As we wrap up 2021, it’s time to set our top Customer Success priorities for the new year. In our November Community Hour, we gathered Customer Success leaders from four innovative organizations to discuss their vision and strategy for 2022. Our discussion leaders included:
- Nitin Walia, Chief Client Officer at RapidRatings
- Jennifer Kirkland, VP of Customer Success at RevolutionParts
- Tyler Sellhorn, Head of Customer Experience at Yac
- Lauren Sickel, Head of Customer Success at Quala
Watch the full session here or read on for our top five takeaways from this Community Hour.
1. Create a vision for your Customer Success function
Now is the time to reaffirm the reason why Customer Success exists at your company in the first place. And why that vision is important to both customers and your business.
“For us, the organizing principle behind our vision is really trust,” said Nitin Walia from RapidRatings. “We want to establish the kind of trusted relationships where our clients recognize our expertise in the area and where they’re seeking our guidance, not just on how to use RapidRatings and how to think about financial health, but the broader landscape of supplier and third party relationship management.”
For many, living into the Customer Success vision requires a segmented approach to customers so that the business is meeting customers where they are. Now is the time to think about how you might segment your customer base to better suit the vision for success. This segmentation can include team size and potential to pay, but also segmenting based on the specific use-cases you have to solve for the customer.
2. Make that vision come to life cross-functionally
Bringing that vision to life must be a company-wide initiative, with full buy-in. In an ideal world, every team is focused on driving longer-term customer value — not just the frontline teams talking to customers. In that way, every teammate in a SaaS business is part of “customer success”.
A guiding principle here is getting both prospects and customers the right resources, aligned to a single story, at all stages of the customer journey. These resources ensure consistency in how people engage with the business but also create scalability. Webinars, emails, videos — all on-message — to build trust and continuity with customers, but also to get the full team on the same page.
As Jennifer says, “We’re actually working and partnering with our product marketing team and our customer marketing team to give our sales team the tools that they need to have the conversations and to prepare them for what to expect in those initial stages and the level of effort that it’s going to take for them to drive that value. So that’s just one of the areas that I’m putting a lot of time and energy into – making sure that the four of us are really in lockstep and having the same conversation, just at different stages.”
3. Define success by establishing clear metrics
In order to know if you’ve been successful, you need to set tangible goals that you can track with metrics. These goals could include drafting language that better identifies what stage of the process your customers are in and where you’d like them to go.
Many times, folks will focus solely on top-level items that the CEO is concerned about, like revenue and retention. But in order to have success at the top level, you need to build a ladder with all of the pieces that will ultimately add up to success. The key is to not overprescribe the ground-level metrics. The panel suggested their teams need autonomy to do things in the way that’s going to be most effective, and they’re likely going to be better at figuring out how to get to that goal.
Here are some key indicators the panel regularly uses as success metrics: activity on the platform; dialogue engagement; ability to expand; and forecast accuracy.
4. Track your progress with key indicators
When it comes to success, it’s all about the data. Start simply, with contact information and product usage, and grow from there. Collect data as early as possible, so that six months down the road you have historical data you can use to develop key performance indicators going forward. This can be challenging for earlier-stage companies.
As Tyler says, “How do you even know which things are leading indicators of customer health unless you have historical data? Do some anecdotal analysis like, ‘Okay, here is someone that I’ve talked to and fits what we’re building for. And they’re in that segment of people that we would be hoping to see achieve the goals that we’re thinking.’”
For Lauren, “Continually iterating on what you’re doing is super important in the early stage. Not putting stakes in the ground too early is also very important. If I said, ‘We’re going to hit this number,’ and then it’s just not an attainable number, then I’m not doing anything good for myself or for my team.”
5. Rally the business around drivers of customer value
Jennifer’s key initiative for 2022 is emphasizing value. “It’s having every single human within our company know what the three key drivers of value are. And then having every single team know how they drive and having customers recognize that – being aware that that’s what they should be trying to focus on and recognize the toolkits that they have available to them to be successful.”
For Nitin, it’s all about raising awareness. “We share a goal for the year ahead of really increasing awareness and facility with business value concepts. In part, that’s tied to an initiative we’re undertaking to significantly increase the responsibilities that our CSMs have for commercial management of existing programs, both renewal and expansion. And to do that well, I think we need to augment and complement the really rich product expertise and client empathy that we’ve been really good at, with a deeper understanding of the business value.”
“Make sure you are collecting the right data,” he says, “so you can look back and show what you did, the impact that had on the business, and what you learned.”
One of the best parts of our Community Hours is answering questions from our attendees. Here, we headed into a live Q&A session, digging into some thought-provoking questions.
How do you align customer values to company goals?
Nitin: When we are setting high-level corporate goals, CS leadership is active in that process. I’m at the table, my colleagues are at the table – so at a very basic level, we are weighing in and impacting what those high-level goals are.
I think the second way that we do it is, across the organization, we have cascading goals down the line of sight, so that when we get down to the client support level or the CSM level and they have a tactical set of goals or objectives, they can understand and see very clearly how it maps to the high-level financial goals and corporate goals. In many ways, the most important piece is just keeping the clients front and center.
How do we keep teams engaged and motivated towards goals, especially amid lots of change?
Tyler: If you have an invitational tone and say, okay, we’re going to embrace the uncertainty, we’re going to embrace the uncomfortable nature of being vulnerable and saying we don’t have it all figured out, there are ways for you to find out some things that you didn’t know, right? And then you’re going to be able to take action on those things that you learned. Number one, share the power that is imbued by your position with your whole team and with the people that you interact with. And then number two, be invitational to say there is more to be gained, come further up, come further in, right? There is an opportunity for us to do things that we haven’t done yet.
There was so much more to this inspiring discussion; to learn more, watch the whole session on YouTube.