Strikedeck Radio - Episode 32

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Want to know about the future of Customer Success? Tune in to Episode 32 of Strikedeck Radio to hear Kristen speak with Antoine Valentone, VP of Customer Success at Teamable, about where they see the industry heading. The factors they see shaping these developments are shifts in the buying experience, an on-demand culture, and how Sales and CS will need to evolve to meet these changes. Enjoy!

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.

Practical Approaches to Customer Outcomes

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By Kristen Hayer

The word I hear most in customer success is “outcomes.” We often hear phrases like “focus on customer outcomes” and “outcome-based account management.” The problem is that the term “outcomes” is used inconsistently across teams and companies. It’s ambiguous. Even if you’re clear about what an outcome is, it can be challenging to know what a customer is looking for and how to help them get it.

For the purposes of this article customer outcomes = business results. Not your product’s results or the results of initiatives specific to your solution. Real, business results. It can be intimidating to talk about your customer’s business results because they are somewhat removed from your product and they are usually at least partially out of your control. However, these are the results that matter to your clients. When you are able to help your customers achieve real business results, those outcomes turn into renewals, expansions, and referrals.

Here are some practical approaches to uncovering the outcomes your customers value most, and helping them achieve the business results they are looking for.

Understand Each Customer

First, keep in mind that every customer is different. It can be tempting to buy into your own marketing rhetoric and assume that every customer buys your solution to solve X (or Y or Z). The reality is that every customer expects a unique set of business results. It is the job of customer success to uncover those expectations and help the customer achieve the outcomes they want.

  • Do your Homework – use your customer’s website and press releases to learn about their business and the initiatives they care about. This can help to start the conversation.
  • Ask Questions – ask about their major business goals, and about the results they hope to see from your solution. Be sure to probe for their expected business results, not just what they want your product to do.
  • Discuss Expectations Regularly – plans, priorities, and initiatives change frequently. Even if you collected information about expectations at the beginning of your relationship with the customer, you need to repeat this discussion on a regular basis.

Plan Together

Once you’ve uncovered the expectations and values of your customers, you can move on to step 2, creating a plan to help them achieve the outcomes they are looking for. Two really important things to keep in mind during this process: First, this is a project you work on together. This isn’t you dictating to your customers the goals they should have. Second, their metrics are more important than yours. You’ll need to work with your customers to gain access to the metrics they want to measure.

  • Create Goals – work with your customer to create goals that will get them to the outcomes they want to achieve. Use SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
  • Develop an Account Plan – once you have SMART goals, combine them to create an account plan that spells out the month-by-month or quarter-by-quarter metrics you will work with your client to achieve.
  • Measure Results – since you’ve worked with your customer to build an account plan, asking them to share results with you should be a part of the conversation. Work together to gain access to the results that aren’t a part of your solution.

Review Results

Once you’ve created an account plan, you can start tracking results. This can be a little intimidating. What if a different client initiative throws off your results? What if you miss your goals? Is your customer going to be upset if you underperform? How do you talk about the hits and misses? Keep in mind that your customer is going to be thinking about all of this, whether or not you bring it up proactively. By being the one to initiate the conversation, you have much more control over the outcome.

  • Be Candid – don’t try to mask or hide negative results. First, if you’re talking to an executive, they expect negative results sometimes. Second, if you try to hide things, your customer will know.
  • Don’t Get Derailed – if you do have negative results, focus on reasons and solutions. This will keep the conversation from getting into the weeds or turning into a complaint session. Ask the customer for their suggestions as well.
  • Celebrate the Positive – it’s easy to forget about the wins, especially in the face of negative results. Don’t gloss over the good stuff you’ve done. Highlight and celebrate your win and the outcomes you’ve helped your customers to achieve.

Customer outcomes are just business results. By focusing on your customer’s business, you can zero in on the things that matter to them, and make sure they achieve the outcomes that will tell them they made the right decision in choosing your solution.

Does your team need help uncovering and outlining the outcomes that your customers are looking for? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers consulting engagements, onsite workshops, and online training to help your team create accounts plans that drive retention, expansion and customer satisfaction. For more information visit TheSuccessLeague.io

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Kristen Hayer - Kristen believes that customer success is the key to driving revenue, client retention and exceptional customer experiences. Her areas of expertise include developing success goals and metrics, designing the optimal customer journey, selecting technology, training teams, and building playbooks. Prior to founding The Success League, Kristen built and led several award-winning customer success teams. Over the past 20 years she has been a success, sales, and marketing executive, primarily working with growth-stage tech companies. Kristen has her BA from Seattle Pacific University and her MBA from the University of Washington.

Join Us for Camp at SuccessCon Seattle, Fall 2018!

