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Lessons from Unbounce: How to grow a Customer Success team

Unbounce is a high-growth, self-serve, landing-page creation, testing and optimization tool. Though constantly evolving, Customer Success has been a priority at the company since it was founded. Ryan Engley, who has been with the company since its early days, has some interesting stories and lessons on building a customer success dream-team. Now Director of Customer Success, Ryan shared the challenges and successes he encountered in the process of building their current team.

A couple of years ago, when Ryan stepped back to assess the state of Customer Success at Unbounce, he realized three major obstacles stood in the way of taking his team to the next level:

1. No one outside of Customer Success knew what it was.

Other groups and teams inside the company did not know what Customer Success did. What was the role of Customer Success?  How was it different than Customer Service?

2. Inability to measure the impact of Customer Success on the business.

How did customer success affect revenue? Ryan found that he couldn’t measure the team’s impact on the business.

3. Diminishing morale on the customer success team.

The Customer Success team was delivering customer satisfaction at 96%.  But, people on the team weren’t motivated. They couldn’t see a common goal, how it benefited the company, or their own growth potential inside the organization.

Ryan looked at the big picture and asked:

How do you build a motivated customer success team that visibly and measurably contributes to your company’s success?

Here’s are some lessons from Ryan on how he overcame those obstacles:

  • Build your own customer lifecycleBuilding a customer lifecycle helped other customer-facing teams – sales, marketing, customer service – understand Customer Success relative to their own role. Ultimately, the Unbounce team created a customer lifecycle that consists of 6 stages, illustrating the key teams that interact with the customer at each stage.
  • Identify & measure  KPI’sYou need to see if your stages and activities are effective. Develop KPI’s that show you if what you’re doing works.
  • Build your team around your KPIsOnce you have KPI’s that measure what works and what doesn’t, create a team that supports each phase and use that KPI to measure their performance. Ryan noticed increased team creativity and problem solving on his team after implementing this strategy.

As a result, Ryan saw a shift in his organization. Specifically, he saw that the methods and language Customer Success developed while building the customer lifecycle helped solve his first problem. People in other organizations teams at Unbounce now understood the role of Customer Success and incorporated it into their understanding of the business. Identifying KPIs allowed him to report on the impact Customer Success had on the whole business. And, the Customer Success team got energized and motivated by a common vision, KPI’s, and a clear path to success.

An interesting tip Ryan has for all customer success leaders: “Don’t focus on what you do.  Nobody cares. The rest of the company needs to know WHY you are doing the things that you do.”

Watch Ryan present all of his thoughts on growing a customer success team in this 15-minute video. Or, check out the condensed, 3-minute version.

Ellen Gomes

  • Ryan, thanks for sharing your challenges and some of the ways you’ve overcome them! I’m curious if there are any stages of the customer lifecycle where multiple groups within Unbounce interact with a contact/ customer at the same time, or if the lifecycle stages were designed to illustrate the handoff points from one Unbounce group to another.

    We’re trying to figure out how to engage with a customer in a certain lifecycle stage, but have multiple levels within our company engaged at the same time. Say for example support, higher-level strategic account management, and even marketing (maybe a case study) want to all engage with a customer, without stepping on any of their coworkers toes. What’s the best way to do that?

    • Hi Casey – there are *absolutely* different stages of the lifecycle where multiple groups within Unbounce interact with our customers.

      For example, our marketing team is primarily accountable for all touch points up until someone signs up for Unbounce. However, our Customer Success Team is best suited to take sales calls and answer new customer questions, so there’s a lot of overlap in the Solution Aware phase.

      Every now and again, CS will have an idea for a piece of content that could arguably be used my marketing, and vice-versa.

      We always tie it back to KPIs and goals though. Even though marketing and CS may have vested interest in a piece of content, it’s in how we leverage it and position it to our customers and potential customers.

      Yes, it can be pretty grey at times but it’s all about communication and priorities.

      Having multiple teams within the company engage with someone at the same time is a bit different. At Unbounce, the CS team holds the keys to customer communication. As soon as someone signs up for our service, the whole company acknowledges that they need to check with CS to first confirm our communication schedules, tone of communication, channel etc. Virtually no contact is made with our customers without CS first being involved.

      Hope that helps! If you want to have a deeper discussion just shoot me an email. I’d be glad to hop on a call sometime.

      • Ryan, this is extremely helpful! I shared your response with our team and it sparked some lively debate and a few more questions. We especially liked how your entire team knows CS holds the keys to the customer, and other departments need to check with CS first before engaging with a customer. I’ve violated this a few times myself and caused some ruffles, live and learn!

