The reason Customer Success (CS) roles are growing so rapidly within the SaaS space is simple; engaged, happier customers lead to less churn and a stronger sense of customer loyalty. While it’s not always easy, creating an effective CS team to improve a customer’s experience and ensure their success in the product pays off in the long run.
But a strong team requires a clear vision and skillful leadership to guide them towards success. So how do you actually lead your team to a best-in-class customer experience?
Well, we’re covering the importance of the Customer Success team, why leadership is integral for success, and best practices for team management.
Let’s get started.
Customer Success is all about ensuring customers reach their desired outcomes using your product. A Customer Success strategy lays out the definition of success for your customers and how you’ll help them achieve that success.
The Customer Success plan is the roadmap that Customer Success teams use to operate. It helps ensure that the right resources are being delivered to your customers at the right time to get the most value from using your product.
CS is one of the biggest proponents of your customer’s growth strategy. A CS team is made up of Customer Success Managers (CSMs), whose main goal is to provide support for customers as they transition from the sales pipeline (prospects) to the support pipeline (active users). They generally focus on more high level issues, such as running a smooth onboarding process, directing customers to new areas of the product they haven’t checked out yet, or resolving issues that are blocking an upsell or renewal opportunity.
CSMs are typically held responsible for maintaining customer loyalty, upselling existing customers to new features within the product, fostering long-term relationships with their customers, and ensuring that their customers are achieving the goals they were looking to achieve when purchasing your product.
A strong CS strategy makes sure to lay out the vision for how a customer can use your product and associated resources to better achieved their goals and their individual measure of “success”.
So when do you start building the team?
Honestly, it should be something you’re thinking about right from the very beginning of founding your business. Even if you haven’t hired a CSM yet, it’s important to be paying attention to the CS strategy in the early stages of a company so you can understand how customers should move through the various lifecycles stages.
As the success team represent an integral part of the business, it’s important they have strong leadership and a clear vision of how to achieve individual and team-wide success. That’s where team leads come into play.
As a team lead or manager, your job is to develop a strategy and coordinate the team around common goals. With proper training, oversight, communication, and vision, you can cultivate productive and motivated employees, who guide customers and grow the business.
Not only does investment in employees grow your business from a customer perspective, but it creates a better working environment, which protects the business from unnecessary employee turnover. Effective team leads will have a clear understanding of responsibilities, implement organizational goals, regularly check-in with their team, and be open to receiving feedback from their team.
With that in mind, let’s get into some best practices for team success.
Creating a strong CS team requires planning, care, and well thought out strategy. Different strategies are going to work better for some companies compared to others. Factors like size, stage, and industry of the company will affect what works and what doesn’t as well, but generally speaking, here are six steps to help you create a winning success team.
The first step in creating a strong CS team is to determine the vision the team is actually working towards accomplishing. This should include both short and long-term goals for projects, the team, and the overall organization.
A CS team doesn’t live in a vacuum and has an impact on every department, so it’s important to consider how your team’s strategy aligns with product, support, and sales to ensure that each team has the necessary information and resources to excel at delivering the best customer experience possible.
Once you set the vision, the next step is to clearly communicate that vision and the necessary steps expected of your team to achieve those goals.
Miscommunication around tasks, deadlines, and goals creates confusion and stress for the team, making it more difficult for them to assist customers and negatively impacting customer satisfaction.
It's also vital that bi-directional communication between yourself and the team, as well as between your team and customers, is happening.
Listen to emerging trends and concerns your team may bring up around customer needs and workplace culture.
Moreover, encourage team collaboration so that people can learn from each other and work more cohesively on team projects. This creates a happier work environment and a more focused team.
Make sure to clearly outline who owns what project and accounts, who's responsible for which activities, and best practices for project handoffs so everyone can manage their time and expectations.
The more your team can proactively address customer needs and issues that arise throughout the customer experience, the smoother your process will be long-term.
As your product and business continue to grow, playbooks are an excellent guide for success teams to build upon and expand to make their daily lives easier and more efficient.
Playbooks are an internal list of reactive, proactive, and best practice activities to be carried out by your CSMs. This allows teams to create repeatable, scalable strategies for customer success at every stage of the customer journey; there's less room for individual error and a clearer definition of when and how to engage with your customers.
If you're leading a Customer Success team, you'll be responsible for collecting, tracking, and analyzing a number of important metrics for your team.
You'll want to keep tabs on every CSM's performance and portfolio of accounts.
Tracking each CSM's task completion is a simple way to ensure that the team is taking the right actions at the right time to drive Customer Success. It's also a great way to understand which team members may need additional help handling their assigned customers.
Quickly assess the number of accounts and current revenue associated with the accounts that each CSM is responsible for so you can assign new accounts accordingly.
Identify whose accounts are showing risk indicators or have upcoming renewals so you can strategize around them as a team.
A culture of transparency around team metrics is vital to understanding failures and celebrating wins.
There's no such thing as a one-and-done success strategy. As your team grows, the product changes, and the market shifts, you'll have to take stock of what processes work, which ones need tweaking to become more successful, and which ones are no longer relevant for your team.
Then, use key performance indicators, customer experience metrics, and customer feedback to evaluate the ongoing success of your team and make strategic decisions around your long-term goals.
Attention to individual and team-wide metrics allows you to proactively intervene when necessary to retain customers and drive customer satisfaction with your product.
User Success is a business strategy that focuses on driving deeper user engagement by personalizing the entire customer experience. By viewing users as individual humans instead of accounts, User Success allows your team to deeply understand key users in ways that matter most to your team. You can leverage these insights on user personas to create speciality playbooks, quickly identify risk indicators and opportunities for expansion, so that your team can ensure that your users get the most value out of your product, remain loyal to your product, and open new stream of growth.
Building a success team takes a great deal of care and attention, but the pay off in terms of productive employees and loyal customers is always worth the effort. Use customer metrics and feedback to track how effective your overall strategies are and how well your individual team members build relationships and retain customers. By investing in your team, you're investing in the long-term success of your customers and your company.