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The Success League will be in Seattle this October for Customer SuccessCon 2018. Our Founder and CEO, Kristen Hayer, will be leading a special add-on session before the conference; a SuccessCamp for CSMs and CS leaders on how to develop a structured approach to account planning. As a SuccessCamper, and you will learn about the following:

  • Planning and asking great questions to uncover customer values
  • Setting goals with customers to drive toward business outcomes
  • Building relationships with key executives and budget owners
  • Talking about both positive and negative results
  • Adding value to every customer interaction

When: Monday, October 29 from 8:30AM - 11:30AM Pacific
Where: Kimpton Monaco, Seattle, WA

Annual Planning for Customer Success

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By Kristen Hayer

It’s a little too early to start planning for 2019, right? Wrong. If you’re a customer success leader, now is the best time to get started. You have a lot of ground to cover before the end of the year. For most industries summer is slow, so you can get a bunch of the analysis and process redesign done in July and August. Here’s a 6-month plan that will have you and your team ready for the new year:


July: Review Customer Data

Find time this summer to review the data you’ve collected on your customers, and decide if you need to make any adjustments to your program going forward. Look for areas where customer behavior is changing. Are they purchasing more, on average? Are they taking longer to onboard? Are they giving you different reasons for churning? Use this information to determine whether you need to make any changes to your customer journey map, segmentation, or processes. You’ll need to watch for additional changes throughout the rest of 2018, but you’ll have done the heavy lifting in July.


August: Evaluate Tools and Processes

The work you did in July leads right into an assessment of your processes and tools in August. Can you track all of the data you need? Are you maximizing your existing tools? Do you need to add processes to create a better customer experience? If you noticed a lot of customer behavior changes in your July analysis, you may need to completely revisit your customer journey map and team processes. If you suspect that you aren’t using your tools to the fullest, schedule demos with your vendors and have them review best practices. This is also the month to evaluate new tools.


September: Align Metrics and Goals

Once you have your program outlined you can think about what makes sense from a metrics standpoint. Consider metrics in 3 key areas of customer success: retention, expansion, and satisfaction. Think about the tools and measures you already have in place, and create a plan that leverages that data. If you need to add new measurement points, add those now so you have a 3-month baseline going into next year. Once your metrics are established, use those to draft department and team goals. Again, these may need to be adjusted over the next 3 months, but doing this work now gives you a solid starting point.


October: Build Hiring and Comp Plans

Use data from sales, combined with your own churn expectations, to determine how many customers you’ll be serving in each segment every month. This will indicate when you need to hire. Don’t forget about managers and operations staff. Think about compensation as well: most customer success roles now include variable comp. Create a compensation plan that is tied to the goals for each role on your team. Clear role descriptions will help you align the existing team members to their roles, and help you hire new CSMs who are top performers.


November: Develop a Budget

Some organizations are great about getting their annual budgets finalized early. Unfortunately, most end up pushing final approval well past the end of the year. This makes it tough for you to get the resources you need to hire, equip, and train your team in the early part of each year. You can get around this common issue by developing a working budget ahead of time. Talk with your finance team about the format they use, and develop a draft budget that includes headcount, variable comp, tools, training, and team events. Ask for approval to use this working budget until the official company budget is finalized.


December: Communicate and Train

At this point you will have done a ton of work on your program, but you probably haven’t included your team in every part of it. You need to clearly communicate any changes that you’ve made to the program, roles, goals, and compensation plans. You’ll also need to train the team on any new processes or tools that you’ve decided to add. December is also a good time of year to develop skills that the team will need for next year, so consider adding skill-building workshops to your training plans. Keep in mind that different people learn in different ways, so be sure to communicate both in meetings and in writing to cover your bases.

By following this plan you’ll be less overwhelmed with planning in the fall, and your team will be ready to hit the ground running in January. Of course, if your business doesn’t run on a calendar fiscal year, adjust this plan as needed to match your company’s operating schedule. Good luck as you begin planning for 2019 (now!)

Need some help? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that helps leaders build and develop top performing customer success teams. We offer short-term consulting engagements that can kick-start your planning efforts, as well as coaching for leaders who need some weekly advice. Check out TheSuccessLeague.io for details.

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Kristen Hayer Kristen believes that customer success is the key to driving revenue, client retention and exceptional customer experiences. Her areas of expertise include developing success goals and metrics, designing the optimal customer journey, selecting technology, training teams, and building playbooks. Prior to founding The Success League, Kristen built and led several award-winning customer success teams. Over the past 20 years she has been a success, sales, and marketing executive, primarily working with growth-stage tech companies. Kristen has her BA from Seattle Pacific University and her MBA from the University of Washington.

Meet The Success League at CS100 Summit 2018!

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Are you going to the CS100 Summit 2018 this fall? The Success League is a proud sponsor of this fantastic customer success event that is tailored especially for CS leaders and executives. This fun and educational event is set at the majestic Sundance Mountain Resort in Sundance, Utah on September 10-12, 2018. Join us and get inspired!

Please visit the CS100 website for more information on keynote speakers, the agenda, and registration details.