I love a solid case study. And many potential customers do, too!
But most Customer Success teams are somewhat reactive when it comes to their relationship with Marketing. They are asking for a case study? Okay, let’s pull something out of our sleeves!
Let’s Be Proactive, Shall We?
I believe that Customer Success should actually be leading new case studies. Here’s why:
You know what works, and for which types of customers in which verticals and industries your product is a great fit. Marketing likely only sees the shiny logos.
That also means that you can identify the real success stories – the ones that really added value to the customer. The result: Such a case study can be used to attract more similar customers.
You already have the playbooks. You know the drill. You understand the challenges in attracting and onboarding these customers – and making them successful. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, and you will enjoy this role way more.
But There’s Also A Responsibility
Not so fast: While it’s important to find the stories of good-fit customers, you have another responsibility, too.
A case study is only as good as the story it’s telling. And we all know that some clients are just a *wee* bit more boring than others. Maybe they’re not great storytellers. Maybe their business isn’t so inspiring.
What I’m saying is: You will make Marketing’s job much easier by also looking for customers that like to talk, and that are good at it. This gives Marketing more wiggle room to turn it into a great story.
Many customers usually means a lot of ideas. That's great! But if we just send every request to our colleagues in the product department... their inbox will be full. Here's a better way to handle customer requests for optimal output.
When I look back at my first weeks in a customer-facing function, I remember very clearly how excited I was about all the customer feedback that I received.
“I love that your solution does X and Y. You know what would be amazing? If it also did Z!”
What an incredible insight! Our paying customer told me things that they would find even better about our product. So I did what every new Customer Success Manager does.. I send my product manager an email.
“Hey there! Mathilda from Customer X just said that it would be amazing if we did Y!”
Little did I know that the product team gets these messages all. The. Time.
Handling Customer Requests So That They Feel Listened To (And Your Product Manager Doesn’t Go Crazy)
The challenge lies in the fact that we have to balance both our customers and our PM’s interest:
The client (that hopefully loves our solution) feels that feature X would make them more successful
The product manager that wants to build a client-centric solution, but at the same time has to balance requests and demands from pretty much everyone in and outside the company
There are 4 things that I do to achieve both these goals.
1. Be Honest
Sure, it’s easier to say “That’s great Greg! I am sure we will be working on that soon.”
But it’s frustrating for your client. So when they have a suggestion and you know that it is far out of scope and not on the roadmap at all, tell them.
For some clients, this might trigger the idea that a custom solution might be a better fit for them. You can quickly disarm that by referring to the pricing and how much more expensive a custom solution would be.
It’s also important to figure out if it’s a need to have or a must have. And to challenge your clients on that. In my experience, most requests that seem very urgent must haves are actually just need to haves upon further digging.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t log the request. Make sure you always do that.
2. Logging Feature Requests
Which brings us to the next point on our list: Logging feature requests.
There are some great tools for that like Shipright. but a well-structured spreadsheet will do the trick in the beginning.
Try to group the features based on the different parts of your solution and the step in the customer journey your customer is in. A customer that is more experienced with your platform might, for example, solve a problem differently than a beginner.
Crucial for us as CSMs is to understand if NOT having that feature might be a renewal blocker. Can they live without it? Or will it lead to churn?
3. Set Up A Feature Request Task Force
Feature requests, especially with many teams working on them, can become messy.
That’s why a regular feature request alignment meeting with the product manager is helpful. I like to use 30 minutes every month for that.
One thing that I’ve learnt is that it’s important to pick your battles. The PM has a lot of different priorities. Try to bring as much available data to the table as possible, for instance the ARR impact of a certain feature, and speak with one voice as a team.
4. Don’t Avoid The Topic
Even when there’s no news or update about the feature request, when you next talk to your customer – still update them on the steps you have taken. There’s no need to apologize. Just go back to the original reason they chose your solution and the success they’re trying to achieve. Just don’t try to hide it, your customer will notice.
I have to admit: I was never a big fan of hurdles and track racing. I always had this fear of falling over one of them, in front of the rest of my class.
But imagine how bad it would be if you’re running a track, unsuspectingly – and suddenly a massive hurdle pops up out of nowhere. And knocks you off your feet.
That’s how our customers can feel during onboarding as well.
We’ve promised them this shiny new world – and hopefully got them super excited about starting their journey with us. And all these hurdles pop up.
But there’s a couple of simple tactics we can implement to prevent that from happening.
Success Looks Different For Every Customer
You’ve heard it before: Success looks different for every customer. Not every customer is after the same success outcomes! And we need to make sure we understand their ideal success outcome beforehand.
That’s why a good handover with the sales department is so crucial.
But it’s not just that the desired outcome might be different. The way there might also differ!
Thus one of the first things for every customer onboarding needs to be a clear definition of the track: What’s the outcome they want to go after? What are the milestones, the hurdles they need to pass? (You can also use our free Success Plan Canvas to plan these things)
I like to differentiate the hurdles into two categories:
Which of them require end user training?
Which of them require alignment within our customer’s organization?
So once we understand the hurdles, and what they require, we can tell how much time it will take to get there. And sometimes, that’s more like a marathon than a sprint!
