promptly. Nigel believed it would be six months to a year before he needed to invest in a platform when it only took three months to realize this. And who did he choose as his CS technology partner? Gainsight!

Lessons Learned 

While we would love to share the rest of the story with all of Totaljobs glorious details with you, you need to listen to the entire webinar. Before you do, take these key takeaways with you.

  • Always follow stakeholders and advocates to their new place of employment. In this case, a sales director previously worked for a company that used customer success. Consequently, he introduced Totaljobs to Dan Steinman and customer success.
  • Customer Success is no longer meant for only the SaaS industry. Totaljobs is a marketing medium platform. Nonetheless, they realized they still needed to provide an amazing customer experience to keep them using the platform. 
  • Net Retention Revenue is your North Star. After everything Nigel and his team went through, it was proof that the business analytics team provided that the customer base was the least expensive source of revenue to cultivate and reap.