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3 Tips for Evolving Your Customer Success Strategy as your Company Evolves

by | Jul 19, 2019

Are you curious about how to scale Customer Success when your company is in different stages of its evolution? Are you interested in learning how to prepare for hyper-growth situations? You’re just in luck! The Customer Success Leadership Network has a few tips for you! We hosted one of our infamous CS Executive Meet Ups at Autodesk just a few months ago, where Irene Lefton, CS Executive and Author, moderated a discussion with Giri Iyer, SVP of Global Customer Support and Success at Rubrik and Sheri Kahn, SVP of Product & Solutions Marketing at Medallia about this very topic. And I (Lauren Costella, VP of Customer Success for Medrio) am absolutely thrilled to summarize their three biggest scaling tips.

Before we jump in, perhaps it makes sense to start with some background about our speakers and their companies. Giri is a 29 year veteran of the services industry. He started with Rubrik when they were merely 20 customers & 165 employees. Within a few short years, they’ve grown to 1500 people globally! Meanwhile, Sheri is a Marketing and Customer Communications veteran, and while she joined Medallia only 14 months ago, the company has been around for 18 years, and she aptly points out how important it is to evolve your strategy and communication approach as your company changes, especially when it moves from hyper-growth to something more moderate and sustainable longer term.

Such juxtaposition in company makeup would lead us to believe that Giri and Sheri would have very different points of view about scaling Customer Success, and yet, both were in absolute agreement about a few things for ensuring scaling success. So without further ado, here are the top three things to think about as you bring your Customer Success department to the next level.

Tip 1: Cross Department Collaboration and Shared Metrics are Essential

In the words of Sheri, “Customer Success is owned by everyone” and this theme could not be truer as you scale a company. Both Sheri and Giri talked about the critical importance of ensuring that Customer Success is part of the very fabric of the organization. If it’s not in the DNA, it’s going to be an uphill battle. 

What are some ways to encourage Customer Success as part of the DNA? Cross-department collaboration, shared goals, and joint metrics of course! For example, teams could share customer satisfaction metrics or product adoption or sales expansion metrics. The point here is that mutual goals allow teams to rally and work together to achieve them. 

Giri and Shari also talked about how their Customer Success teams are not chartered to drive sales, rather, help customers realize outcomes; therefore, they have a cross-functional responsibility to engage all areas of the organization for feedback. As the single voice for the customer, it makes it easier to share information back to these other areas of the company. In addition, CSMs and CS represent the “brand” and as that conduit, they must ensure the customer’s voice is represented internally, and the brand is represented externally. Given this incredibly important charter, the importance of cross-team collaboration is critical for success. What are you doing about cross-team collaboration?

Tip 2: Building your Hiring Bench (CS makes great internal hires) & Employee Engagement
In fast-growing companies, nothing is more important than filling critical positions. During hyper-growth, everyone feels the pain of having too much on the plate and not enough bodies to execute. And while the struggle in managing everything is very real, the pain of hiring incorrectly or promoting too early can also present issues.

Giri and Shari both agree that it’s never too late to build that bench! Make sure that you’re always looking for great talent. In fact, you may be able to find that talent internally! For Shari, she found her best Customer Marketing folks by turning to the Professional Services team. They know the product, they know customers, and they can speak to the value of the product with the customer point of view in mind.

And cultivate the talent you have. Shari and Giri express with great enthusiasm the importance of engaged employees. When your employees are engaged, they do a better job when they engage with customers. You can engage your employees through training and enablement and opportunities for growth. Onboarding internal employees is fantastic (and obviously essential), but beyond that, you need to think about ongoing training. Too often, this is forgotten, especially in hyper-growth stages because everyone is “too busy” trying to do everything. Don’t fall into this trap! Make sure you make time for employees to continue to learn and grow!

But even with a great bench and training, great teams for scale need further enablement, which leads me to our last tip.

Tip 3: Enable CSMs through Content, Tools/Software, and Automation
Once you have that talent, keep it!! You’ve spent time and energy to bring the talent in, and engage them, but if you can’t support their work properly or if you overburden them to the point of burn out, you will lose them!

Giri talked about the importance of complementing the people skills with content, tools and automation. Content is critical, and he described how he always hires a trainer/content person early so that he/she can train not only customers but can also continuously train the internal team to keep them up to date. Tools also provide for a different level of customer support and success. For example, product data can be harnessed to trigger alerts to notify CSMs when things start to go wrong or when things are going great (hello upsell) for customers. This kind of automation leads to an exceptional level of efficiency, which means CSMs can do more and customers can benefit from better proactivity. A win-win.

When teams have only email or excel, there’s not only a limit to what they can handle, but there’s also an inability to effectively manage customers. Be sure to include software tools and resources as part of your investment strategy into the team.

And don’t forget, enablement doesn’t have to just be with “tools” as Shari points out. She reminded us of the Ritz hotel chain gives all of their employees $2K per year to give the customer a great experience. This “enablement” allows employees to make great choices on behalf of their customers, which ultimately leads to an amazing customer experience!

So there you have it; our top 3 tips for scaling a CS Team, but don’t take my word for it. Watch the meet up on YouTube! It was a fantastic event, and attend our next meet up on Thursday July 25th at Lucidworks in San Francisco, where you’ll have the chance to hear from Ajay Mishra, yours truly (Lauren Costella), and Shelly Muse! Don’t miss it!