Product & Sales

Last week, I discussed my experience with establishing cross-functional partnerships between Customer Success and Sales and Product. In this post, I will continue to explore how to collaborate with the Finance team in depth, the CFO, and the various other functional groups who could be good allies for CS. I know that thinking about developing these frameworks can seem overwhelming when viewing the company as a whole, so I will also detail some of the strategies I’ve implemented to get the relationship off on the right foot, and small things you can do to get the ball moving.

CS & Finance

In certain companies, it can sometimes seem like the finance team’s lowest priority is the customer. To them, customers are just a series of dollar sign. Given this clear divide in work priorities and philosophies, it is critical to make your case in terms that the CFO and finance can understand and get behind. To building a really strong relationship with the finance leader, show how CS can really benefit their team and also the customers. The first step is to speak their language – numbers. Metrics and KPIs that are mutually understandable and convey real results like churn reduction, increase in customer satisfaction, accelerated renewals and revenue are all possible ways to get in good with the CFO.

Of course, in order to make headway on all these fronts, you will need their support to get a budget to fund your efforts. Demonstrate the results of their investment and where the money is going to concretely, so you can show why the cost is justified. Conduct regular reporting to keep everyone apprised of the customers’ health, and touch base as often as is needed to keep both teams aligned. If they feel like you are good investment, you’ll have their support when you petition the Executive Board for a seat at the table, and a Chief Customer Officer role.

Tools: Making the Case

If you are in the position in which you have to justify why a Customer Success platform is required, instead of just using Salesforce, you may have to educate the CFO on why the insights and visualizations a CSA solution offers are different, and how it allows you to increase transparency for all parties. Anyone from an interested team can login to the platform and assess customer health, and view past records of customer data all in one place. The customer centric view will allow you to show how your team in CS are looking at the customer holistically and proactively monitoring their sentiment. Talk to them in their language, which is data and numbers, and if you can go to them and say here’s the solution I want, this is how it’s going to save us money, save us time, and improve customer retention.

Other Teams to Work With

Sales Operations – CS Enablement

We’ve talked sales; we’ve talked product, and we’ve talked finance. These are the major ones that you will find at any organization, but there are a few others that can prove helpful. Sales Operations, which we called Customer Success Enablement, but really it functioned like a Professional Services and Operations arm of Customer Success. They were in the field, and they worked with us to standardize templates and best practices. With our input, they defined what the onboarding process looked like, what the welcome package should be, how new CSM training should go, and much more. They were the ones that would collect the input from the field and represent it at product meetings. They could prioritize feature requests based on what they’d seen and heard from customers, and monitor the CSA platform to make sure it’s keeping track of the master customer record.

Customer Support

Another function that is also essential to work with is Customer Support, which is the final piece that ensures Customer Success in an organization. It’s good to have a back door into the team that handles the daily issues that customers deal with, and notes them in the system of record and keeps track of which features need the most fixes. After partnering with CS, they can see the relationship history and answer the phone with some more context. If Customer X calls in with a problem, and right there on the screen, he can see that X’s company is of middling health, and there are many outstanding bugs, they can make sure to address those needs

A partnership with CS allows Support to be an informed reactive arm of CS and keep customers satisfied without requiring a CSM to be a part of every call. This also helps improve the customer experience so that they don’t have to keep repeating themselves; the relationship history is in their file on the CS platform. In fact, you can even think of the Support team as an early warning system of issues in customer accounts can be a great way to capitalize off of the partnership

Relationship Building Best Practices

If you are new CS leader, the approach I would advise when start building relationship with the other leaders in your company is to start small and plan on making periodic efforts to develop interdepartmental trust overtime. The first thing to do is to get clarity on what Customer Success means at that organization. To me, Customer Success is as much defined by what it’s not, as by the function it actually serves. In my opinion, and I just wrote a blog post about this, Customer Success is not Customer Support. Having a common understanding in the organization of what Customer Success is responsible for and what you are supposed to do will help you all move cohesively towards your collective goals as a company.

Another strategy that I have implemented is inviting the customer in to present to the whole company. During a company-wide lunch, invite a customer in to talk about their use-case, and show how they use your product for increased success. This will allow all teams to hear from the customer first-hand, and feel excited and invigorated by their work again. It will also allow everyone to put a face to the customer and be more motivated to make sure their experience is a positive one. Hearing feedback, whether positive or negative will be constructive and push forward customer-centric values, while encouraging appreciation for all the CS team does.

Biggest Trends in Customer Success

From my experience as a CS consultant, I get to observe the exponential growth of CS firsthand. In the professional sphere of Customer Success, so many meetups, conferences, articles, and conversation on LinkedIn and CS forums revolving around growing the space together are emerging. There is also an increasing amount of discussion around the best tools, like Strikedeck’s CS Platform, which enable CSMs to become even more efficient in their roles. The result of this is that nearly every CS organization has some solution to monitor their customers.

Even more exciting is the growth of roles in Customer Success within and outside of the Silicon Valley. The CS influence is pervasive and infiltrating even companies that don’t have a subscription-based business model. CS Consulting is also having a big moment as companies realize they need experts to show them how to establish a CS operation. 2017 is going to be Fast and Furious in the world of Customer Success, and brokering these partnerships will lay the groundwork for ease of collaboration in the future.