CS Management

Driving Change in Customer Success

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By Kristen Hayer

Facing up to a big challenge in customer success, like extreme churn or the need to restructure, can be tough. However, getting your team to adopt the plan you create to address the challenge is usually much tougher. Humans generally dislike change, and change management is one of the primary functions of a leader, especially in early and growth-stage organizations.

One of the best articles I’ve read on change management is called Leading Change by John Kotter. It is part of HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Change Management, which I would highly recommend if your company or team is going through a period of substantial change. In it, Kotter talks about the 8 steps to take in order to produce significant, lasting change. Here are the steps with my take, looking through the lens of customer success.

Establish Urgency

It often seems that everything in customer success is urgent, so it can be a problem to make the need for a big change really stand out. Pulling your team out of their normal environment and focusing on just the one issue can help to make it clear that this is a larger than a normal challenge. In addition, this isn’t the time to protect your team from reality. They need to understand the business drivers behind the change, as well as how this problem is holding them back from success.

Create Powerful Leadership Groups

There are two groups you can leverage to create a leadership team that will guide your group through change. First, look to your managers. These folks have the power to change processes and demand change. If they aren’t part of the change leadership group, you run the risk of them undermining your efforts. The second, and often more important, group is your team influencers. CS people talk. Getting a grass roots change effort going will require that team influencers participate in the planning.

Create a Vision

You know the problem, and now you need to plan the solution. One mistake I see a lot of CS leaders make, is to create a solution that is too granular right from the start. Big challenges require vision, and that should be higher level. Think about why you have the problem, why it matters, and the big picture efforts that will be required to fix it. This will keep the vision simple enough that it will resonate with the team. It also leaves the solution open to a little bit of interpretation, so that your smart CS professionals can contribute.

Communicate the Vision

In customer success, we get in the habit of being communicated to (at least internally), instead of communicating to others. This is the time to put on your marketing and sales hat, and pitch your vision. Make no mistake, this is an exercise in persuasion. You need everyone on your success team to understand and get behind your vision and plan. Your leadership group is key to this effort: Influencers can use their grass roots connections to promote change, while your managers can demonstrate change through their actions.

Empower the Team

After communication, it’s time for action. You and your management team need to take steps to make it easy for your customer success group to change. First, take a look at any blockers like overly complicated processes, tools that don’t work anymore, or rocky internal relationships, and fix them. This might take some time, so do what you can right away, and keep working to remove these blockers over time. Also, encourage the team to try new ideas and processes, and don’t punish failure. This is a time to learn from mistakes and iterate.

Create Short-Term Wins

We all know that short-term wins are motivating. If you lose 5 pounds on the first 2 weeks of a new eating plan, you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Keep this in mind when you’re developing your change plan. Look for low-hanging fruit: goals that can be easily achieved, or small adjustments that produce big customer satisfaction. These wins will be motivating to the team, so be sure to celebrate and socialize them around the company. This will provide tangible proof of success that reinforces your vision.

Build on Wins

Once you have initial success, it enables you to do two things. First, you can use your team’s momentum to encourage them to take on more challenging projects. As their confidence builds, so can the difficulty of the issues they are tackling. Second, you can publicize customer success wins across the company, which gives you the credibility to command more resources like additional headcount and budget. That, in turn, allows you to increase the pace of your change initiatives.

Institutionalize Change

As I mentioned at the beginning, people don’t like to change. One way to keep your new vision going is to ensure that all of your new hires are brought on board with a clear understanding of what is expected, and are trained in the new approach. Successful new employees can drive change across the team by showing that the vision really works. On the flip side, you may need to retire or transfer some team members who just can’t get behind your approach, so that they don’t drag the rest of the team down.

If you want to dig deeper into any of these topics, read the Kotter article. While his examples revolve around large-scale, corporate strategy change, there are some good takeaways for teams as well. Tackling major issues with a little structure to back you up will help you to feel comfortable taking on one of leadership’s toughest challenges – driving lasting change.

Is your company due for some big changes but you're not sure where to start? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers customer success evaluations that are a great way to see what is working well and what needs improvement. For more information on our consulting services and training classes, please see 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.

Sitting on My Hands - The Real Job of a Vice President of Customer Success

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By Lauren Costella

I’ve never been one to sit on my hands. I’m not an idle person. I love solving problems, being hands on, and making things happen. It’s in my nature. It’s probably why I’ve cultivated a career in Customer Success! I want to create change and make things better than they were before, and given this very youthful area of business, it’s easy to want to jump in and take action and experiment for the better.