        A question on that – what about social channels like Twitter? Do you have to check with CS before tweeting at a customer? How about blog commenting like I’m doing with you now?

        Do you use any sort of CRM or system that would allow your employees outside of CS to get up to speed on a customer in a self-service way, or is it done through a conversation with the CS person responsible for the customer (or both?).

        Thanks again Ryan!

        • I guess i should clarify that it’s typically communication en masse that is cleared through CS. We’re pretty customer centric company, so if someone in the wanted to touch base with a customer, I’d encourage it wholeheartedly. We’ve only ever seen positive results from, for example, our product team engaging with customers.

          Our marketing team looks after our Twitter channel but again, that’s one of those touch points that’s pretty grey. CS tends to get involved when customers Tweet about support issue, but otherwise, it’s marketing run.

          We use Intercom.io as a CRM and funnel all Zendesk tickets into it as notes. That way, we can manage customer communications and get a solid overview of the customer’s history in one place.

    • Harry Hirschman

      Ryan Engley, thanks for a great presentation and for your detailed response below.

      Casey Schorr, I’ll add a few thoughts from Totango’s perspective… Like Unbounce, we also can have multiple people from different functions in contact with customers at the same time. Most often this is for different topics, which in and of itself is the biggest factor for deconfliction.

      What about when the topics are related or the same? If your customers know who their primary point of contact is, if they have an open and frequently used communication channel with that person, then it’s either a non-issue or a manageable one.

      The danger comes when someone reaches out to a customer to ask for something (reference, case study, joint webinar, speak at an event, etc.) at a time when the customer is experiencing a problem with your company or service? This is the case we’re all attempting to manage away.

      We handle this two ways: First, we are very clear about who their primary POCs are whenever there is a transition. At Totango, like at about 2/3 of SaaS compaies, the Sales team continues to be responsible for renewal and upsell revenues after the first close. However, the CSM owns the relationship, and everything that goes with it, from the kickoff call on. Second, We establish multiple touchpoints for us and them up and down the org structure. We also keep our AE’s involved at QBR’s and other higher-level meetings, and they’re always available for customer escalations.

      To sum it all up… We manage the risk with clear roles and responsibilities and multiple touchpoints so that when the inevitable happens, we have the resilience to flex to it.

      Regards,
      Harry

      • Harry, thanks for this additional perspective. If I had to guess, it seems like Totango’s relationship with the customer is a little more complex than Unbounce, I’m guessing because you have a higher ASP/LTV vs Unbounce?

        It seems to me both Totango and Unbounce see the assigned CSM as the primary contact point, but Totango differs from Unbounce because they have a sales team (AE’s) that also needs to have an ongoing relationship with the customer.

        Totago has a two-tier kind of setup, with the CSM owning all of the ‘day to day’ plus the entire relationship in general. Whereas the AE’s are more specialized and come in strategically at certain points (quarterly business reviews, upsell/ renewals, and any escalations).

        Is that accurate?

        A few more questions:

        1. Does Totango expect everyone besides the CSM to check with the CSM first before contacting the customer? Does checking your CRM system suffice, or do you need to have a conversation with the CSM?

        2. How about social media, the social team, do they ‘follow’ customers and can they interact freely, how much does the CSM influence what the social team might be saying to a customer?

        I know that’s a lot of questions, so don’t feel obligated to answer them all. Thanks Harry!

  • Ryan, thanks for sharing your challenges and some of the ways you’ve overcome them! I’m curious if there are any stages of the customer lifecycle where multiple groups within Unbounce interact with a contact/ customer at the same time, or if the lifecycle stages were designed to illustrate the handoff points from one Unbounce group to another.

    We’re trying to figure out how to engage with a customer in a certain lifecycle stage, but have multiple levels within our company engaged at the same time. Say for example support, higher-level strategic account management, and even marketing (maybe a case study) want to all engage with a customer, without stepping on any of their coworkers toes. What’s the best way to do that?

    • Hi Casey – there are *absolutely* different stages of the lifecycle where multiple groups within Unbounce interact with our customers.

      For example, our marketing team is primarily accountable for all touch points up until someone signs up for Unbounce. However, our Customer Success Team is best suited to take sales calls and answer new customer questions, so there’s a lot of overlap in the Solution Aware phase.

      Every now and again, CS will have an idea for a piece of content that could arguably be used my marketing, and vice-versa.

