On-Premise CS

Our Customer Success journey continues with this article in which I will describe some key learnings and experiences that we stumbled upon in the process of starting “Customer Success” in a large company for an on-premise technically-heavy product line.

1. Get Product Management Buy-In First:

I am assuming that you are NOT in the Product Management function. I am a Product Manager and I do think it’s the best thing that could have happened. You can read more about it here. You must get full and complete buy-in from the critical Product Management team in order to fully roll out Customer Success for a product or a line of products. Believe me, you will need to know more details about the product than you care to know. Knowing someone who is an SME (Subject Matter Expert), will help you tremendously. In fact, ask your leadership team to nominate a Product Manager or a Technical Marketing Engineer to you.

Even if you are in the product team, you might have to convince your leadership about what the business will gain, especially, if the product that is sold is hardware and dollars have already been put down by the customer. We will talk more about establishing customer ‘healthscores’ and KPIs for Customer Success in a later piece. The metrics defined will need to resonate with the Product Management team in order to get buy-in. Some ideas for you are NPS, CSAT, retention, upsell, cross-sell, and renewal dollars.

2. Sales Buy-In is Critical:

Another critical piece of the puzzle is getting a complete buy-in from the sales organization. For that, we need to create a shared vision and common goals. In addition to the shared vision, be clear in your communication regarding who is leading this effort. If there are a lot of teams involved in this customer success process e.g. sales, services, product and professional services, it is easy to create confusion. Customer Success needs to provide clarity, not confusion.

If there is one thing you need to do, get your sales evangelization deck ready. Sales teams will be your biggest advocates as well as your biggest critics (which is also great by the way – having passionate people who share the same overall goal for the business unit is priceless). Think sales. $$ Dollars speak louder than most metrics. Be conservative with your numbers, but digging deeper into your orders and customer data will give you the answers you are looking for. I know I am sounding like a broken record but tie everything you do in terms of dollar percentages and customer numbers.

Starting Customer Success

3. Create Your Own CS Network in the Company:

Work hard to connect across organizations. Find the people who are as passionate as you are about customer success. In short, find the “Superstars”. Do whatever it takes to sign up people towards the good cause of customer happiness. I am saying buy them coffee or lunch, and use your passion to recruit. You would be surprised that I found folks in the unlikeliest of places. All the way in IT, Customer Support, Sales and Pre-Sales to generate subject matter and collateral for free, just because they cared. They were comfortable helping however they could, in spite of this NOT being a part of their job description and no other incentive linkage whatsoever. There will be more to come on what we did and how we did in a later piece. Finding those key individuals will make your job at least three times easier.

4. Shout Your Small Successes From the Rooftops:

It shouldn’t be news to anyone, but you will need to program manage this to the ‘T’. If you are a Product Manager or a CS leader who hates program management, I have bad news for you. Remember there will be a lot of functions involved. Having weekly/monthly conversations and establishing SLAs for each of the activities is key. I have one word for you – OVERCOMMUNICATE.

Share your small and large achievements, and bring people along with you on that journey. It could be blogging, creating news articles within the company, or even newsletters to keep people updated on your efforts. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it is necessary. People involved will celebrate with you, and the party is so much more fun if everyone feels like he or she was a part of it.

Lastly, don’t forget to have fun with it. In the next couple of posts, we will talk about how we collaborated with the Customer Support and Consulting Engineers to provide a high impact service to our customers.

This article wouldn’t be complete if I did not mention that I am really fortunate that I have most of the items above covered. I did mention in this post how I can count on my partners in crime in IT, Sales, and Services to deliver results. Y’all know who you are. Watch out folks, they will be collaborating with me on a future post.

Pallavi Gadepalli

Customer Success Product Manager, Security Business Unit , Cisco Systems