There’s nothing wrong with general attitude this per se, but the question is: should an Executive Leader be jumping in and being hands on? As I reflect back on 2018, I’ve come to think that my best position as an executive is actually sitting on my hands.

One the one hand (no pun intended), there’s certainly benefit to knowing the ins and outs of how things work and actually being able to do them. Having worked in multiple startups, small companies, and now a company growing to that $100M revenue mark, I’ve seen that it’s not uncommon for executives to be hands on in some way. In fact, part of the thrill with any early stage company is managing the typical chaos into something that grows and scales. And in many ways, it’s a very visible measure of productivity and success for early employees. There’s a sense of community to everyone working together to get things done, and there’s a sense of “respect” for those folks willing to jump in and get their hands dirty!

On the other hand, as the company grows it’s becomes increasingly difficult to keep up with every moving part of the organization and the team, especially as an executive. In the past 18 months, my CS organization has grown from around 9 people to almost 30 globally, with three different teams (Support, Professional Services, and Customer Outcomes (CSMs)). Locations span from the US to Japan to Australia and EMEA. Given the growth and change, my challenge has been trying to keep up with those changes, product changes, go-to-market changes, and how customers change! Quite the whirlwind to be sure. And in my attempt to try to be hands on, when I reflect back about what I could improve going into 2019, I’m wondering if hands on does more harm than good?

I recently sat down with my boss, Mike Novotny (CEO of Medrio), and talked about these challenges, and he gave me a really simple piece of advice: “Lauren, realizing impossibility is freedom.” Now, I’m not necessarily one to believe in “impossibility” so his advice was difficult to digest. But when I reflect about what he really meant by it, he is absolutely right. It’s literally impossible to know and be proficient in everything. If we could do everything, there would be no need to have support and help! And the real beauty of this advice is this: with freedom, you can focus on the right things, not everything.

There are some common traps that I’ve personally fallen into that led me down a path of either doing, dictating, or directing, when I needed to be stepping back, sitting on my hands, and listening. When an executive is doing or dictating or directing, we often miss the mark of productivity. Why? We aren’t on the front lines, we don’t have all the context for actually producing success. When we are dictating or directing without context, we force teams into situations where they haven’t bought into those decisions or executing plans, which typically leads to missed deliverables, and this is a recipe for disaster. Talk about no fun for anyone.

As an executive, my job is this:

  • Provide an environment for a Cohesive Team: a team that has trust, healthy conflict, commitment to decisions, peer-to-peer accountability, and produces results

  • Radial Transparency: decisions should be made by the team, not me

  • Sitting on My Hands: I listen, watch, but I do not decide; I do not do.

While on the surface, this may seem obvious and maybe perceived as a little “easy” but speaking from my own experience, this is probably the hardest thing I’ll do!  

First, let’s talk about creating a cohesive team. I just became a certified facilitator for The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team powered by everything DiSC. The 5 Behaviors of a Cohesive team are these:

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Trust is the single most difficult piece to build in a team. Trust is not about “predicting” how a person will act in a given situation. For example, If I tell David X, I know he’ll respond by saying Y. Rather, it’s about being vulnerable. This is creating an environment where team members can freely admit things like “I messed up” or “I need help” and the team can support that person in solving the issue. It’s having a foundation of mutual respect, so that healthy debate of issues (healthy conflict) can occur without team members looking at debating issues or questioning methods as a “personal attack.” More often than not, teams don’t have the foundation of trust needed to support all of the other areas above it. And when the other areas aren’t supported, it’s not often that results are achieved or results are short lived. As an executive then, it’s my job to ensure these 5 Behaviors are understood, maximized, and executed within the team. If the team isn’t a team, there’s no room for achieving results. The leader sets the culture and the environment.

Secondly, my job as leader is radical transparency. If my team doesn’t have access to all of the information I have, how can I expect them to make decisions and drive change? Context matters! It’s exactly the reason I can’t execute (I don’t have the context needed to do it well). By the same token, if I don’t provide visibility into the data and facts that I have, the team can’t make good decisions. Decision making should happen as close to the front lines as possible. Setting the culture for that type of work happens at the executive level. So, as an executive, my job is to make that transparency possible, give the team context to drive decisions, changes, and ultimately results! A really great book that discusses “radical transparency” and was introduced to me by my boss, is called Team of Teams. It talks about how the military incorporated radical transparency into their practices. We’re talking top, top, secret stuff being shared at all levels of the military, so troops on the ground can make decisions. And what do you think the role of the Commander is? I can promise you it’s not deciding what the troops are doing in various military raids...rather sitting back, watching, and listening. Pretty crazy right?

