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Sonciary Honnoll

Sonciary Honnoll

Building Trust & Value with High-Scale Customer Success Teams

You know that building relationships and delivering value to customers is key to their success and yours. But how can you do this when you have only a few CSMs — or even just one! — serving dozens, hundreds, or thousands of customers?

We spoke with three managers of high-scale customer success teams to find out how they turn a low-touch approach into high trust and value:

  • Rebecca McDougall, Director of Customer Success at Synapse, a collaborative platform that streamlines and centralizes training and course design.
  • Daryl Colborne, Director of Customer Success at Zerto, which handles businesses’ data protection requirements with backup and disaster recovery.
  • Emma Hill, Customer Success Manager at ProdPad, which provides product management software that helps teams collect ideas, identify priorities, and build flexible product roadmaps.

Here, these three customer success pros share experiences and advice that will help you brainstorm and implement solutions that work for your tiny-but-busy CS team — even if you don’t have the resources to deliver ultra-personalized, high-touch service to all your customers.

QUALA: What is the makeup of your current customer success team and how many customers are you typically handling at any given time?

Emma Hill: There are three of us who actively work in success, and have around 1,000 customers.

Daryl Colborne: Our customer base is just under 10,000 customers. Zerto is just now venturing into the world of customer success, so our team is very small — 2 people including me. We’ve always been very customer success-centric from an account escalation perspective. Now, we’re expanding our approach and becoming more proactive to drive retention and expansion outcomes, rather than to just drive resolution of critical issues for our customers.

Rebecca McDougall: Synapse is an early stage startup, and at this time I’m the only member of the customer success team. I lead all of the onboarding, training, and support as well as important account management activities like renewal. Currently, we have around 50 accounts.

QUALA: Before we talk about how to build trust, we should ask what it means to you when you say you’re building trust with a customer?

Daryl Colborne: Anybody who’s working in customer success really needs to become a trusted adviser to the customer post-sale. For us at Zerto, a lot of that has to do with the quality of support we provide  —  tactical and strategic. So when the customer has an issue  —  how fast do we resolve the problem? How creative and collaborative must we be to meet their needs? Who do we involve to ensure the customer has what they need to see value in our products? Trust is also about doing what we can to help customers achieve the outcomes that they anticipated when they decided to say yes to Zerto and purchase our software.

Rebecca McDougall: For me it means developing a unique relationship with them that feels authentic and transparent. And ultimately, the relationship is rooted in wanting to make sure you’re providing them with some sort of value from your product. Sometimes that means having difficult conversations about how they’re using it or how they might want to use it. It’s also about getting to know like the person behind the title: what motivates them, what their goals are.

Emma Hill: We’re actively listening to customers. Not just me as a success person, but also product, development, support, and marketing…everyone’s paying attention to our customers. If they don’t feel like they’re being listened to then we don’t get the opportunity to build trust.

QUALA: What are some of the systems you set up that let you build trust and deliver value even if you’re not in frequent communication with each customer?

Rebecca McDougall: We’ve done away with the traditional quarterly business review or check-in approach and introduced something that we call our monthly scrums, which have proven to be quite valuable for our clients.

The reason we position it as a scrum is that scrum methodology is meant to be an iterative and flexible reassessment of plans and goals. We’re finding that with this, we’re able to really partner with our clients on what success looks like to them throughout their entire customer journey, because that success and their goals are not static — especially given how frequently things are changing in the world today. 

This helps build trust and helps them get more value out of the platform. The monthly cadence might not scale well, but right now we’re able to accommodate it.

Daryl Colborne: Two of us obviously can’t deliver a high-touch model to thousands of customers. So we’re running a pilot of a high-touch model with four to five customers just to start. We work very closely with the customer to guide them through the customer journey. 

What we’re currently scoping is a tech touch model for the majority of our customers with a  community component. We intend to provide the right education materials to customers online while allowing them to network with each other. Our monthly newsletter and calendar of events will also be promoted to increase adoption and engagement of the Zerto platform.

