Customer Service is not something you did but something you do

In the early days, this was a matter of identifying and developing an overall customer onboarding and retention strategy.  These were some the successful early initiatives born out of a highly data-driven and proactive Customer Service team:

  • Power Hour Call: once-a-month group calls with customers in which they’d help each other with their challenges.
  • Yammer Customer Network: a place where customers can hang out and help solve each other’s problems, with the customer success team acting as facilitators and connectors.
  • Network Health Score: a method for identifying areas where customers want to spend more time developing, potential opportunities to use Yammer more, and identifying the unique ways users are naturally using the product and promote that to other users.

These kind of programs were developed out of studying key details around usage, adoption and user behavior. But more importantly, they criss-crossed lines and departments (marketing, support) to ensure early adoption and growth at their company.

Support the Support team

In the subscription economy, customer success requires reliable customer support and vice versa. Some companies like to operate separate teams, it’s just as practical to merge the two. Whatever their form, success and support are meant to co-exist.

“Customer success doesn’t start with a problem. It starts when the customer joins.”

That’s why anyone working in a customer success role needs to know their customers inside and out. What have been issues in the past? What have people complained about? Where do they face blockers? These are the kind of things customer success people need to understand intimately. The best candidates have already been working in company support for a number of years. They’re are intimately familiar with both company and customers.

That experience is especially valuable if they:

  • Work 1-on-1 with bigger customers or taking more involved cases off the hands of busy customer support teams.
  • Work with product managers to ensure customer data and feedback collected by support is built into future releases.
  • Design/build out the knowledgebase
  • Develop documentation for tech teams
  • Develop best practice guidelines for the support team

Customer success “owns the customer from point of inception (sometimes pre-close) all the way through the entire life and lifecycle of the customer.” These are the sort of pieces customer success people can put together behind the scenes to help customer support work smarter, not harder.

This makes for a nice career path at your company too. Progressing from support to a more tailored role in customer success could ensure that you’re creating value over the long-term for your own team as well as for customers. It’s a perfect next step for support reps who love what they do.

How should you structure your success team?

The way you implement a customer success structure depends on a number of variables, and every company takes the approach that’s right for them. Gainsight breaks down five major ways to structure a CSM role:

Firefighter CSM

Typically found in early-stage companies where Customer Success is responsible for support, renewals and other post-sales activities.  The good news here is that CSM is the “one-stop shop” and can ensure a great client experience.  The bad news is that this model is hard to scale and places more pressure on the team to find the right candidate for the role.

Sales-Oriented CSM

Typically found in companies with a low level of product complexity and a competitive sales and renewals focus. In this model, Customer Success is aligned to revenue and is responsible for identifying up-sell.  The challenge is that the focus is less on the customer, and can carry a negative “sales-y” perception amongst the customers.

Service-Oriented CSM

Typically found in more mature companies with medium levels of product complexity.  The pros are that Customer Success is aligned to customer needs as well as the rest of the service organization.  The cons are less revenue alignment and an increase in touchpoints with the client.

Integrated CSM

Typically found in companies with moderate levels of product complexity and are in hyper-growth mode.  In this model, the Chief Customer Officer “owns” existing customers and keeps the sales team focused on closing new business.  It requires a very versatile CCO and success will depend on the maturity of the organization.

Partnership CSM

Typically found in companies with very complex products and a competitive sales and renewals organization.  The good news is that Customer Success can be very customer-focused while maintaining alignment with renewals sales.  The danger is that some levels of effort duplication are inevitable.  Also, quantifying ROI becomes difficult in this model.

Offering the personal support of a customer success manager is also a ready-made, premium feature for SaaS companies. giving you the opportunity to present (and upsell) three different levels of service – support, success and the personal attention of an account manager.

This is the other, less newsworthy appeal of customer success. Even if your customers never once require more than a single call with your customer support team, it proves you’re still a step ahead. A proactive customer success team working behind the scenes made that possible. For both you and your customers, it’s a win-win.

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