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5 keys to a Customer Success Dream Team

There’s been a lot of talk about who a customer success manager is, what sets them apart from account managers, and what they do. Let’s switch gears and discuss the things that are making these teams successful so others can learn from their examples.

1. The power to thrive and make decisions

Meagan Williams and Laurie Parish, two Customer Success Managers from Adlib Software, Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 1.50.15 PMshare that it’s very important that the Customer Success Managers are empowered to make decisions with adequate knowledge and influence. Because they are so in-sync with their customers, anything that is sent to their customers (e.g. marketing communications, demand gen efforts or product marketing content) is run past the customer success team to make sure the content is aligned and of value to the customers. They have the klout to pull in resources as needed to make sure they can accomplish their goal of being the voice of their customers. What’s the implication of this? They have upper management buy-in.

2. Pack mentality – we’re all in the same boat

pack-mentality-1When the support team at Skire came across a technical failure which potentially had millions of dollars at stake, the entire company rallied together while they hurried to get a fix. The responsibility of updating the customers who were affected by that issue did not rest solely on the customer success team but rather it was a team effort. Executives from Skire picked up the phone and contacted the executives from their customer companies and explained plainly what the problem was, what actions they were taking, and the time frame of resolution to manage expectations. If they had client partner, they were also in touch with their counterparts. “It’s important that when you hire someone, you hire them for their personality,” shares Bill Aker, “These are the people who will deal directly with your customers and you need someone who can take angry input, not take it personally, and turn it into something constructive.”

3. Implementing the real success plan

one_size_headlineIf your customer success team is responsible for helping your newest customers get onboarded, it’s important to understand who the actual end user would be and tailor the implementation accordingly. The end user could be someone who uses your product on a daily basis to assist and complement their workflow or it could be someone who only needs high level trends or data for making decisions like a CMO. A one-size-fits-all approach may be quite common, but taking the extra effort to understand who would ultimately be using your product is key to tailoring a real and effective success plan. (Hat tip to Dalia Asterbadi from realSociable for this nugget!)

4. Understanding the customer’s ecosystem

reef ecosystemWhat does it mean to understand the customer’s ecosystem? Customer success managers pride themselves in knowing what the customer needs and wants – they are the trusted advisors! To craft the real success plan, here are some questions the customer success team should consider:

  • What was the reason the customer purchased the product? What are their goals? (sometimes it helps to remind the customer too because they might forget the bigger picture — and this is what the team should work to help them achieve)
  • How does your product fit into their workflow? Is it a tool they use daily, weekly – what’s the frequency of use?
  • Is your product integrated with other tools they use? If so, how do they use it?

5. Visibility at the bottleneck of change

bottleneckBoth Dennis Hennessy (from Nasuni) and Josey Wydrinski reiterate that customer feedback and requests cannot fall on deaf ears. Dennis’ head of engineering sees customer feature requests put in by the customer success team in real time — and once a quarter (outside of their usual touch points) the product team will review the top hot button items. Josey’s team can sometimes help escalate the development of some of the needed enhancements for the pressing needs of their customers. Want to have and maintain happy references? Your team needs to have visibility at the right places.

When your customer success team has the insights to step right into the customer’s shoes and the empowerment to make decisions where needed, you’re looking at a team who is ready to take your customer relationships to the next level. That is the value of your customer success team.

Are you doing what you can to create a customer success dream team for your company? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Special thanks to all my contributing guests!

Find more Customer Success videos and articles here

Ellis Luk

I'm the marketing and communications manager at Totango - but you can call me Chief Content Officer. When I'm not writing, you can find me obsessing over memes, debating grammatical usage or getting distracted by the latest Tumblr gif blogs. Customer love starts with a friendly hello!

  • Raphael

    This is a very good article. Thanks for sharing.
    What would you recommend in terms of number of clients that a single CSM should handle? I mean it probably takes a lot of time to fully understand a client ecosystem, process all the marketing communications to them, etc …, so this means a CSM wouldn’t be able to handle so many clients at a time, would he?
    This brings a second question which is around cost. If a CSM can only handle a small number of clients, the company would need more of them and then it becomes harder to get budget for it. How to find the right balance service/cost?

  • Raphael

    This is a very good article. Thanks for sharing.
    What would you recommend in terms of number of clients that a single CSM should handle? I mean it probably takes a lot of time to fully understand a client ecosystem, process all the marketing communications to them, etc …, so this means a CSM wouldn’t be able to handle so many clients at a time, would he?
    This brings a second question which is around cost. If a CSM can only handle a small number of clients, the company would need more of them and then it becomes harder to get budget for it. How to find the right balance service/cost?

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