Spring Training Classes Are Wrapping Up - Spots Still Available!

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You still have time! We have a few more classes remaining in both of our CSM and Leadership spring training series. Are they right for you? Sign up now!

 

CSM PROGRAM:

Difficult Conversations
THURSDAY, MAY 24 AT 12PM PT / 3PM ET

After completing this course a CSM should understand what is happening in a customer’s mind when problems arise, how and when to raise difficult issues with customers, how to balance listening with speaking up for yourself and your company, and approaches for leading difficult conversations to a mutually beneficial resolution.
 

Renewals & Churn
Thursday, May 31 at 12PM PT / 3PM ET

After completing this course a CSM should understand why churn is important and how to measure it, how churn relates to customer health and several ways to measure health, common churn warning signs and how to proactively address them, and how to off-board a customer smoothly to drive referrals and potentially win them back.

 

CS LEADERSHIP PROGRAM:

Reporting on Results
TUESDAY, MAY 29 AT 12PM PT / 3PM ET

After completing this course a Customer Success Leader should understand who needs to see resultshow to effectively report results both upward and downward in the organization, which success metrics are most important at different stages and to different audiences, and how to use the right reporting format to enable strategic decision-making.
 

All of our online, instructor-led classes are 60 minutes long, incorporate discussion and Q&A, and include a worksheet you can use to apply your learning right away.
 

Looking forward to seeing you in class!

Strikedeck Radio - Episode 29

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In this week's podcast, Episode 29 of Strikedeck Radio, Kristen speaks with Shane Metcalf, VP of Customer Success at 15Five. For years, Kristen was a customer of 15Five, and now Shane is a customer of The Success League. Listen in to hear Kristen and Shane talk about how to engage CSMs and support them in growing their Customer Success careers.

Strikedeck Radio is a partnership between Strikedeck and The Success League. You can subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud, or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter to get updates on new episodes.

Supporting Success in an Early Stage Startup

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By Steve Schwartz

I’m often asked about my transition from technical, enterprise customer support into B2B SaaS customer success. I had the amazing opportunity to experience support, implementation, and account management, all at one company, and I came to see how disjointed these customer-facing teams can be. Customers struggle when there isn't alignment between teams. I thought, there has to be a better way, which led me to customer success. Here are three strategies early stage startups should consider when starting a customer-facing team.

 

START WITH GENERALISTS

When I hire my first Customer Success Manager, I’m looking for a teammate who can span the breadth of roles that I expect I’ll need on my team. In my last two companies, those roles included customer onboarding, training, documentation, support, and success. I also look for a high level of empathy, a natural curiosity, and someone who questions the status quo. Starting with a generalist gives your customers a single resource that they can turn to at any stage of their lifecycle, and gives your CSMs a deeper connection to their customers. Early focus on customer success ensures that you can learn quickly whether customers will be effective in using your solutions or not. As important as your first customers are as references and case studies, they can be equally detrimental if they receive no value from your company.

 

SPECIALIZE WHEN NEEDED

A customer success generalist who juggles all of these roles will ultimately get overwhelmed by one or more areas, which can make them less effective in the rest. As an example, if your number of customers doesn’t grow significantly, but your end user count does, it can lead to a significant increase in inbound support requests. If you’re in a business where responsiveness to these issues is critical to your success, then a CSM will need to be able to drop everything to address them in a timely fashion. While this may be possible when the CSM has two or three customers, it certainly gets harder when they have more. When you can no longer deliver the quality of support that you strive to, it’s time for your first customer support hire. Likewise, when implementations start to bog down your customer success team, considering splitting the roles of CSM and Implementation Manager apart.

 

MEASURE, MEASURE, MEASURE

The best way to stay ahead of your need to specialize is to constantly measure your CSMs based on how they’re allocating their time each week. A quick way to do this is to periodically have them self report roughly the percentage of time they are spending in each area. Alternately, if you use a CRM or CS tool to track customer success activities, you can have the team bucket activities by category. If you trend this data against the increase in customers or end users, you can start to build a predictive model for when you’ll need to create the next specialist role within your team.

By starting with generalists, and using data to determine when to specialize, you'll be able to create a consistent customer experience from early through the growth stage of your company. I'd love to hear more about your startup journey, and I'm happy to share more about mine!
 

Need help planning your customer success team? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers online training and workshops designed for success leaders. Topics include Planning a Team Structure and Hiring Top Performers. For more information on these and our other classes and workshops, please visit TheSuccessleague.io
 

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Steve Schwartz - Steve is a customer success leader who enjoys starting and building high-performance teams at early-stage startups. He has worked in energy startups for the past 10+ years in a variety of customer-facing roles. By engaging with customers during the sales cycle, he ensures customer expectations are fully understood and can be exceeded. When not writing for The Success League, Steve is leading Customer Success at FreeWire Technologies. He holds a BS from Tufts University and an MS from Virginia Commonwealth University, and spends his free time with his wife and two kids exploring the Bay Area.

NEW: Summer Session CSM Training Classes are here!

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Already making summer plans? We are, too! We are now offering a summer session of our Customer Success Manager Training class series. Starting June 28th and ending August 16th, our CSM classes will be held every Thursday at 12P Pacific / 3P Eastern. Sign up now for the whole series, or chose individual classes that suit your needs. 

 

6/28 - Customer Goals & Outcomes

7/5 - Time Management for CSMs

7/12 - Kicking off the Relationship

7/19 - Asking Great Questions

7/26 - Executive Business Reviews

8/2 - Objections & Negotiation

8/9 - Difficult Conversations

8/16 - Renewals & Churn

 

 

These are live, instructor-led online classes and attendees will need internet access, a headset with mic, and an area where they can speak and contribute to the group.