Which leads me to my third point. My job as an executive is to sit on my hands! I say sit on my hands because I am a talker, and as a part Italian gal, the only way I can successfully speak (at least according to my boyfriend) is also using my hands to express myself. When I sit on my hands, I stop talking. And when I stop talking, I’m engaged in listening and the craziest things happen. My team becomes the problem solvers. My team debates ideas back and forth. My team figures out the “hows” and the “whys” and the ways forward. My team commits to decisions, and hold each other accountable. They think, they commit, and they do! And we all achieve results. What a beautiful thing!

So when people ask what is my main focus as the Vice President for Customer Success, I don’t lead with net retention or revenue or churn; rather, I say “I sit on my hands.”

The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that works with leaders to drive positive team behavior and incredible results. Check out our leadership programs for more information on how you can build your customer success management skills. TheSuccessLeague.io

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Lauren Costella - Lauren is a change agent, communicator, leader and passionate champion for Customer Success in business, since a great customer experience drives retention, growth and brand advocacy. Her expertise centers on building early signs for risk and growth, defining cross-department success plays, team enablement, operations and process, and selecting and implementing CS software. When she’s not working as the VP of Customer Success for Medrio, you can find her serving as an advisor and blogger for the Success League, an active board member for the Customer Success Network, and blogging generally about her CS experiences on the CS Playlist. Lauren has her MA and BA from Stanford University. She was a former USA National swim team member and enjoys staying active with running and surfing in the Bay Area.

7 Steps to Planning an Amazing Holiday Contest

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By Kristen Hayer

Team contests are a fun way to drive positive behavior, introduce new processes and keep your group focused on results. The holidays are a naturally distracting time and often, as leaders, we’re busy planning for the next year. This is a perfect time to introduce a contest. Whether your goal is to build new habits or just finish 2018 strong, here are 7 steps you can use to build a contest that drives positive outcomes for your team and customers.

Define Desired Behavior

First, don’t try to accomplish too much with your contest. Contests are great for driving short-term behavior change (like pushing your team to hit a monthly target) or establishing good habits related to a new process. Choose 1-2 goals for your contest that are simple, concrete, and measurable, and make sure you have a way to measure results throughout the contest. Mid-contest milestones (like a weekly winner, or mid-month targets) keep everyone focused on results.

Write Up the Rules

A write-up of the contest rules helps to motivate your team to perform the behavior you’re looking for, and helps to avoid conflicts or negative behaviors. As you’re writing, think less like a lawyer and more like a board game creator – this should be fun! Do consider potential negatives (like your team focusing too much on the contest rather than some of their other important work) and try to create rules that prevent those situations.

Choose the Rewards

Consider what you’re asking the team to do, and make sure the prizes are large enough to keep people interested. That said, this is where you can really get creative, even if you have a small budget. You can opt for actual prizes, gift cards, time off (check with your HR team first!) or team events. If you choose to go the prize route, keep in mind that even small prizes can be meaningful, as long as they are thoughtfully chosen.

Set the Stage

Some of my favorite team contests involved pretty elaborate decorations, and the holidays are a great time to make that happen. This time of year, consider making decorating your space a part of the contest, or make the decorations part of the game (like a game board or leaderboard on the wall). The constant visual reminder of the event will keep your team focused on the results you’re trying to achieve, and can add to the fun.

Update the Leaderboard

Part of the fun of participating in a contest is knowing where you stand at any point in time. Think of it like a race: You want to know how fast you have to run to catch the leader. Publishing results daily or weekly is a great way to keep the contest top of mind for your team. In addition, mid-contest prizes are a great way to reward quick wins as well as acknowledge some of the team members who probably won’t win the grand prize.

Promote the Winners

If you’ve decorated your department and kept a leaderboard going throughout your contest, other departments will be curious about what’s going on. In addition to awarding prizes, promoting your winners to the rest of the organization can be very meaningful for your team. Be sure to share what they did to win, and how that benefits your company. This is great PR for both the individual winners and your customer success team as a whole.

