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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 […]
Customer success managers and leaders: Do any of these statements sound familiar to you? “The customer was upset during our kick-off because we asked them the same questions that the sales team had asked them before close.” “I’m not sure what Services actually implemented for this customer.” “No one scheduled the kick-off meeting yet; I thought that Sales or Services was responsible for that.” “This customer isn’t a great fit for us. There’s not a lot that I can do to help them.” If these sound familiar, you have an opportunity to improve the way that you work cross-functionally. You’re not alone; these are common problems for customer success teams, especially within fast-growing companies, in which organizational structures change frequently. The good news is that Customer Success is uniquely positioned within a company to drive cross-functional coordination. We’re accountable for customer retention and up-sell, which gives us a mandate to advocate for cross-functional processes that support the customer’s well-being. You’ll need 3 things to successfully work cross-functionally: People: Team members who design smart processes. At early stage companies, the leader of the CSM team can fill this role. As you scale, you’ll want to hire an operations manager. Process: Best […]
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Everyone in the Customer Success world is primarily focused on – in one form or another – monitoring and managing Customer Health. This is the one that everybody is talking about and thinking about. Everyone understands how important this is. And there’s a lot of information about customers that can help you understand and manage customer health… …but you have to be relentless about this! There is no way to retain customers unless you are relentlessly managing and monitoring how well they’re doing. Think about it this way – there’s a natural tendency for a customer and vendor to drift apart if there’s not any intervention. It’s like if you put two rowboats in a lake side-by-side with nobody in either boat. What’s the likelihood six hours later that those two boats are still side-by-side? It’s basically zero, right? There’s just a natural tendency for them to drift apart. This is true for customers and vendors as well. They start off with a good relationship. There’s a trust built up between the two parties. A contract is ultimately signed for the exchange of goods and/or services. The two rowboats in that particular case are side-by-side, but, over time, the winds […]
In the Customer Success world, the idea of handing-off a customer from one group to another is a big deal. Whether it’s from Sales to Onboarding or Onboarding to Customer Success, these handoffs can make or break the customer’s experience with you. I’ve even written about the less-often-discussed nailing of handoffs between Customer Success Managers (CSMs) during transitional periods. No matter what handoff we’re talking about, it is critical you nail it so your customers don’t fall through the cracks. That said, what I’m going to cover here is a little bit tactical, but it’s really, really important. In a recurring revenue business, most companies do a lot of handoffs. There’s almost no way to avoid it. Many have tried by assigning a quarterback – usually a CSM – to be the main point-of-contact for the customer throughout their lifecycle. This is a logical idea on the surface but it does not scale very well. And, as your product line gets broader and your products get more complex, the quarterback is forced to become a generalist and will end up not being very valuable to the customer. Customers will often even find a way around this person to get to someone […]
I think everyone who’s in this business gets it – there’s no rocket science here – in Customer Success, we must Obsessively Improve Time-to-Value; sometimes we say Time to First Value or TTFV. Whatever you call it, the important part of that sentence is “obsessively.” We have to have the same attitude in the post-sales world around time-to-value as a sales person has with regard to trying to close his deals. Let’s look at it from the perspective of a good Sales person. They’re driving home on Friday night at 5:30 looking forward to a cold beer or nice glass of wine. While they’re driving, the phone rings and it’s one of their prospects. It could turn into a long conversation and they know it. But they don’t hesitate to answer it because they know that every day, every minute, is critical. Every Salesperson in the world has a story about the deal they almost had closed and then something out of their control happened and it was lost. But, if they could have closed it the day before, it would have stuck. They live with the constant thought that today is THE ONLY day to close my deal. Every […]
Customer Success is not just an organization, but is really a philosophy and requires the whole company to be behind it. If that isn’t true, then the odds of being successful at this are pretty small because like most organizations, Customer Success does not live on an island. Retention truly depends on every part of the enterprise being aligned and working closely together. If you turn that thought around, you will also conclude that Customer Success should have an impact on every other organization. Which means, from a customer-facing standpoint, Customer Success starts with selling to the right customer. Now, this sounds like a no-brainer thing to do, but my point is that you have to think about customer success from the very beginning of your pipeline all the way to the end of the lifecycle of that customer. That has to start with to whom you market, and to whom you sell, because if you’re not selling to the right customers you will not be successful at retaining them. When I say “sell to the right customer” it’s not as easy as just saying let’s pick customers who are the perfect fit for us and only close deals with […]
