Customer Success Team ROI and the Elevator Pitch

This is an article I wrote last year, but the topic came up again recently at a conference. We were discussing ways that leaders could communicate the value that their customer success teams bring to their organizations. I believe that one practical way to share the return on investment that your company is getting from customer success is to build an elevator pitch all of your team members can use. I hope you enjoy this article, again! - Kristen

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By Kristen Hayer

Customer success is a relatively new field, and is different from the account management, technical support or professional services fields it is often compared to. Success teams also differ from company to company in terms of scope, function and key metrics. Unfortunately, this means there is often confusion at the executive level about what customer success does and the value it brings to an organization.  As a customer success leader, a big part of your job is making sure that everyone in your company understands the role and importance of your team. This positions you to get backing for success initiatives and resources for your group.

One simple way to do this is to think like an entrepreneur and write an elevator pitch. To get started, ask yourself:

WHAT PROBLEM DOES OUR TEAM SOLVE?

Think about how things worked before customer success came onto the scene. Was churn high? Were customers frustrated with onboarding? Were new users neglected? Choose the primary problem your team solves.

HOW DO WE SOLVE IT?

What’s special about what you bring to the table as a customer success team? Are you proactive? Do you have special knowledge about your industry? Think about what sets your team apart from account management or technical support.

WHO DO WE SERVE?

Do you work with all of your company’s customers or a specific segment? Are there certain stages of the customer lifecycle you focus on? If you have a larger team, you may end up with different pitches for different groups.

HOW DO WE MEASURE OUR SUCCESS?

Think about the strategic metrics you drive or influence. Are you responsible for churn? Does your team produce revenue from cross-selling efforts? High-level metrics like churn, revenue or NPS score resonate with executives.

WHAT IS A QUANTIFIABLE EXAMPLE OF A RECENT SUCCESS?

This should answer the “What have you done for me lately?” question. Think about the wins that you’ve had over the past quarter. Good choices are major achievements with high-level metrics or high-visibility initiatives.

Once you’ve thought through the components of your pitch, pull it all together into a concise paragraph. The idea is to convey a lot of value in 30-60 seconds. A good target is 4-6 tightly crafted sentences.

SAMPLE ELEVATOR PITCH

“Our customers buy our solution for a variety of different reasons, and without someone to help them don’t always achieve the outcomes they hoped for. Customer success works proactively with our enterprise customers to define the outcomes they hope to achieve, and helps them to create concrete goals to get there. As we work with customers over the course of their lifecycle, we make sure our solution stays aligned with their goals and initiatives. Our efforts help our company retain and grow our existing customer base, and secure contacts our sales team can reference with prospects. Last quarter we provided references to our sales team that they told us helped them to close 10 deals worth $2.5 million.”

Make sure everyone on your team is prepared to give the customer success elevator pitch. You never know when they’ll be sitting next to the VP of Engineering at lunch or riding up to your office with the COO. Every interaction with your company’s executive team is a chance for your team to share the value customer success brings to your organization, and can help you secure resources for your team down the road.

Need help defining customer success for your organization? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that works with executives who are ready to build and scale their customer success team. Check out our Leadership Training Program at 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.

7 Customer Success Trends to Watch in 2019

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By Jeremy Gillespie

2018 is almost in the books, and customer success continues to be a hot topic, year over year. With the importance of CS growing, there’s never been a better time to be in our field. As we head into 2019, I want to take a moment to discuss 7 trends that will be even more important next year.

Customer-Centric Companies

Customer success is no longer an afterthought. Organizations are realizing the benefits of having a strong, customer-focused strategy in every department, from sales and marketing to finance and product. This means that it is critical for customer success teams to lead strong communication efforts that empower the entire company to focus on customer success.

Customer Success Education

Customer success as a field is growing so quickly that companies are having trouble hiring and training their employees fast enough. In 2019, companies will prioritize education for their CS teams. This will come in the form of attending local and national industry events, as well as ongoing, formal education for success teams.

Revenue Growth Over Churn Reduction

Over the past few years, customer success has shifted from a churn-reducing department to a revenue growth machine. Investors view expansion revenue as critical to scalability, so while churn reduction is still important, more organizations are relying on customer success to be responsible for expansion and focused on negative churn.

Customer Advocacy

Leveraging customers as advocates is an important part of the new customer success playbook. Advocates help sales and marketing teams acquire more customers, and can serve as best-practices ambassadors to other clients. As this becomes a focus for organizations, customer success teams need to consider how to transform their top customers into advocates.

Increased Focus on Metrics

Customer success leaders are being asked to demonstrate a clear ROI to their companies. Of course, real-time metrics are critical so that CSMs know the heath of their customers, stay on top of problems, and ensure that clients are progressing through the optimal customer journey. They are now also critical for leaders who need to highlight the achievements of their team.

Customer Lifecycle Optimization

I’ve talked about customer journey mapping before, but it’s continued to grow in importance. The goal is not to only measure a customer’s progress through the journey, but to accelerate and expand the relationship over time. This should be a continual process instead of a one-time project, and done correctly, has a direct impact on bottom-line revenue for the company.

