Customer Success | 6 MIN READ
The P’s & T’s of Customer Success
A framework for Customer Success Leaders spanning CS priorities, program, tools, and team to deliver exceptional outcomes.
Every leader should develop a personal framework to organize how they approach their work. Customer Success leaders benefit from a personal framework since time is in short supply and we constantly need to prioritize our efforts. The P’s & T’s of Customer Success reflect my current framework—which is always in the process of refinement.
What are my P’s & T’s of Customer Success? Priorities, Program, Tools and Team.
Whether you are just starting in a CS leadership role or if you have been leading a group for a while, it’s critical to evaluate your priorities. To better understand where to focus my priorities, I first assess the Product and User Complexity—I like the matrix that Jennifer Chiang created in her book “The Startup’s Guide to Customer Success”. It can apply to any size business or product, and can help you decide what activities could be important to ensure your customers’ success.
Next, assess the current state of your Program, Tools, and Team. It’s important to be honest with yourself and not allow for excuses, rationalize all of the work you’ve invested, or focus on sunk costs. Sometimes outside parties can help an organization acknowledge the gaps. At The Success League, we extensively interview people throughout the organization and assess the CS Program against 7 pillars and 37 best practices. No matter how you get it done, document it and share it within your organization so everyone buys into the work ahead.
Now: Go build it out or improve your program. There’s work to be done—let your priorities help you focus your efforts!
Customer Success Programs are pretty straightforward, but somehow every organization seems to have weak points. The core structure of every Customer Success Program is: Onboarding, Engagement and Adoption, Renewals, Advocacy and Churn. When you assessed your program, did you find you have gaps? Are there areas that are just getting cursory attention? Which area is causing the most churn? Are your Marketing messages and Sales team aligned with the experience you are delivering to customers? Does your program enable and support your customers’ success?
Your tools determine how you deliver your Customer Success Program.
Segmentation is the foundation of your Customer Success Program. Correctly identifying your customer segments is key. From there, you build out the Customer Journeys for each segment. If you find that your customer journeys across segments are the same, then go back and kick the tires on your segmentation.
Every Customer Success Program must understand how it will scale. Even as you add more customers, you cannot afford to endlessly hire more people. Take a look at the technology you already have in house to identify how you can automate even small parts of the customer journey. There are also many tools in development that can help you—no matter how small your budget is.
If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Even if you don’t have automation tools or a data warehouse, there are still ways to measure what you’re doing and how your customer is engaging with you and your product. Take some time to understand what you want to incentivize so you can start to measure your and your customer’s success.
Once you’ve identified your customer segments and their respective journeys, how do you ensure that your customers have a consistent experience? Build out your internal playbooks for your team, and cross-functional teams within your company, to ensure that you are aligned on how you will deliver that experience. This is a great time to check that you’re aligned on the goals that you are helping your customer to achieve.
Brush up on the elements and phases of change management. As a customer success professional, you use these tools with your customer and internally at your company everyday!
Too often Voice of the Customer Programs are not formalized within organizations. Your impact increases as you can show the metrics and the anecdotal voices of your customer to your company. Help them feel the success they create or the pain points that your customers experience and then back it up with numbers. (This relates back to change management.)
Enablement is more than training—it is the curriculum and all of the ways that you help your customers to onboard, engage, and adopt your product. It is how you enable your customers and your cross-functional teams to internalize and incorporate these learnings and turn them into action.
Building an effective customer community can take many forms. Connect with your customers where they naturally are and bring them into your fold. Empower them to help each other and show their expertise. Connect them to the experts within your company. Form the relationships and build the bonds that keep your customers engaged emotionally. (This relates back to change management.)
The work you’ve done on your Segmentation and Customer Journeys is the foundation to understand the What, When, and Who of your team. You can literally measure the time it takes to deliver the elements of the Customer Journey, and from that, calculate the hours per customer you need to deliver the journey and the number of CSMs and other roles you need to deliver that journey. If the number of CSMs required is at a level that your economics don’t support, then go back and look for other ways to deliver the journey or re-assess the elements of the journey and what is really necessary. Numbers don’t lie.
From there, it’s about the How – recruiting, Onboarding, Enablement, & Team Building. How and where you recruit, onboard, train, and build your teams determines the diversity, skills, and culture that your team and your customers experience.
Next, we’ll dive into each of the P’s and T’s to further explore each area and how to build or improve your Customer Success Program.
Originally Published November 24th, 2021, Updated November 24th, 2021
Recognized as one of the Top 100 Customer Success Strategists in 2021, Jan Young is currently a Senior Consultant with The Success League. She serves on the board of Gain, Grow, Retain and is a Founding Community Lead for CS Insider. Jan is passionate about building effective relationships and communities; optimizing teams, processes, and systems; demystifying technology; and lifelong learning.
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