Measure Results

Contest are fun, but they should also produce meaningful results. At the end of each contest take a few minutes to create a short report on what you did, the total cost, any unexpected side-effects, and the results you saw from the team. Keeping these reports will help you dial in future contests, and justify the budget for contests and incentives going forward. Over time, you’ll learn what works and doesn’t work well for your team.

Follow these steps to create a December contest that drives powerful results, keeps your team focused through the holiday season, and creates positive morale. Happy holidays!

The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that works with leaders to drive positive team behavior and incredible results. Check out our leadership programs for more information on how you can build your customer success management skills. 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.

Storytelling: How Customer Success Can Gain Influence Within Your Organization

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Guest blogger, Chad Horenfeldt, joins the Success League this week. Take a look at his post on how to demonstrate your CS team's credibility. Enjoy!

By Chad Horenfeldt

Losing a customer is one of the worst feelings for anyone in Customer Success (CS). You may feel numb or in a bit of shock depending on the circumstances and it can eat at you for days.  What’s worse is that you typically know why it happened and how it could have been avoided. You’ve explained the issues to your executive team or to your Sales team or to your Product team on several occasions. Your pleas for assistance, however, have fallen on deaf ears and your CS team’s spirits are in the gutter.

You may be be thinking: Why am I not able to get through to these people? What more do I need to do? How many more customers need to churn before there is some real action outside my team? Am I the problem?

Unfortunately, this is a reality for many Customer Success teams. You can bring data that clearly states why you are losing customers but still not get the resources and process changes you need to prevent customer churn. Does this situation or something similar sound familiar?

While you shouldn’t put all of the blame on your shoulders, you do need to look more closely at the approach you take in requesting assistance. While data and customer feedback can provide insight and justification for the changes you want to achieve, your message may not be getting through. When making requests at the executive level, you can’t just persuade the mind, you also have to also convince the heart. One way to do this is through the power of stories.

This post will detail how stories win people over and provide some practical tips on creating a culture of storytelling within your own organization.

Why are stories so impactful?

In the Heath brothers’ bestseller Made to Stick, we learn about a brave nurse who saved a baby’s life by ignoring what the instruments and those around her were telling her. The story begins with newborn suddenly turning a sickly black-blue color. The onsite medical team diagnoses the issue as a collapsed lung and prepares to operate. “It’s the heart” a desperate nurse cries out as she pushes away the other medical professionals and demands silence so she could check for a heartbeat with her stethoscope.

She immediately determines the baby’s heart had stopped even though the heart monitor reported no signs of trouble. The lungs were not the problem after all and the nurse provided the appropriate treatment. It was her experience and quick thinking that prevented a tragedy that day.

This true story was one of the many that psychologist Gary Klein collected as part of his research in this area. He demonstrated that stories like the one above are very persuasive as they illuminated a causal relationship that may have been ignored and highlighted people’s inventiveness in solving real problems.

This specific story teaches a few lessons. Besides the obvious approach to addressing a potential deadly condition for newborns, it provides a stern warning to medical professionals who may rely too heavily on machines and checklists. This nurse also serves as a reminder that hospitals need to have an adequate amount of trained and experienced professionals to make the right decisions when it matters. Finally, this story acts as a call to action that change is needed. As the Heath brothers point out, emotional stories like this one can provide the stimulation and inspiration to generate action. It’s a technique you can utilize for your own Customer Success teams.

From saving newborns to driving adoption

I experienced a similar situation to the story above although it was a little less dramatic. Ok, it was completely different but it’s still a good story so stay with me. Our Product team at Updater just launched a new feature but we were having difficulties in getting our largest customers to adopt it as it required a large number of customer administrators spread out across the US to make some configuration changes. Not an easy task - trust me - but not insurmountable.

One of our CSMs used our customer story Slack channel to document the approach she used to overcome this adoption challenge.  She described in detail how she coordinated with our client to launch educational email campaigns directly to the administrators who we needed to make these configurations and she specified how she creatively used one of our vendors, Intercom to do this. Another CSM who executed the campaign then provided the initial results. That’s when the magic happened.

The general manager of our division saw this amazing success story and shared it with our CEO and other relevant executive stakeholders including the Product, Engineering, Business Development and Data teams who all had a stake in making this feature a success. After several emoticons, virtual high fives and celebratory “reply alls” the message was clear: Customer Success was driving real outcomes for the organization. This specific example was going to impact our bottom line. Let’s now go into how you can easily replicate this at your organization.   