Outcomes and ROI

Customer outcomes and ROI are more important than ever. In 2019, this trend will continue to pick up steam with a focus on finding concrete measures of customer outcomes beyond adoption or customer satisfaction. While those factors remain important, customers need to see positive changes to their business in order to feel that they have received a return on their investment.

I expect these 7 trends will continue to rapidly evolve in the coming 12 months. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the growing customer success community, and 2019 will be a big year for all of us!

Wondering how to tackle these trends? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that helps leaders build and develop top performing teams. We offer consulting engagements and training options that will make your customer success team shine in 2019. TheSuccessLeague.io

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Jeremy Gillespie - Jeremy is a growth marketing expert who loves using complex data to build creative retention solutions. By leveraging data and technology, he excels at creating innovative retention and expansion marketing programs for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Jeremy is a founding advisor to The Success League, and is also the founder of Built to Scale, a Bay Area consulting firm focused on helping businesses build scalable customer acquisition and retention programs. He holds a BA from the University of Pittsburgh and MBA from Point Park University. He's a proud former Pittsburgher, currently living in San Francisco.

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.

Strikedeck Radio - Episode 41

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In this week’s episode of Strikedeck Radio, Ed Powers joins Kristen for a discussion about the science behind how people make a decision to renew, as well as techniques that CSMs can use to engage on a deeper level with their clients. Ed is the Vice President of Customer Success for InteliSecure and has experience speaking on the topic of neuroscience and CS. Enjoy!

Strikedeck Radio is a partnership between Strikedeck and The Success League. You can subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, and anywhere else you get your podcasts or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter to get updates on new episodes.

Lessons Learned: The Importance of a Product-Led Customer Success Onboarding Strategy

Guest blogger Frederik Müller shares his experience with looping his product team into a redesign of the company’s onboarding process. We hope you enjoy his perspective on this critical part of the customer journey.

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By Frederik Müller

A successful customer onboarding is one of the most important steps in the SaaS world. As with many things customer success-related, applying best practices is sometimes easier said than done. Here at Klara, our biggest “lesson learned” with respect to customer onboarding was realizing that the product team, not customer success, should define our customer onboarding journey.

Our product team is amazing and has been a key contributor to Klara raising an amazing Series A round with an even more amazing investor. Even with all the best of intentions, it is easy for a gap between the product team’s vision and the customer success team’s implementation of the platform to open up and even widen over time. As a small, growing company with limited resources, our product team had always been focused on pushing the product to new frontiers. The customer success team, meanwhile, focused on developing and refining the most effective way of onboarding customers to our product. If we needed to invent workarounds for deficiencies in the product, so be it.

At Klara, the gap between the product and customer success team was caused by not having the product team lead our onboarding approach. Here are some of the key takeaways from our work to correct this issue:

The product team, together with customer success, needs to define the onboarding process

Having the product team involved in identifying key steps in the onboarding journey will ensure that the product is configured to deliver on the expected outcomes. Importantly, it will also help create very clear goals for customer success during the onboarding stage.

For example, prior to these changes, the customer success team measured a completed onboarding to not only include training and installation of features, but also customer usage of the feature up to a certain benchmark. This caused a lot of frustration for the CSMs because while they could control the training and setup of a feature, they couldn’t always control user adoption. As part of our work with the product team, we reduced the customer success team’s responsibility during onboarding to just training and installation of features. Now, every CSM can directly control the redefined onboarding process, and we are able to quickly identify and remove bottlenecks, further streamlining the process.

Product and Customer Success should establish an Onboarding Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Once the customer success team successfully completes the onboarding steps defined with the product team, what should the product team deliver? For a long time at Klara, the leading indicator of success was the number of patients that our clients communicated with using our platform. Understanding what an optimal level of usage should look like enabled us to create clear SLA: Customer Success will handle the training and technical implementation of certain features. Product will then guarantee that these features create an optimal level of patient adoption.

A clearly defined customer onboarding process will show the product team if the product is achieving the desired customer adoption levels post onboarding. Without a clear SLA from onboarding to product, it is tempting for customer success to compensate for lack in product adoption with human interventions, which robs the product team of a great learning opportunity.

Our experience over the past months and my conversations with others in the customer success community has validated my belief that product teams should continue to define the onboarding process. At Klara, we are hiring an experienced Product Marketing Manager who will jointly own onboarding KPIs with the CS team. A conversation with a leader of a 40-person CS organization drove the importance of these steps home to me. She shared that her team kept having to “throw bodies” at a product that was not driving the desired adoption levels. Because the KPI was only owned by customer success, the product team did not prioritize customer onboarding until the company realized that a weak Customer Success - Product alignment would stand in the way of the company going public. Don’t wait until then!

Need help defining customer onboarding in your organization? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers consulting engagements that focus on onboarding as well as the entire customer journey. Visit our Consulting page more details.

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Frederik Müller - Frederik is the Head of Customer Success at Klara. He is passionate about Klara’s mission to revolutionize healthcare communication for everyone involved in the patient’s journey. As such, he has spent the last years researching how to maximize patient/user adoption of Klara’s platform and worked extensively with medical practices on streamlining their operations using better communication methodologies. In his free time, Frederik enjoys reading The New Yorker, cooking, playing sports, and traveling.