      We always tie it back to KPIs and goals though. Even though marketing and CS may have vested interest in a piece of content, it’s in how we leverage it and position it to our customers and potential customers.

      Yes, it can be pretty grey at times but it’s all about communication and priorities.

      Having multiple teams within the company engage with someone at the same time is a bit different. At Unbounce, the CS team holds the keys to customer communication. As soon as someone signs up for our service, the whole company acknowledges that they need to check with CS to first confirm our communication schedules, tone of communication, channel etc. Virtually no contact is made with our customers without CS first being involved.

      Hope that helps! If you want to have a deeper discussion just shoot me an email. I’d be glad to hop on a call sometime.

      • Ryan, this is extremely helpful! I shared your response with our team and it sparked some lively debate and a few more questions. We especially liked how your entire team knows CS holds the keys to the customer, and other departments need to check with CS first before engaging with a customer. I’ve violated this a few times myself and caused some ruffles, live and learn!

        A question on that – what about social channels like Twitter? Do you have to check with CS before tweeting at a customer? How about blog commenting like I’m doing with you now?

        Do you use any sort of CRM or system that would allow your employees outside of CS to get up to speed on a customer in a self-service way, or is it done through a conversation with the CS person responsible for the customer (or both?).

        Thanks again Ryan!

        • I guess i should clarify that it’s typically communication en masse that is cleared through CS. We’re pretty customer centric company, so if someone in the wanted to touch base with a customer, I’d encourage it wholeheartedly. We’ve only ever seen positive results from, for example, our product team engaging with customers.

          Our marketing team looks after our Twitter channel but again, that’s one of those touch points that’s pretty grey. CS tends to get involved when customers Tweet about support issue, but otherwise, it’s marketing run.

          We use Intercom.io as a CRM and funnel all Zendesk tickets into it as notes. That way, we can manage customer communications and get a solid overview of the customer’s history in one place.

    • Harry Hirschman

      Ryan Engley, thanks for a great presentation and for your detailed response below.

      Casey Schorr, I’ll add a few thoughts from Totango’s perspective… Like Unbounce, we also can have multiple people from different functions in contact with customers at the same time. Most often this is for different topics, which in and of itself is the biggest factor for deconfliction.

      What about when the topics are related or the same? If your customers know who their primary point of contact is, if they have an open and frequently used communication channel with that person, then it’s either a non-issue or a manageable one.

      The danger comes when someone reaches out to a customer to ask for something (reference, case study, joint webinar, speak at an event, etc.) at a time when the customer is experiencing a problem with your company or service? This is the case we’re all attempting to manage away.

      We handle this two ways: First, we are very clear about who their primary POCs are whenever there is a transition. At Totango, like at about 2/3 of SaaS compaies, the Sales team continues to be responsible for renewal and upsell revenues after the first close. However, the CSM owns the relationship, and everything that goes with it, from the kickoff call on. Second, We establish multiple touchpoints for us and them up and down the org structure. We also keep our AE’s involved at QBR’s and other higher-level meetings, and they’re always available for customer escalations.

      To sum it all up… We manage the risk with clear roles and responsibilities and multiple touchpoints so that when the inevitable happens, we have the resilience to flex to it.

      Regards,
      Harry

      • Harry, thanks for this additional perspective. If I had to guess, it seems like Totango’s relationship with the customer is a little more complex than Unbounce, I’m guessing because you have a higher ASP/LTV vs Unbounce?

        It seems to me both Totango and Unbounce see the assigned CSM as the primary contact point, but Totango differs from Unbounce because they have a sales team (AE’s) that also needs to have an ongoing relationship with the customer.

        Totago has a two-tier kind of setup, with the CSM owning all of the ‘day to day’ plus the entire relationship in general. Whereas the AE’s are more specialized and come in strategically at certain points (quarterly business reviews, upsell/ renewals, and any escalations).

        Is that accurate?

        A few more questions:

        1. Does Totango expect everyone besides the CSM to check with the CSM first before contacting the customer? Does checking your CRM system suffice, or do you need to have a conversation with the CSM?

        2. How about social media, the social team, do they ‘follow’ customers and can they interact freely, how much does the CSM influence what the social team might be saying to a customer?

        I know that’s a lot of questions, so don’t feel obligated to answer them all. Thanks Harry!

  • sandra Portocarrero

    Hello! I attended your very insightful session yesterday and I was wondering if someone can share with the the link to your slides. Thank you!

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