Startup Blueprint for CSM
What is customer success management?
Outdoing the competition in today’s business world can be a real challenge. It’s hard to know which strategies to follow, and always important that you stay up to date on the newest trends and changes. The competition surely does. So, what should you do to go the extra mile and see real, sustainable results? Our advice to any startup is to invest in and practice customer success management; keep it close to your company’s central values. This is one of the most popular emerging growth opportunities in business today, across all industries.
Hubspot defines customer success as:
“Customer success is anticipating customer challenges or questions and proactively providing solutions and answers. Customer success helps you boost customer happiness and retention, thus increasing your revenue and customer loyalty.”
A solution as simple as keeping your clients engaged and happy usually has a huge impact. Is it always possible, or even worth it? The answer is yes, according to many accounts. Sixteenventures interprets customer success as, “When our customer achieves their desired outcome through their relationship with us.” Additionally, their definition of customer success management makes this an easier concept to visualize.
“Operating within the context of our relationship with the customer, these are the people, processes, workflows, data, and systems used to move the customer toward their ever-evolving desired outcome.” The secret to great achievement in this formula involves every tool and data available to you. Truthfully, it involves more than strong customer service teams and a fantastic product; customer success is made possible by tools, data, protocols, information, and so much more behind-the-scenes work.
This comprehensive take on managing customers’ satisfaction is useful for many reasons. Another important fact is that the desired outcome, your target, is always moving. Ignoring these areas of information and the business opportunities they make possible is a rookie mistake. There are many phenomenal systems and appliances which are designed with startups in mind, to help you organize, streamline, and boost you up to the next level. Check out some of our other articles for ideas.
Furthermore, customer success management itself is understood as overseeing the startup’s customer success; qualified, friendly representatives, as well as a proactive strategy to “assist, delight, and retain customers,” as Hubspot puts it, are key. A customer success manager might report to a senior manager or someone similar, but their principal function is to lead the people who work with customers on a daily basis. When hiring, be absolutely sure that this person is a responsible leader and team player. Their talents, or lack thereof, might make or break your business in the long run.
“Customer success (CS) managers have a few key responsibilities:
- To ensure representatives are helping customers get the most out of the product or service — thus increasing the likelihood of retaining those customers.
- To hire, train, and motivate CS representatives on engagement and retention best practices as well as product or service specificities.
- To develop the organization’s customer success strategy to actively engage and retain customers.
- To lead the development of any supporting content and materials needed by CS representatives” (hubspot).
The moral of the story is that one of the most viable ways to retain business and expedite your company’s achievements includes having a stellar customer service team and manager to ensure that the customers leave shining reviews. Not to mention, you should be using the plethora of tools and models at your disposal to retain customers, create positive relationships with them, and follow an overall path to success.
What is its origin story?
Software as a Service (Saas) is the origin of customer success. Just think about the myriad of digital software services which help people to get jobs done. You are likely already very familiar with customer success from the customer side of things. To use these aforementioned software services, the user pays a recurring term fee, often a monthly or yearly fee.
Another important aspect is that the users also have the ability to “cancel anytime,” giving them an indispensable sense of control and a higher level of satisfaction. Through extensive customer success trial and error in many sectors- but very surely in the SaaS realm- this subscription economy keeps companies on their toes. “You must continually prove to the customer that they’re making the right decision to do business with you” (typeform).
A whopping 85% of customers are willing to hand over more cash in exchange for a better customer experience, according to Typeform. Those are some great odds to convince any company to invest in its customer service management. People aren’t truly interested in your product. Likewise, they desperately want their problems to be solved, and that’s where customer success comes in.
Historically, the Saas companies were the first to have a good vision of the power which customer success has. It brings a strong capacity to provide two essential things; people always want a fix for their problems (utility) and to be treated well (a positive user experience). More happy and loyal customers mean less churn. Lowering your churn rates simultaneously increases your business’s bottom line.
Retaining customers is significantly more economically friendly than attempting to acquire new customers, as Hubspot points out, so you’ll see revenue growth. They are huge advocates for customer success, saying: “Customer success has the power to help you grow your base of advocates and promoters. If you’re a subscription-based business, this will help you boost renewal rates.” No wonder SaaS and other companies cross-industry have become such big fans of implementing better customer success management.
Why is customer success important?
First of all, let’s discuss exactly how customer success works, as outlined by Hubspot. There are three main factors necessary for an effective customer success plan. The first element is a customer success solution such as a tool or software. Fielding all of the interactions you have with customers is a lot of work and can spin out of control very quickly if your startup is experiencing high growth. In order to proactively manage communication, some tools and/or software are a must!
Secondly, you should look into hiring and training a customer success team. You’ll want at least one person working solely on customer success because it can make such a difference in the future of your business. The number of representatives and managers will depend on the size of the business and available resources.
