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Linda Formichelli

Linda Formichelli

7 Talking Points to Protect Your Customer Success Budget in Q4

It’s the second half of 2020, and you’re already making plans for 2021—including setting your budget for next year.

You may find yourself needing to protect your headcount, the investments you’re making in tech, and your suggestions for new product features that can help with those first two expenses.

To help, we researched the top objections you may encounter and came up with ideas to help you make your case. Here are 7 talking points you can use when you’re positioning the value of customer success to your CEO, CFO, or CRO. Share this article with the decision maker, or use these points in your face-to-face conversation.

The Objection: We need to decrease COGS in 2021.

The customer success team is considered a part of Cost of Goods Sold (aka COGS). So when a company wants to increase their gross margin (an important indicator of how profitable and scalable the business is) they’ll look closely at the expenses incurred by your team.

The Talking Points

Here are some quick ideas and scripts that can help you tackle this objection with a busy decision maker.

“We can charge for [these] key services to help maintain our headcount.”

Your company may be giving away services that customers would gladly pay for. If you see this happening, point out that charging for these services would open up new revenue streams that can be used to help maintain your customer success team—increasing customer retention and creating a virtuous cycle.

“A Customer Success Platform can help us save on headcount.”

Customer Success Platforms can help you create efficiencies that will let you scale your customers’ success, without necessarily having to scale your team to match. For example, apps that combine customer assessments and usage data let CSMs gather more insights, more quickly—so they can handle more customers in less time.

“[These] new product enhancements can help increase Time To Value (TTV) or overall customer effort.”

This is where you bring up ideas you, your team, and your customers have for product enhancements that would decrease the gap between the platform being sold and the actual platform. Adding highly requested features would allow customers to do more on their own — placing less of a burden on customer success and support teams that have to step in and operate the technology on behalf of frustrated users.

The Objection: Why can’t account managers, customer services, or support teams handle this function?

Your CFO may understand that happier customers stay customers longer, but may not understand how customer success differs from other customer-facing teams. They’re also busy, so they need a (very) quick overview of what you do and why you matter.

The Talking Points

Get your CFO on board with these explanations that differentiate the different functions—without coming off like you’re putting down other teams.

“Customer service and support teams are reactive; we also need a proactive approach to retaining customers, and that’s customer success.”

Think of it this way: while the customer service and support teams work to help customers whenever a program needs to be managed or a problem pops up (reacting to the challenge), customer success is the team that ensures customers will have nothing to complain about in the first place (proactively helping them reach their goals).

“We serve as the customer’s trusted advisor.”

While account management teams are tasked with the commercial side of the business—securing renewals and expansions—customer success managers are the trusted consultants that help ensure that the renewal and expansion actually happens from a business outcomes perspective. They do this by acting as expert advisors to their customers, ensuring the key activities happen that will promote overall customer success. 

“We bridge the gap between the product that’s sold and the product that exists.”

Your company’s sales team is likely “selling ahead,” telling prospects about features that are in the plans but aren’t live in the product yet.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so be sure not to paint the sales team as the villain. They do it because they don’t know how long the sales cycle will be, and anticipate that it might take some time for the deal to close. And by that time, maybe you will have that feature up and running! It’s all about getting new customers in the door, which is their job.

Customer success is the function that bridges hope with reality. CSMs work behind the scenes with each and every team to make sure customers get the results they need, even without those promised features—reducing customer churn.

The Objection: Why do we need 20 CSMs for 100 accounts?

You see a low CSM:Customer ratio, where CSMs are taking a “white glove” approach to success. Your CEO, CFO, or CRO, on the other hand, may just see a big customer success team working with a small pool of customers. 

The Talking Points

You know why you need so many CSMs, so here’s how to tell the true story in a way that resonates.

“Let me walk you through our customer journey.”

The decision makers (and purse string holders) in your company may have a general idea of the customer journey, but not know about the twists, turns, and gaps that your customer success team has to help the customer traverse so they can be successful on your platform.

Showing them what your CSMs do at each step can help. Your CEO, CFO, or CRO will see the major milestones—and how your team helps customers reach those milestones, so that you get to retain their business.

Now they can see why it takes 20 CSMs to retain 100 customers.

“We work behind the scenes simplifying the process for customers.”

Your SaaS offerings are easy and simple to use, but customers who are in the implementation and onboarding stage may not see it that way; for example, they may ask why the software they thought was turnkey is taking them six months to implement.

That’s where customer success comes in. Decision makers may not know that CSMs often take on work behind the scenes to make the software seem as simple as possible to the end user—again, showing that you need more support, not less.

Quala is one of those platforms we talked about earlier that can help you create efficiencies—and help more customers in less time, no matter what your headcount. To learn more, contact us for a live walkthrough.

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