I always refer back to the hurdles in follow-up calls or emails, in order to remind my customer of them and set realistic expectations.
The First Hurdle To Cross: The AHA Moment
Many CSMs that I talk to see the AHA moment as this abstract, all-encompassing moment where everything is suddenly well.
For me, the AHA moment is the very first BIG hurdle to take. It’s the moment where they realize that all the onboarding steps will be worth it, and that our solutions is a good fit for them.
In the AHA moment, your customer realizes the true value of your solution. That doesn’t mean they got to their desired outcome yet. But they made the first big step.
So I want to leave you with these three questions to discuss at the beginning of every onboarding:
What is the success outcome our customer is after?
What is the first AHA moment we need to take to get there?
What are the hurdles on the way, and how much time will they take to solve?
CSMs usually don't have too much to do with the Finance department. What a wasted opportunity!
Yeah, Finance isn’t the most sexy topic to talk about if you’re in Customer Success. We all care more about the human side of the business, right?
But today I want to talk to you about two financial metrics that actually come in really handy if you’re a Customer Success Manager. I’m talking about ARPA (Average Revenue per Account) and ARPU (Average Revenue per User). Here’s how you can use them to your advantage.
Average Revenue Per Account (ARPA)
Calculating the ARPA is pretty simple – you just divide your revenue by the number of accounts. But how can that be helpful?
First, you can get a trendline of the revenue that each new account brings in. It’s a pretty good indicator for the profitability of your accounts, and also shows which products and services generate revenue.
For Customer Success, the opportunity lies in dedicated playbooks1
Of course, every customer is relevant. But when a customer with a certain (high) ARPA comes in, you might consider a different playbook. Maybe add a couple extra steps in the onboarding that add more value. Sure, this costs time and money – but with a high ARPA, this can create even more revenue!
On the lower end, you might consider doubling down on automation.
In short, the ARPA helps you to segment your customers and make sure you focus on the ones that really drive value for your organization.
Average Revenue Per User (ARPU)
The ARPA is really useful for Customer Success. But the ARPU? Well, the ARPU can help you communicate more efficiently with the other departments.
In a healthy SaaS business, your ARPU should steadily go up. This shows that your Sales and Marketing get more effective at attracting good-fit customers.
But Sales and Marketing rarely optimize for ARPU. That’s why it’s good to have the finger on the pulse of the ARPU and talk about it with your Sales and Marketing colleagues. It’s a super lagging indicator, but it can help you steer the company in the right direction.
A good handover is the first big step to a healthy and happy customer. Here is how you can make your sales handover smoother immediately.
Even before the ink on your contract is dry, you might be on a slippery slope down. Too many customers with great potential get lost because the handover between Sales and Customer Success just isn’t that great.
You can fill a book with the processes and workings of a perfect handover culture, but here’s my take: To fix the most urgent issues, 4 questions are enough. Ask your Sales rep these 4 questions before every handover, and you’re on your way to more healthy and happy customers.
Question 1: What Pain(S) Is The Customer Trying To Solve?
Does this sound obvious? It doesn’t – to many Sales reps. If they’re not used to a strong customer-centric culture, the Sales process can be very inside-out, with little focus on the actual pains of the customer. Just asking this question will be a great filter for you. Watch out though: Make sure your Sales team doesn’t just come up with the pains they think the customer wants to solve.
Question 2: Who Holds The Budget? Do They Also Drive The Implementation And Adoption Of The Tool?
When it comes to handing over your customer, the decision maker should have been involved for a long time, and the financials should be clear. But just because we know who’s paying for it, doesn’t mean we know who’s driving implementation and adoption. Does your Sales team have the answers to this?
Question 3: What Does Success Look Like For This Particular Customer?
Success is very different from just resolving a certain pain. In a well-rounded Sales process, your colleagues will have already sketched out what we need to deliver to make the customer truly successful, happy – and stay with us. What is the success moment that we need to get them to?
Question 4: What Competitors Did They Also Look At And What Made Us Different From These Competitors?
For some reason this is an awkward question to ask. But chances are your new customer has had a demo call or at least a look at one of your competitors. Understanding what they liked better about your solution – or about your competitor – ensures that you can set a specific focus on the benefit or feature, and, in the long run, inform your commercial strategy.
If your sales team can’t answer all these 4 questions, hand it back to them to ensure a healthy and successful onboarding process. It might hurt the first time, but you all will be smarter and happier in the long run. 🙂
How can we talk more with Sales, Marketing and the Product department? It all starts with these 3 simple measures you can implement today.
Customer Success is a mindset, not just a department.
That’s why a part of our role as Customer Success Managers is to also activate our colleagues: Everyone needs to be aware what is happening with our clients!
Renewal, churn, upsell – we need to constantly nudge our colleagues towards understanding these key concepts of Customer Success.
If Sales, Marketing, and the Product department understand what’s driving the 3 core KPI’s in Customer Success, they can do their part to improve them. Marketing and selling to the right customer profile. Building features that drive engagement and reduce churn. There are so many ways everyone will benefit from you taking these 3 simple steps!