For your scheduling convenience, the program can be joined at any time, as the series runs on repeat several times throughout the year. 

Are You Ready to Invest in a Customer Success Tool: Part 2

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Today we’re joined by Maheen Memon, the Director of Customer Success at Nulogy. She’s sharing the second of a 2-part series on how to prepare for a customer success platform. Enjoy!

By Maheen Memon

Welcome to the second part of my series on whether or not you are ready to invest in a customer success tool. You can read my first blog here where the focus was on internal preparedness. This blog will be addressing the importance of validating external preparedness and then exploring how the right technology foundations are critical to a successful end product.

External Preparedness

Do you have Executive Buy-in?

It might be clear to you and your team that a CS tool is needed, but how committed is your executive team to seeing this vision through? Have you taken the time to ensure your executive team has bought into the fact that your CS organization needs a system to manage your day-to-day activities? The ability to track day-to-day activities such as engagement touch-points, support tickets, and usage stats provides key metrics that drive strategic planning. When building your case to have a CS tool, it is helpful to focus on how the tool will support the scaling of your operations and help drive data driven discussions regarding your customer base.  You will be moving away from ad-hoc customer happiness conversations that so many CSM teams get trapped into, toward discussions that are based on data and performance metrics and provide meaningful insights about customer health.

Do you have Budget Approval?

So you have executive buy-in, great! Next up is converting executive support into explicit funding and commitment. Have you secured budget approval for your CS tool? Was this budget forecasted in your annual planning? Make sure you have a line item on your budget going forward for maintenance that corresponds with your projected team growth. The cost for a CS tool can vary depending on which provider you choose. As a gauge for what level of spending is acceptable, look to adjacent departments (e.g. Sales, Support, Product) and find out how much they are spending on systems and tooling. Since CS is responsible for a large portion of existing revenue, you should be in line with what other departments are allocating on tooling as well. Don't forget to factor in implementation costs for year one.

Have you secured Implementation Resources?

Ok, you’ve secured the budget, now it’s time to make sure you’ve engaged the correct support departments. If you’re in a larger organization, watch out for policies and guidelines that require you follow a specific process. See if your company has an IT department or a Project Management office. You will need integration support from your IT team at a minimum, and likely project management support as you proceed with the implementation. These items are often an afterthought and could delay your CS tool implementation from weeks to months if proper planning is not done up front. Work with your engineering team to get alignment on resourcing for your tool roll-out. Bringing implementation partners to the table early on makes sure you aren’t surprised with last-minute costs and builds up your deployment coalition.

Technology Foundations

What data do you need to feed to your CS Tool?

Customer Success is heavily dependent on information from multiple sources so standing up a solution without examining integrations would be a big mistake. Here are some key systems you should look to integrate with to maximize your CS Tool:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tool

    • Ideal integration: Bi-directional

    • Description: These systems drive sales departments and provide a single data source for all your customer information including your key contractual details, current engagements and customer contact information.

  • Support Ticketing Tool (help desk, incident management)

    • Ideal integration: Inbound only 

    • Description: Your help desk/support team swear by this system as it provides a dashboard to manage customer issues and problems alongside contractual SLAs; understanding the current state of support and trending is key to driving customer health metrics and understanding their state of mind.

  • E-mail (cloud, exchange, or basic email)

    • Ideal integration: Bi-directional

    • Description: E-mail is still the de-facto mode of communication with SaaS customers. Having integration will allow your team to collaborate on engagement cycles and consolidate touch-points in a central location.

What about other systems?

There are also a variety of other systems that you need to consider integrating with your new CS tool. Do not forget about your marketing automation systems, analytics tools, billing systems and community management platforms. You want to make sure you look into whether it’s easy to integrate select data, but don’t delay your project just to integrate “nice to have” data sets. Certain CS tools have some of these capabilities already built in (for example marketing automation) so there might not be a need to integrate. Ideally aim for real-time integration as batch processes are error-prone and can lead to confusing reporting cycles for users.

What about security, privacy and quality protocols?

If you aren’t aware of the importance of cybersecurity these days, then you really need to start keeping up with the news. All that is needed is one exploited security hole or an unchecked backup and you could end up throwing away all of the efforts of your difficult implementation. Your customers have expectations that you protect their privacy and information and for larger clients it’s likely that you are contractually obligated to as well. First, check to see if your company has an information security policy or a security team you can liaise with to help shore these gaps. Next, be aware of the regulations in your industry and see if there are certifications (SSAE16, ITIL/ITSM, ISO 9001, PCI) that your vendor should maintain to ensure these protections. Too many acronyms? Try finding legal help to ensure you aren’t stepping into a nightmare.

So there you have it, if you have internally validated your approach, sought appropriate external support, and verified the solution is built on healthy technology foundations, you are off to the races and ready to invest in a CS tool.  You are now taking the first digital step in making your Customer Success team more scalable to service your customers in a more prescriptive manner while having all the key data and insights at your fingertips. Good luck!

Are you ready for a new CS tool but need help mapping out the conversion process for your company? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that can help you do the planning that you'll need to be ready for your new CS platform. For more information, please visit TheSuccessleague.io

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Maheen Memon - Maheen joined Nulogy in July 2013 as a Technical Account Manager and has helped the team evolve into a true Customer Success focused organization over the past 4 years. She has been integral to the evolution of Customer Success at Nulogy and instrumental in working with various Nulogy teams to improve our customers' overall journey and experience. Maheen has over 7 years in supply chain, operations, and project management experience from her previous roles at UPS, Hudson's Bay Company, and Walmart Canada. She has a Bachelor of Engineering in Systems Engineering from the University of Guelph and an MBA from the Ivey Business School at Western University.  Outside of work, Maheen is an active member of Toronto’s Tech community, enjoys running and walking her dog, Bernie.