3 simple ways to create a culture of customer stories

We’ve proven that stories can make a difference and drive action. Now it comes down to creating habits within your Customer Success team to share these stories on a regular basis and to allow them to permeate throughout your organization. Let’s talk about a few ways that you can do this:

  • Customer story time. Do you remember when your parents read you bedtime stories growing up or reading stories to your kids? You can replicate this same type of situation in your own organization. Just schedule a monthly (recommended) or quarterly storytelling session where your CSMs can tell informal or formal stories about how they drove success with your product. Invite all the relevant departments: Sales, Marketing, Product, Engineering etc… They will eat these stories up.

    I was first exposed to this at Eloqua and then carried on the tradition at my subsequent start-ups. At Influitive we bribed other groups to come by serving beer. It was so popular there that the Sales team demanded us to record the sessions as they used the content in their sales conversations. CSMs learned from each other and improved their tactics. Marketing leveraged these stories to seek out full case studies. Product used the feedback to make changes to future features. We all had a better understanding of the needs of our customers.

    A variation of this is to present stories at your company offsites, internal churn reviews, new team member bootcamps and/or sales kick-offs. Keep this in mind: story time all the time.

  • Customer story Slack channel. I referenced this tip earlier. I wanted our team to share more of their stories so we can all learn from them. We started a Slack channel to capture customer stories - both good and bad. Our goal was to hear more of the challenges and successes that the CSMs were experiencing in their day to day and share those with each other and the rest of the company. Slack is a great mechanism for this as it’s easily accessible and the information is searchable for everyone (especially for team members that join later on) unlike email.

    To kick this off we set a team goal of 35 stories in one month. If we achieved this we would all go for a nice dinner and the top three submitters would be rewarded. The channel quickly grew in popularity as others became interested in the stories and the CSMs gained recognition and a sense of accomplishment for submitting them. Oh, and we did go for a nice Mexican dinner. This is win-win-win stuff (CSMs, your company, and your customers).

  • Customer awards. While the CSMs are typically the ones driving these stories, Eloqua devised a great way to extract these stories directly from clients by creating a more formal marketing award ceremony called “The Markies.” Even though Eloqua turned this into an Emmy-like production, the essence of this is very simple. Create award categories, have customers apply by providing a detailed justification on why they should win, hand out awards based on objective criteria, reap the rewards of some outstanding customer stories. Rinse and repeat on an annual basis (the Markies have been doled out to top marketers since 2007 and are going strong). I can tell you with 100% confidence that my finest moments as a CSM were when one of my customers got up to an accept a Markie award. There is nothing better than this. Nothing.

A major theme across these three examples is that shouldn’t wait for your budget discussions with your CFO and other executive stakeholders to gather customer stories. Proactively generate and share these stories on an ongoing basis so they naturally percolate throughout your organization. When other executives start citing them without you having said a word, you know you are making progress.

Customer stories = power: Where do you start?

Not having a strong voice at the executive level and not being able to get the resources you need can leave you and your Customer Success team demoralized. Particularly when you are doing everything you can to make your customers successful. You need to make the pain that you are experiencing come to life. You need others to feel the impact that your team is making. This is the power of a culture of storytelling.

When was the last time you had a CSM describe to your company how they helped one of your customers use a new feature in a way that no one expected? When was the last time that a CSM had a chance to outline the real reasons behind why you lost a customer beyond entering the reason code “not enough ROI?” It’s time to try some new approaches such as a Slack channel to tell the real stories behind the data.  Implementing these practices will change how your Customer Success team perceives itself but also how the company perceives you. You can hold your head up a little higher, get that resource that you desperately need and earn the respect that is rightfully yours. What are you waiting for?

If you’re looking for leadership guidance, The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers online training and workshops designed for success leaders. There are still spots open in our CS Leadership Training Program. For more information on this program and our other classes and workshops, please visit TheSuccessleague.io

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Chad Horenfeldt - Chad is a Customer Success executive with 15+ years experience building and developing high performing Customer Success teams. Currently, he is the Vice President of Client Success at Updater. Prior to Updater, Chad has held CS leadership positions at Bluecore, Influitive, and Oracle (Eloqua). Chad has been named to Mindtouch's top 25 Customer Success Influencer list in 2017 and 2018. He writes regularly on the topic of Customer Success on his blog The Enlightened Customer.

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.