Lastly, a customer success strategy is essential to this venture. Write it out with the market and do your research; you’ll have the potential to blow the opposition out of the water. These are just a few ideas, but it’s beneficial to have the right people on your team
Forbes says that: “Customer success (CS) is one of the most critical functions of a startup, especially a business-to-business (B2B) software-as-a-service (SaaS) startup. Your startup’s success depends on educating and keeping customers — exactly what CS professionals are equipped to do. Moreover, when your CS team does its job well, customers turn into advocates, each referring new customers to your business.”
Who’s at the head of a customer success team? The manager. Forbes recommends hiring an experienced customer success manager; it’s a good idea to hire someone who has scaled in this way at a company similar to yours, from where your company sits, all the way through the initial public offering (IPO).
However, Forbes admits that,
“In truth, it’s easier to find a needle in a haystack than to find this mythical ideal hire.”
Although it is difficult to find someone who has familiarity with similar products, the sales model, implementation and expansion strategy, etc, it is not impossible. Hopefully hiring someone with sufficient quality experience will set your business up for success with its customers.
To reiterate, customer success leads directly to overall success. Customer success is linked to your bottom line. Having it helps you reduce churn rates. You’ll also be improving user renewal and satisfaction rates, and in turn, boosting your company’s revenue. It’s an all around win! This is actually one of the reasons it’s so popular right now. Everyone gains when customer success is prioritized.
Hubspot lists four main pieces of advice to follow for higher chances of achievement.
- Educate your customers: You should be able to anticipate the questions that will come up in relation to your product or service. To ensure that they’re not waiting on hold always, empower your customers through education about your product. Answer common questions on a detailed website page or through other means. This will help your users feel their needs are met.
- Onboard your customers: Don’t underestimate the value of providing support throughout the initial segments of your users’ experience with your brand/product. Give them the proper training, instructions, tools, resources, etc. so that they won’t be left with dozens of uncertainties. Onboarding customers is a fantastic way to introduce yourself and get them acquainted with your product. It also gives you the chance to answer their questions before they arise.
- Communicate with other teams: Another rookie mistake is heavily separating the departments of a company. Successful teams company-wide have open lines of communication amongst themselves. They help you provide to your customers. One important department to work closely with is marketing; create blogs, video content, etc. to explain how a product or feature works, or to research useful data on social media or through email.
- Promote customer loyalty: Are your customers satisfied and 100% sure that they’re benefitting from their investment? Loyalty results from a customer’s positive experiences with your business. Get creative with how you promote customer loyalty. It will give you brand advocates and promoters, which have a direct impact on customer retention rates.
Who needs customer success?
A good rule of thumb is that if you have customers, you should be investing in an organized customer success strategy. Recently, it’s become more expensive and competitive to obtain new customers. Therefore, focus on the existing customers you have and they will become your business’s advocates in their circles.
Customer success leads to business success. If you are a subscription-based business, happy customers will rocket your renewal rates upwards. Plus, happier customers means they will become loyal to your brand and be much more likely to recommend your product to their friends, coworkers, family, etc. which is all good for your business!
“Some of today’s most successful emerging and growing companies are already investing in customer success. In fact, growing companies are 21% more likely than their stagnant counterparts to prioritize customer success,”says Hubspot.
Keep in mind that a startup succeeds when its clients succeed, in any field. Ensure that your customers are consistently content with your product or service. You can achieve this through creating and maintaining a customer success program at your company. Make sure that your customers feel supported in any way possible. Also, start building this relationship from the very first interaction, to ensure loyalty and help them trust in you.
Who are the players in a customer success organization?
Regardless of which stage your startup finds itself in, strategic customer success management is an essential piece to the puzzle. Forbes has outlined a useful roadmap of the type of main players you’ll need to consider for this business-boosting endeavor:
- Generalists: If your startup is at an early stage, a sort of jack-of-all-trades is the wisest hire. Your company needs someone flexible and independent to think strategically, manage all the things that arise on the daily, and work proactively for the future. Look for a generalist who builds connections with customers while they spearhead social media interactions and analyze trends. They should be able to turn customer feedback into real results, scale support, and much more. As your customer service department expands, you can worry about people who specialize. However, early-stage startups will most likely thrive with a generalist.
- Life Learners: Working in customer success means that you have to be open to constant learning on the job. Natural curiosity about customers and the product are a plus. Early-stage startups might experiment with different methods when looking to find product-market fit. Hiring someone who is coachable and excited to learn as they go will almost guarantee their growth along with the company.
- Emotional Intelligence: The vast majority of successful customer service managers we’ve come into contact with express great emotional intelligence. It’s no surprise that dealing with customers and their emotions requires a high level of empathy and emotional control. Furthermore, since the overall mood of people who require customer support is often negative, hiring a mindful, tough manager is a foresightful move.
- Leadership: Hire someone who can lead your future customer service department with passion and responsibility. When leading the department, they’ll need to keep a mindset of heavy documentation in order to continue their achievements by scaling them and teaching it to others.
By focusing on hiring these types of people, those who will give their max effort in the task at hand, you’re setting up your business to see huge positive changes.
