Putting Customer Success Managers Where They Belong

Posted by Kenny S. on Sep 26, 2017, 8:00:48 AM

4 minute read

In my last few posts, I've spent lots of time on customer success (CS)—arguing about why businesses should spend their resources on dedicated CS staff and how to drive advocacy.

Today, I want to look at where to deploy your resources.

Thinking Early. Thinking Often.

One of the keys to make the most of CS management is to implement as early in the product development cycle as possible. Consider this handy chart:

Courtesy of Customer Success Association

 

Of course, you can’t divorce thinking early from thinking often. CS isn’t just a momentary blip in an otherwise customer-ignorant development process.

Instead, it’s a holistic process that touches every stratum of your business. Let’s look at three (or four) specific areas where CS has the most immediate impact.

Customer Success and Marketing/Sales

If you put customer success in the same conceptual bucket as customer service, then it’s hard to conjure up any fruitful links between the advertising folk and phone jockeys. After all, if customer success is about retention, then what should CS management say to employees who deal specifically in acquisitions?

Setting aside that conceptual mistake, let’s see how customer success and marketing actually help one another.

Marketing/Sales Helps Customer Success Management

Every customer journey has its rough patches. No product is perfect, and there are bound to be moments when customers get bogged down. For support staff, this translates to phone call after phone call of the same questions over and over.

What if, however, someone in the organization had the skills and access to develop and disseminate a guide designed to walk customers through the stickiest part of the customer journey?

Could the guys and gals in marketing pull that off? Yup.

Now, imagine if someone facilitated access to predictive analytics so that the folks in marketing could disseminate that guide at the precise moment in a customer’s journey when they needed it most.

That’d take a massive load off the customer service department, decrease the level of churn at that sticking point and, depending on how you play it, could provide an opportunity to up-sell or cross-sell the customer.

Does facilitating all that sound like a job for a CS manager? It sure does.

Customer Success Management Helps Marketing/Sales

This is a two-way street, of course.

Customer Success has its own treasure trove to contribute to the folks in marketing. According to Emilie Davis, the chief function of the CS team - at least as far as marketing is concerned - is to stockpile success stories. Why? Because selling is storytelling.

Davis is right. Your dedicated CS team has front row access to virtually every win your customers experience through your product. These wins are the stuff of marketers’ dreams, so why not leverage CS to keep them stocked with exactly what they need to sell more of your product?

Customer Success and User-Onboarding

Short story time.

I have a few digital marketing skills I want to work on, so the other day I enrolled in an online course. Within a few hours of signing up, I got a phone call from a customer success specialist. She wanted to know if I had everything I needed to get started. After that call, I received a follow-up email with a few helpful resources.

Now I know I’m special, but I’m not that special. I’m well aware that my name and contact info dropped into an automated system. I know someone almost mindlessly clicked a button to ring my cell.

But consider the alternative. What if I paid good money for this course and never heard a peep from anybody? Not the warmest and fuzziest way to start a relationship, is it?

The experiences that drive customer success are made up of this stuff. Dedicated CS staff do more than just “create” little moments in the customer journey. After all, anyone can pick up a phone.

Where they really add value is in walking the customer through their journey and identifying new moments and touchpoints to work back into the process for the future.

CS managers are your eyes and ears. Use them to learn what your customers are saying and design your business to truly meet their needs.

Customer Success and Customer Service

If CS and customer service are two different things (they are), then what relationship should they have to one another?

Falon Fatemi—CEO and founder of the AI platform Node—points to stronger feedback loops as a key contribution of CS. Why? Because in her organization, CS constitutes the vital link between the customer service and software engineering teams.

If you sever that link, then what do you have? For one thing, you have an engineering team who designs products based on perceived needs and desires, not actual ones. In that scenario, customer support shows customers how they should adapt themselves to the product—not the other way around.

But, when CS comes into the picture to facilitate communication between customer service and engineering, customer needs get a direct line into product development. Even better, unexpected customer use cases begin to shape your design and development in directions your team would never have thought of on its own. How valuable is that?

Throughout this article, you can’t help but notice that it’s impossible for customer success to interface with one department without bringing in others.

Marketing needed help from customer service. Customer service needed help from engineering. So where do Customer Success managers belong? The short answer? Everywhere.

That is the real beauty of a dedicated CS team. It’s their job to synchronize all of the company’s moving pieces to craft a customer experience that will maximize success, drive advocacy and amplify revenue.

Who doesn’t want that?


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