For a long time, proactive vs reactive was a common debate among Customer Success professionals. Now, the verdict is in, and everyone agrees that proactive Customer Success Managers (CSMs) are best positioned to drive value and deliver a better customer experience.
But when you’re an early-stage company, proactive management is difficult without the right resources and tooling.
Early-stage companies have started to create a decent customer base. However, they’re constantly iterating—the product roadmap is in flux, and the customer base is in flux.
The earlier you bring in Customer Success, the easier it is to tackle those challenges. At Pulse Europe 2023, Fiona Sibley, Head of Customer Success at Vertice, explained several best practices for implementing Customer Success in early-stage companies. Here are the highlights.
Realities of an Early-Stage Company
Customer Success is rarely formed in the earliest days of a new company; usually Product, Marketing, Sales, and Finance all come first. When Customer Success is finally brought on board, they face a common set of challenges:
Lack of Data
In the early days of a product, decisions aren’t being made based on real customer feedback. After all, if you only have a few customers, what data do you actually have?
Undefined Customer Experience
Processes for onboarding, adoption, and every other stage of the customer journey are not in place, or at least, not documented and standardized.
Customer Success is not the responsibility of one team, it’s a company-wide effort. Other teams could be working in silos and not collaborating to put the customer first.
Often, early-stage companies have budgets and revenue targets already in place before Customer Success is created. That means your budgets have already been allocated, and your ability to hire CSMs or purchase tools may be limited. You’re also competing with other functions for budget.
Why Be Proactive?
In this challenging environment, being proactive can put Customer Success in the driver’s seat. But what does being proactive really mean? What are the benefits?
- Control over the customer experience. If you proactively anticipate a customer’s problem, you can control it. And then actually build a plan to solve it before it becomes a real issue.
- Customer relationships. Customers would much rather you come to them with solutions first instead of having to constantly come to you with questions and complaints.
- Company morale. Startups are stressful and chaotic. Proactivity helps generate a sense of well-being that a plan is in place, giving everyone a sense of mission.
How to Be Proactive
Here’s a look at four considerations for proactive CS.
- Data. If you can have access to the data and you can gather meaningful insights, then you’ll be able to have a greater understanding of who your customers are, what their goals are, and whether they’re achieving them.
- Resources. You need the right people in place with the right skills and the right knowledge—but you also need to give them time. They need to have bandwidth to engage meaningfully with customers.
- Tooling. In the early stages, you are typically stuck managing Customer Success with spreadsheets. Moving to a solution like Gainsight enables your team to be more efficient and proactive in terms of risk management, renewals, cross-sells, and developing a health score.
- Culture. Creating an internal culture of proactivity will make it easier to collaborate and put the customer first in every aspect of the customer lifecycle. Sales, Product, and every other function should understand the customer experience so they can proactive optimize it alongside Customer Success.
How to Get Leadership Buy-in
In the early stages, when Customer Success is first being established, support and buy-in from executive leadership is crucial. There are many ways to approach this, but first and foremost is demonstrating to them that a satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.
This might seem really simple, but it’s highly important for an early-stage company because you’re trying to show your investors and the wider marketplace that there’s value delivery and that your company actually solves a problem. A satisfied customer is proof positive that your business is onto something.
A Balancing Act
Being proactive is really important, but it can be freakishly hard. You won’t be able to be proactive against everything—it’s a balancing act. You want to be forward-looking, but pick your priorities carefully and focus on them first.
In early-stage companies, the situation is constantly changing, and a proactive approach will help you stay ahead of the game. Most of all, it will help you stay positive. Not only will that help Customer Success, but it will also help the wider company.
Learn more about how Gainsight can help early-stage companies establish Customer Success. You can also watch the full presentation from Pulse Europe 2023: How to Be a Proactive CS Function When You’re an Early-Stage Company.