Customer Success is the new trend worldwide and many SaaS and non-SaaS companies are now discovering the challenge of global expansion. This is brand new territory for most businesses, with very little guidance and expertise available.
I have been working for many years now successfully building and developing Customer Success teams across Europe and I can tell you this is a lot of fun.
Managing Customer Success is hard by nature when doing it in one country, one language and one culture with different time zones but on this side of the pond, we add a couple of layers of complexity!
I have had several conversations and debates with my peers here in Europe and we all have the same challenges:
- Where do you base your Customer Success Managers (CSM)? Centrally or locally?
- How do you on-board the new comers? And how do you deliver regular training and updates?
- What skills are important? What are you looking for in a CSM?
There is no one size fits all answer to those questions. It very much depends on your product, its complexity, your market penetration, your company culture and your client portfolio. Hence the fun: it is up to us Customer Success Executives to put the plan together.
I was a little taken aback a couple of weeks ago when I spoke to a great Customer Success expert and his setup in Europe: his entire Customer Success team is based in Berlin and manage his client base remotely. But then he explained why he could afford it and it all made sense: his client base is very much SMB, with a relatively low Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR). He confirmed that onsite meetings are not required and are very rare.
This probably simplified the matter for him since his key challenge is "only" to find talented people in Berlin, where there are a lot of great talents from all over the world.
But what if you have several mid to large size clients spread across Europe? You will have to run QBRs, monthly catch-up or even weekly operational meetings. You could use videoconference and phone meetings as an alternative, but in my experience they are not as efficient as a face-to-face meeting.
It may be cultural but with most Europeans, a good old-fashioned sit down meeting will make your customer management a lot more successful.
As a summary here are five things to think about when starting CSM in Europe:
- Liaise closely with your sales team to have a clear view of your target markets / countries
- Know your target customers to anticipate if they will require regular on-site meetings
- Prepare your Customer Success strategy and framework to know what resources you will require in the region
- Look for CSMs who are highly mobile, curious, even adventurous and most probably bilingual at the very least! Then, whether you base them in one central location or in local offices will largely depend on your local presence. If your team is mobile and can adapt, this will soon be less of an issue.
- Finally, as a last word of wisdom, you should not enter Europe without having carefully thought about your Customer Success management, since the fun and the challenges could very quickly turn into problems and headaches. It would be a real shame to lose the fun of doing Customer Success on the old continent!