Although Customer Success is at the forefront of countless business discussions, many founders will say their Customer Success org is still messy and unorganized. It’s understandable, especially in early stage companies. How exactly do you manage a relationship against an ever growing and changing product — or a product that might not be at it’s best?
Stop Saying “We Don’t Have a Customer Success Department Yet.”
As leadership, you might default to claiming there is no customer success on your team of 5–10 people cramped in a tight office, fighting for air space over each other’s phone calls. Support calls might be handled by anyone from the Office Manager to the CEO. Structure might be hastily built by a Sales Director. The FAQ page might be built by the product manager — at any rate, there is a department — it’s made up of all of these people.
Going from “We have no department” to “I am the department”, immediately raises the stakes. How do you do the job better? How do you make the job easier? Building a Customer Success structure shouldn’t come with the first official CS hire, it starts with the founders.
Map Your Customer Journey
I’ve walked into several orgs as the first CSM and realized that no one had looked at the customer experience from beginning to end. No one had a fluid, cohesive understanding of what happened before sale, during sale and after handoff. What metrics are the customers seeing beforehand? How do they receive their contract? What are they told will happen next?
For an early stage company, someone has to do the work of maintaining an understanding of the customer journey *as it is* and not as they want it to be or imagine it to be; from the customers point of view and not from an internal point of view. Mapping the journey will immediately lead to asking the important questions:
“Where are the bottlenecks?”
“Why was this experience bad or good?”
“What can we do to make this process easier?/Smoother?”
“How can we correct the mistakes we’ve made?”
Use the Journey to Create Structure
In asking how to make the customer’s experience easier as well as cut down on the internal work, leadership will be drawn toward tried and true strategies of Customer Success professionals across the globe.
- Macros and email templates: If copy works, keep it. Use successful emails to scale messaging and save time when responding to tickets and messages.
- Collateral on using the product post sales: Founders tend to create a lot of sales collateral but what happens after the deal is closed? One pagers and decks for post-purchase interaction not only saves the team some time but sets expectations for the customer and gives them something concrete to hold on to and trust in.
- Collateral on internal teams and processes: How does the CS org work? What should a customer expect in terms of outreach for the year? How do they contact the company for support? To request a feature? To introduce a new potential client?
- Light Automation- Tools like Hubspot allow companies to enter customers into cadences; they’ll get automated messages triggered by an action — helping to automate onboarding processes and adoption strategies when a team is too small to do it all manually.
A company might hire a CSM who comes in and changes (read: improves) these processes. At any rate, the first CSM is looking to you, the founder, and other department heads for their your expertise on the customer base. How do customers respond to automated messages? How do they feel about the current collateral and explained processes? To a seasoned customer success professional, this is valuable data that can help them make more informed decisions on how the processes and strategy further develops and scales.
But until then, it starts with leadership. It starts with you.