How To Start Customer Success from Scratch
Customer success is one of the most important growth drivers for any company across the globe. From new SaaS companies to established industries like healthcare, the one thing every organization shares is a need to put the customer first.
The challenge to such a powerful growth engine is it can feel a bit overwhelming. Where do you start? Who should be involved? What metrics should you track? How do you put customer success at the core of your business? To get started, here are six steps to follow to build a customer success organization today.
#1: Create Company Alignment
Companies with customer success at the center of their business see the best results. Each person needs to understand what it is and how their specific responsibilities contribute to it. The first step to building a Customer Success operation is company-wide alignment. These are your first three steps:
1. Show the value of Customer Success to get executive buy-in.
2. Share data and insights to align your organization around CS.
3. Create a budget proposal that receives buy-in from leadership.
To get buy-in across your organization, here are some metrics to use: net revenue retention rate; churn rate; customer acquisition cost; customer expansion cost; and customer health index.
#2: Understand Your Metrics and Objectives
Once you have company-wide alignment, it’s time to clarify what you want your customer success organization to focus on. Evaluate what your major objectives are for the current year and the next few years. What are your most inefficient processes? What siloes impede your operations? How well does the future of your product align with the value your customers get from it?
List the top three goals for your customer success operation and outline the improvements you want to see based on those goals. Over time, your customer success strategies will mature in complexity, but a simplified strategy is the best way to start.
Here’s how you should use metrics and objectives to get started :
1. Evaluate your current pain points to identify the objectives most important to the organization.
2. Assign metrics to each objective, ensuring that each is clear and meaningful to each department.
3. Choose a North Star metric for the entire company.
#3: Improve Customer Visibility
When customer success began, many of the strategies were reactionary. A decade later, the best customer success managers are proactive and highly transparent, both with their teams and with customers.
To ensure that your customer success strategies are proactive and effective, you need to establish a clear view of your current customer base, their priorities, and their current customer health score.
Although the Customer Success Managers (CSMs) will access this information most frequently, it’s critical that all team members have access to it. Up-to-date customer information will inform their strategies, communications, and plans for the future.
Here are the necessary steps to improve customer visibility for your entire team:
1. Set the standards for your customer health, including universal standards, and specific segment standards.
2. Aggregate customer data to determine what your current customer health is.
3. Create a single, unified view of this high-level customer data, highlighting customer health scores.
#4: Evaluate Existing Processes
Armed with clear goals you want to achieve, and how you’re going to track your progress towards those goals, it’s time to evaluate and update your processes.
Keep in mind that you aren’t evaluating performance, but rather, how these processes impact metrics your team has prioritized. Don’t cut processes simply because they haven’t performed in the past. Instead, consider whether they create any meaningful changes to your North Star metric.
Another consideration in this evaluation process is who currently owns the process, and which other teams are involved. By now, everyone in your organization believes in customer success as a core driver of your growth. They will want to participate in ways that improve your most important metrics. When evaluating the efficiency of each process, be sure to consider how that might change with new voices added to the mix.
Here’s the best way to execute an evaluation process:
1. List your current customer success workflows.
2. Map the workflows to the performance metrics identified in Step 4.
3. Identify and document optimization opportunities in your current workflows.
4. Identify gaps in your processes and prioritize them based on your new North Star metrics.
#5: Build New Customer Success Processes
Now for the exciting stuff! In this step, you and your Customer Success Managers will fill in the gaps identified in Step Four to create new workflows, playbooks, and plans to engage with your customers and help them achieve their goals.
Think outside the box. Your new ideas should be a combination of personalized engagements from your CSMs, digital engagements through a variety of communication channels, plus in-app engagements that meet customers exactly where they are in your product. As you brainstorm new ideas, use the enthusiasm and buy-in from your entire company to provide support to your CSMs and make it easier for them to do their job.
Here are the steps to building new CS processes:
1. Prioritize processes that drive value.
2. Ensure alignment between CSM performance metrics and business goals.
3. Distribute playbooks and process documentation to all involved team members for additional buy-in.
#6: Plan for Scaling
Customer success is an essential growth driver for successful companies. Even if you are at the beginning of your CS journey, you need to think about scale. Improvements in time-to-value, personalized success plans and insight-driven engagement playbooks will all result in product adoption and expansion. Your current CSMs will soon need even more support. Plan early and keep your plans flexible, should you reach your goals faster than you anticipated.
When you’re thinking about scaling your customer success programs, here are the questions you need to ask yourself:
1. What will be required to scale each new process?
2. Is each solution in our tech stack customer-centric?
3. What can we improve to make it easier for CSMs to do their job?
4. How are we ensuring that our tools and resources can grow with our team?
Take the Next Steps
That’s all it takes! With each of these steps, you’ve built a strategic, comprehensive customer success operation. With time, you’ll be ready to start scaling your strategies, building out your team, and adding more powerful solutions to your tech stack.
Scott Salkin, Gainsight
Original post here.