Framework for creating a customer success strategy
So, with so much information and planning to do, where do you begin? As Typeform shares, this all starts with a mindset. Transfer your essence from selling a product or service, to providing value. A true customer-centered business takes persistence and dedication; a “long-term game built on mutual benefit.” —a shift from selling a product to delivering value. It is dedication to creating a truly customer-centered business.
It’s a long-term game built on mutual benefit. By helping users enjoy and take value from your product, by providing superb customer support at all times, and by proactively reaching out to them with solutions, you will positively impact customer retention and overall growth.
Let’s review seven important steps to reach your goals, compiled by Typeform:
- Design experiences through proactive engagement
- The current customer journey has many more milestones than before. You, the provider, have to prove yourself at every stage and in many facets. Focus on understanding your customers; who are the people you’re marketing to? What problem do they need fixing? What are their expectations and motivations? Based on that information, work on facilitating the ideal user experience.
- Have a conversation
- Lasting relationships start with communication. Treat your everyday interactions like good-natured conversations. Think about how you want to appear in your customers’ eyes. What medium and content is most effective? How do you come across as professional but also friendly? Remember, they’re humans; you can treat them correspondingly.
- Use feedback to your advantage
- Utilizing data collected through the forms of cookies, surveys, conversations, etc. will improve retention, reduce churn, and drive growth. The first step in retaining customers is to know the reasons they’re leaving. Similarly, growth comes through understanding why the most loyal and highest valued customers pay what they pay. The most viable information you have at your disposal is feedback.
- Develop an all-star customer success team
- Who should I hire? How should the team be structured? How will I go about the onboarding and training processes? Remember, this department is most successful with a great customer success manager.
- Designate the important metrics
- Surprise: customer success is data-focused. Data and how you use it can make a huge difference in your business’s achievement. Decide what is essential and beneficial to measure, and then which part you want to focus on. What’s your end goal to discover or reach? “Oh, and make sure you understand how it all fits into the bigger goal: increasing net retention, or reducing net MRR churn (psst, they’re the same thing),” says Typeform.
- Get the right tools
- The days of email and spreadsheet organization are over. In today’s day and age, managing support tickets, staying active with outreach, and administering accounts require many tools to maintain. Proper technology, software, services, etc. will allow you to observe your users’ profiles more accurately. Countless behaviors, such as keystrokes, seconds spent on a certain task, behaviors, and more are now being tracked on so many digital platforms. You can use it to your business’s advantage! Companies which leverage this data and keep in touch are more able to provide their customers with good care.
- Connect to find out
- “Feedback from tickets and analytics from product use are great sources of insight. But to know what your customers really think and feel, you’ve just got to ask. Customer feedback, NPS surveys, and exit surveys are your best friends” (Typeform).
We’ve included some more information as you’re establishing overall traits and paths to follow: some factors to keep in mind when hiring your first customer service manager. First, think about your product. How complicated is it? Does it require specialty knowledge to fully comprehend? Forbes says that they have
“found that while no specific expertise is necessary, experience with how businesses contract with freelancers and vendors makes the steep product learning curve much more manageable.”
Secondly, what are the market’s characteristics? Do your customers speak a certain lingo? Perhaps if your business works with finance leaders, for example, the hires you make would preferably have vast knowledge about accounting; it correlates with working with contractors and vendors. You should make your hires pending largely on their background in relevant industries and your business market.
Next, what will your pricing model look like? Forbes advises that “very expensive products with a high-touch sales model will probably require high-touch customer success. “Freemium” products relying on product-led growth, self-service education, and low-touch sales will likely require someone who can more quickly operationalize and scale CS.”
Let’s say you’ve got a great product, and the following step is implementation. How readily do your customers see value? Is onboarding similar for everyone, or does it differ as a result of the specific situation each customer presents? If it does vary, someone who asks the right questions when creating the onboarding/implementation process would be an asset. Also, a passion for and/or experience in consulting are often good expertise to seek out.
Then, your company is surely trying to expand. What exactly does that mean to you? Selling more licenses or services? Adding more expensive features and higher-level plans? Different qualities are necessary for diverse success strategies. Still, Forbes advises “hiring someone data-savvy enough to segment customers appropriately to identify and pursue potential expansion opportunities.”
The last consideration to have is the company structure. Who will your customer success leader report to? Be intentional about the order of things. Where the customer success manager sits in the rankings will send a message to your employees and customers about how you view the customers.
How will you know when your customer success is… successful? You can set up and track milestones! These include, for example, action or event which marks a significant change or step of the customer’s journey towards their ever-evolving desired outcome. According to Sixteenventures, success milestones are made with four things in mind:
“Functional – Actions are taken in the product.
Operational – Actions supported/enabled by the product.
Tactical – Event or Stage change supported by the operational progress.
Strategic – Their big WHY.”
All in all, if your startup is searching for an updated way to boost revenue and retain more customers (one and the same), use the tips in this article to get started on the right foot!
Never underestimate the power of prioritizing customer success through the right tools, teams, and management.