This one-to-many approach will likely be ideal for the majority of our customers and trust will be a key component. 

QUALA: How do you help customers help themselves so you’re not slammed with work?

Emma Hill: We’ve been reviewing our customer onboarding experience as part of our intention become a more proactive success team at scale. We’ve now automated the welcome email that goes out to the majority of our customers when they join. In that communication we outline what they need to be successful. We then direct them to our help center with useful videos and webinars available on demand. We also send tailored messages depending on their activity, like platform usage and email clicks, to help them get more from the platform.

And through the entire experience, whoever needs our support and assistance, we make ourselves available to them.

Daryl Colborne: We have been focusing on customer enablement, which decreases the load of cases put on our Support organization. Examples of these initiatives include enhancing the content within our knowledgebase and holding webinar sessions for customers who choose to participate. We’re always on the lookout for ways to be more proactive. As we increase our focus on customer health and the customer experience, we look to engage with our customers with a goal of better understanding their needs and ways we can improve. 

QUALA: What kind of in-product features do you have to help customers help themselves be more successful?

Emma Hill: We’ve recently released a sandbox mode, which has an example with dummy data so our customers can see what a great setup looks like. And as part of the trial onboarding process, this is gamified. Our platform directs customers to complete recommended tasks, and they can even earn more trial time for doing so. Basically, the product enables customers to learn it all by themselves — and have fun while doing it.

Rebecca McDougall: We use the chat solution Intercom, which has a product called Tour that allows us to provide a dynamic in-product onboarding experience. When the customer logs into the platform, based on certain features they’re using or not using, we can feed them different experiences that will guide them through how to achieve a particular action they want or goal they have. 

So if they’re just getting started, and the first thing they want to do is set up a certain aspect of the platform, they can easily click on a button and it guides them through that experience. We can also use usage metrics from the product to feed them with tours or prompts; for example, if they’re not using part of the platform, we can have a pop-up that says, “Hi! We noticed you haven’t checked out feature X, so click on this button to launch a two-minute tour.” This surfaces and resurfaces content that’s relevant to them, based both on their initial interest and their usage over time.

QUALA: What’s the biggest piece of advice about building trust and delivering value you’d offer someone who heads up a team that’s similar to yours?

Daryl Colborne: Hire people who care as much about the customer’s success as you do. As we grow a team of customer success managers here at Zerto, I’ll be looking for people who want to jump in and help somebody, who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get dirty a bit — because I do it every day. I enjoy it, even in the hardest of situations, because I want the customer to be successful. Hopefully I’ll eventually be looking for people who share that same sort of mentality.

Emma Hill: It’s essential for customer success teams to listen actively, both internally and externally. When you’re interacting with customers, what are they actually saying? Are you properly understanding and spending the time on that? And are you listening to what your business needs as well, and trying to figure out how you can help bring the two closer together? 

When you’re in a high-scale team, you have the benefit of being able to see your customers across the board — you have an overview of all of them, rather than fighting for just your few customers. You can then add a lot of value to your product teams by offering feedback where you see patterns from customers — and tie that back to your business needs as well.

Rebecca McDougall: When it comes to building trust and delivering value, the customer has to be central to everything that the business is doing — and trying to develop that mentality across the organization is really important. That comes down to little things; for example, I will sometimes correct team members if they say things like “your client” or “my client.” Really, it’s our client, and we need to develop that mindset across all teams. Because when everyone feels connected to the customer, ultimately you’ll develop better products and will solve problems faster. And when you have that customer-centric mindset, developing trust and delivering value just happens organically.

The Three Keys to Successful Scaling

These three customer success leaders have the right idea. With the right tools and an experimental mindset—and a clear view of what trust and value mean to you—your small customer success team can have a big positive impact on your customers. 

To learn how Quala can help you create success for your customers no matter what your team’s size, contact us for a live walkthrough.

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