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Keri Keeling, CS Executive and member of the Customer Success Leadership Network (CSLN) governing council and Mark Pecoraro, Principal at CSLeadership, facilitated a live Zoom discussion on various customer success topics as the second session in a series of ongoing CSLN weekly helpline sessions. This is a generalized recap and summary of the questions and discussions that occurred during the session. 

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Question 1: What is the impact of COVID-19  on team members and customers?

Mark kicked off the first question addressing the impact on team members. Large companies could be having a more difficult time with collaboration than it seems. You cannot just start doing Zoom calls and call that collaboration. Routines and ceremonies and legacy enterprise software in large companies are not necessarily designed for remote collaboration. People are used to scheduling meetings and showing up in conference rooms and using whiteboards and looking at each other. 

Although you don’t want to re-create the conference room experience remotely, you do need to think about how you can bring people together to work on things. Working remotely, we can get caught up in the routine of attending a remote meeting (like a team meeting) and then after the meeting does solo work. Sometimes work needs to be done in teams, like brainstorming or working out processes or first drafts of documents. Figure out how to have working sessions remotely. These tend to get lost in a remote world. 

Keri addressed the impact on customers, and specifically, how to talk to customers during COVID-19. Ask yourself, “How can we segment our customers by who is and is not being impacted?” Some customers might be killing it because the demand for their products is going up. You should go after these customers and offer them something of more value that can help them even further. 

Other customer segments are struggling. You need to ask yourself, “How can we help these customers get through this?” Keri points out that you might not be in a position to help, but if you can, you should think about how you can help customers with extended renewals, change billing cycles to make it easier to pay, provide extensions, downgrade plans to address only what customers actually need for now. 

Be creative here. Your customers will remember. 

Question 2: How to capture and organize responses and feedback for a Voice of Customer program?

Mark offers a very practical response and ties it back to understanding the customer journey, suggesting you collect feedback at specific steps in the customer journey. NPS is useful in the broader context of a customer’s willingness to recommend your product and service. Transactional surveys are useful after specific interactions (after support inquiries, for example). Customer experience surveys are useful after milestones like on-boarding, QBRs, renewals, and new program implementations. Mark suggests being deliberate about what feedback mechanism you use and when you use it. 

Keri added an important question that we often overlook because we just assume we should be collecting feedback, “What do you want to get out of the feedback you seek?”

Keri reminds us that sometimes companies do surveys, and don’t do anything with the results. They don’t close the loop with customers. So often companies make the mistake of asking for feedback and then not going back to customers and saying, “We asked you for feedback. This is what you told us. And this is what we’re doing about it.”  or “we heard what you said but can’t take any actions right now, but we want to acknowledge your input”.

That’s a closed-loop. 

If you are not committed to closing the loop, just skip the feedback requests and all the surveys. It might do more harm than good. 

Question 3: How do you measure and report on Customer Success?

Mark wants you to be strategic about what you measure because what you decide to measure, depends on your team’s charter. 

Your mission. 

If your team is designed around account ownership and books of business, you should focus on measuring renewal rates, net revenue retention, and all the sales activity metrics it takes in those renewal sales cycles. Also, you will want to measure reasons for wins and losses. 

If your team is more service-oriented, you will measure metrics based on usage and engagement and satisfaction. Don’t forget about a time to value metric. Mark says this is often overlooked, and a successful on-boarding and realization of the first value is critical to the on-going relationship. Figure out your first value metric, measure the time it takes to get there, and then try to reduce that time as much as possible, 

Keri keyed in on the usage data, adding that you really need to watch what customers are actually doing. Usage is a sign. A predictor. This is also where you can work more closely with marketing. 

Marketing teams (good ones) have sets of value propositions that they communicate to the market. If you can take your usage data and map it to the value propositions it will provide insights, and allow you to identify whether customers are achieving those value propositions. For example, you might learn:
1) If the value propositions are the right ones; and
2) I your customers are achieving the value promised during the sales cycle. 

Both are key to acquiring ideal customers and seeing to it that customers are successful. Churn data fits here nicely, too, if you can correlate retention and churn with product use and whether or not your customers achieve value propositions, you have great insight.  

Mark reminded that usage doesn’t necessarily relate to value. This is why it’s important to link the use to the value propositions. You need to ask yourself, “Are customers really getting the business value that they bought the product for?”

Keri added: Value comes up in two ways 1) real, and 2) perceived. When customers lean on your CSMs as trusted advisors (perceived value), they begin to trust you. They believe they win because of your help. They get budgets and promotions because of you. Those customers will move with you.

 

Question 4: How does the customer lifecycle look after Sales closes the deal and hands off to customer success?

The answer to this question is about the need to have solid processes from pre to post-sale. In short: build playbooks. It’s all about the execution of the playbooks. By integrating this into a customer journey you can eliminate the “feel” of handoffs and make it smooth for your customers.

Question 5: Should CSMs meet in person and how often? 

Yes. Of course. You need to meet in person. As often as possible. Mark says facetime matters.  In the book From Impossible to Inevitable: How SaaS and Other Hyper-Growth Companies Create Predictable Revenue 2nd Edition by Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin, the authors talk so highly of in-person visits, that they go so far as to say customer success teams should have a goal to get badged from two customers per year because you are visiting so much. 

Do you have a badge for one (or two) of your customers’ offices? 

Obviously, in a COVID-19 world, this is not possible. When you can again, yes. Meet customers in person.

Question 6: How do you implement Tech touch at scale?

Keri weighed in with her usual “let’s-be-strategic-before-we-act approach” suggesting that before you start executing a tech touch program, you ask yourself, “What is our mission? What is the end game we are after?” The answer to these questions will define how to design your tech touch program, and how you will know whether it is successful. 

Keri also suggested that your tech touch design process is a great way to work with marketing. Marketing teams have automation software that makes it easy to communicate at scale. Get with your marketing team and work out how to set up automated emails based on milestones, triggers, and actions based on your customer journey.  Send customers helpful information and reminders at each point. Establish a consistent cadence of communication to customers with messages, webinars, emails, community interactions, workshops. And make them helpful. 

You might also consider a pooled approach in your tech touch program, much like a call center, but one that leverages triggers to inform who and how we reach out to customers. There is a risk it could turn into a reactive call center. The key is to figure out the triggers that will inform you when you should make proactive reach outs, so you don’t get caught up in waiting for customer requests to come in. 

Question 7: I want to pivot into customer success, what skills do I need? 

Mark focused his response on the need for domain expertise. In some industries, it is basically required. One approach you can take is to identify which industry you know well. Then go find software companies that support that industry. Once you’ve listed those software companies, you can plan your reach out to say to these software companies, “I know this industry well. I worked in it for 6 years. I did this job and that job. So, I know your customers well. I will be your customer success manager and help your customers use your software to improve their x, y, and z metrics. Metrics I had to achieve when I was a ____________.” 

Question 8: How can I position myself for customer success leadership (or more senior) roles?

Mark suggests you simply do more than is expected. Don’t say to yourself, “If they pay me more or promote me then I’ll do it.” Do it now. What more do you need to do? For starters, understand your goals and exceed them. Also, understand the company mission as a whole, and work to improve the entire company….not just your job. Think team. If someone across your team or outside of your team needs help, and you can help, volunteer to help. This is what leaders do. And people will notice. 

Keri piled on with the best advice I’ve heard in a long time. If your company doesn’t have a customer journey mapped. Map one. If there isn’t an escalation process. Create one. 

 

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