Achieving Customer Success At Scale
In today’s digital-first world, your Customer Success (CS) program is only as good as the technology and data behind it. As your customer base grows, the need to lead operations transformation, scale your CS team, manage intricate customer relationships and reach your customers across multiple touchpoints, is compounded. In order to handle the increasing demands and complexities that arise with growth while exceeding your business goals, you need to leverage the right Customer Success technology and master your customer data.
To find out how to leverage CS technology to accelerate scale, I spoke with Nicole McLaren, Customer Success Technology Consultant at Valuize. Nicole has led Customer Success Operations transformation at leading enterprise technology companies through the implementation of processes, configuration and optimization of tools, and creation of methodologies for account health and churn prediction. In this article, Nicole shares her expert advice on how to strengthen your CS Operations model and effectively leverage your technology and data to drive value for your customers at scale.
Q: What was your first job? How did you get started in Customer Success?
A: “My first job was as a cashier at Loblaws, which helped me develop my foundational understanding and knowledge of Customer Experience. From there, I continued to work in customer-facing roles and eventually made my way into the defined, and exciting, domain of Customer Success.”
Q: What excites you about working in the Customer Success domain? How do you think the domain will continue to evolve from here?
A: “I have always been drawn to innovative industries that allow me to be creative and implement new ideas. Customer Success is a relatively new domain that has recently become a focal point for growth across all industries, especially in SaaS. Right now, a lot of companies view CS as a department but I see Customer Success becoming the pinnacle for strategies across all functions of an organization. I love that I get to experience the evolution of Customer Success and directly participate in its development everyday by working with Valuize clients.”
Q: In your opinion, what are the most important elements of a strong CS Operations model?
A: “In my experience, there are 3 elements of a really strong CS Operations organization. First, you need to develop and incrementally optimize your CS strategy. This process should include a thorough understanding of your customer journey and what makes a customer account healthy vs. unhealthy. A comprehensive CS strategy will empower you to create the right processes to streamline and scale your operations. Secondly, you need to invest in technology that optimizes your team’s operations. By scaling CS Operations through technology, you enable your team to shift its attention from reactive day-to-day tactics to proactive and strategic initiatives. Lastly, you should aim to make data easily accessible to your CS team and cross-departmentally. By leveraging the right technology, you can streamline and optimize the storage, access, analysis, and utilization of your most valuable CS data. This data can then be used to facilitate more effective conversations with your customers and further improve your CS strategy and operations.”
Q: Where should a company begin when building a Customer Success Operations function and how can they ensure its scalability?
A: “To begin, it’s important for a company to have a thorough understanding of its current CS operations. This is the baseline. At Valuize, we help our clients answer the following questions:
- What is my customers’ lifecycle?
- What is their intended customer journey?
- Who interacts with a customer?
- What are the points of interaction with our customers?
- What are the intended customer outcomes from our product, each interaction and each stage of the customer lifecycle?
- How does CS Operations support and drive these outcomes?
Once you have a clear understanding of your existing CS Operations, you can then begin to apply your technology and data-driven initiatives in order to test how proposed changes make an impact. From there, rinse and repeat. Continue to ask critical questions that allow you to evaluate your CS organization from all angles, help you uncover new ways to improve and maximize the effectiveness of your CS Operations and lead an operations transformation.”
Q: As companies look to manage the customer lifecycle, there is some debate over build versus buy. In your experience, what are the benefits of buy versus build and what should companies consider when making this decision?
A: “Throw away those spreadsheets! If you want to scale, you need to have the technology in place that can help you reduce your valuable human resources. When making an investment in CS technology, there will be upfront costs that can make a company question the importance of the investment, or perhaps cut corners to bring these costs down. Unfortunately, companies that make this choice often end up spending more money in the long run trying to replace the product or acquire additional products to fill in the gaps as their organization scales. Instead, get the right platform that is a true fit for your needs and supports your organization in its expansion.
The right technology will save your organization time and money by:
- Sharpening security
- Simplifying account management
- Streamlining data accessibility, management and digest
- Reducing human error
- Developing company-wide account transparency
Q: Why do you think customer success technology is an important investment for organizations? How do you see the relationship between CS strategy, technology, and data evolving as a company grows and scales?
A: “As your company grows and scales, technology will continue to enable your team to seamlessly adapt to growth. It will act as a vessel for data management and data digestion so your teams can effortlessly identify trends, support the execution of your CS strategy, and reduce overall human effort. Keep in mind: as your company grows, the volume of your data grows too. Continuing to analyze and test data will give your organization more opportunities to validate and iterate on your strategies as well as apply new best practices to technology-enabled processes and tools.”
Q: How can B2B software leaders maximize the ROI of their CS Technology investment?
A: “Adopting a new platform is never easy for the people implementing the change, nor for the ones adopting the change. Be prepared to invest not only in the purchasing of the software itself, but also in the strategy, implementation and onboarding that will drive the successful adoption of the software. With a solid adoption plan, your end-users become your champions and advocate for furthering the development and utilization of the software. This is key to maximizing the investment of your technology, which is necessary for driving scale and operations transformation.”
Q: In your experience, what are some key challenges that software organizations are facing when it comes to the operationalization of customer success processes in CS technology like Gainsight? How do you recommend that leaders navigate these challenges for a successful implementation?
A: “A challenge that many organizations face is implementing, onboarding and adopting the platform on time and within budget. This often occurs because robust platforms, like Gainsight, offer a wide range of features that tend to stretch a company’s existing resources past their ability to build the platform and onboard new users effectively. For best results, consult with experts that can effectively support the implementation and onboarding of new technologies like Gainsight. As a recommended rule of thumb, I’d also make sure to evaluate the product’s features and usage every 6 months to a year. While this may require external support, it’s important to ensure that the right building blocks are in place to support the continual adoption of the platform.”
Q: Customer data is an increasingly important component of a strong Customer Success organization. How do you recommend that software leaders make the most of their customer data?
A: “I strongly recommended actively reviewing and investing in your data. It’s very common for a company to use the same business model for years and only review the data that validates their existing model. Nothing in this world is stagnant; things are changing everyday, including your customers and their needs and wants. Remember to review, analyze, and study all the incoming data you receive in order to iterate and improve your business model and strategies effectively.”
Bonus Q: What’s your favourite way to spend a Sunday?
A: “Doing chores! I find it’s a great meditative practice that sets me up for success in the week to come.”
Invest In Your Customer Success Operations Transformation
To set your organization up for everlasting and explosive growth, here are Nicole’s top 3 recommendations:
- Start with a clear understanding of your organization’s CS operations and build a thorough strategy to address opportunities and potential gaps. A solid strategy is the foundation for enabling the right processes and technology to streamline your operations.
- Couple your CS technology investment with change management to ensure successful implementation, onboarding and adopting. With a strategic adoption plan in place, your end-users become your champions and advocate for greater utilization of the software.
- Iterate your strategy and processes by leveraging all of the data at your disposal. Your customers and the market are constantly in flux, so ensure that you’re employing the most up-to-date data to drive improvements and efficiencies geared towards maximizing adoption, retention and expansion.
If you’re ready to kick your Customer Success organization into high gear and champion an operations transformation, follow these 7 powerful tips from 2 Operations experts and accelerate your CS Operations today.