I get asked all the time how you will know if your Customer Success initiative is, well, successful. First, you have to focus on your customers and remember that they have a desired outcome. Solve for that and know what it takes to get them there. Measure and monitor to ensure they’re successful along the way; the metrics you measure that are specific to them will become obvious once you understand all of that. Now, to answer the original question – though the point above is ultimately the basis for this answer – start by asking yourself what success looks like for your customer success organization. One Metric that Matters (plus others that also matter) It seems like such an obvious question – how do we know if our Customer Success initiative is successful – but the answers aren’t always obvious. In fact, the answers aren’t always static, either. They’ll change as your understanding of your customers, your organization, your views, etc. mature and evolve. It might be that you measure success on Net Revenue Retention (NRR) – simply boiling it down to whether in this time period we kept the same, more, or less dollars in revenue than the last time period. The […]
For many companies, implementing “customer success” processes and capabilities is a relatively new concept. SaaS companies have been the early adopters of institutionalizing customer success as a core function – Customer Success Managers at SaaS companies are focused day-to-day on driving renewals, increasing up-sell and cross-sell revenue, and managing their customers more proactively and efficiently. Companies like Gainsight help make those Customer Success Managers even better. But is customer success only specific to software and SaaS? We don’t think so. Customer success is a universal concept that can apply to any B2B company. Whether you call it customer service or support, account management, or renewals, if your goal is to build long-term, sticky, valuable relationships with your customers, then you’re in the business of customer success. One industry that could benefit from implementing customer success processes is hardware, specifically: Communications and networking companies Computer hardware companies Storage and data management companies Although hardware companies may not have usage data like SaaS companies, that shouldn’t be a deterrent in their mission to better understand customers. Instead, support data and regular customer surveys become valuable indicators of usage and customer health. Hardware companies can use Gainsight in several ways: Drive renewals on […]
I’m often asked what the best ways are to test whether you are satisfying customers, but I think those questions are actually misaligned with what we really should be focusing on. Before I go on, I have to say that I still say things like “make the customer happy” (even though I wrote this article) and “improve customer satisfaction” even though I believe – and live daily – what I’m about to tell you. And of course NPS – Net Promoter System – surveys and scores (which measures “customer satisfaction”) are a large part of how we measure and monitor our customers in the Customer Success world. All that said, I still believe we’re asking the wrong question when we’re asking how to “test for customer satisfaction” and to really move everything forward, we need to focus beyond Customer Satisfaction to real, true Customer Success. If Customer Success is all about being proactive – and it is – then reactively testing for Customer Satisfaction after the fact isn’t enough; we must be proactively measuring and monitoring for real Customer Success. Here are some ways to move to this way of thinking… Identify Desired Outcome The first thing to do is understand what makes your customer […]
One of my favorite Customer Success sayings is: “Not only is the customer not always right, they’re almost always wrong.” When Dan Steinman, Chief Customer Officer here at Gainsight, came up with that saying, he did so to be provocative and to make a point. Now, to bring it back around and put everyone at ease, we always follow it with this: “The art of being a great Customer Success Manager (CSM) is telling your customers that they’re wrong and having them LOVE you for it.” Okay, that’s better… but let’s explore this concept a bit deeper. The Challenger CSM If you’ve read a book called “The Challenger Sale“ you’ll understand what I’m talking about. The premise of the book is that the best sales people are the ones who challenge their customers, not just agree with them. This premise is 100% applicable to CSMs as well. Not only is it our right to challenge our customers, it’s our obligation. They’re paying us to guide them down the correct path. Remember that they are using OUR product, not theirs; so who’s better equipped to guide them in the best use of our product than us? CSM Confidence is Key Being a Challenger does call for a little […]