Transform your customer lifecycle to drive best-in-class Net Dollar Retention. Learn how on our upcoming webinar.

Back to all customer success articles
16 December 2021

Unlock The Full Potential Of Your Customer Success Team: An Interview With Naz Madani

by Mirah Gocher Reading time: 11 mins
success team

Unleash The Power Of Your People

Customer retention is a top priority for growing SaaS organizations, but an equally important, yet often overlooked, concern is employee retention. In the last year, 40% of Customer Success (CS) organizations reported a higher-than-average employee turnover of 11-25% (Totango, 2021). The great resignation has hit the tech industry with brute force, making attracting and retaining high-quality Customer Success talent more important, and more difficult, than ever.

How are today’s Customer Success leaders boosting employee engagement to keep their teams happy, motivated and committed to driving customer value?

To find out, I spoke with Naz Madani, Customer Success Strategy Consultant at Valuize. Naz has extensive experience spanning all levels of CS development; from taking the reins as a frontline Customer Success Manager (CSM) to spearheading professional services operations at SaaS organizations. At Valuize, Naz helps leading B2B SaaS enterprises drive scalable and sustainable growth by deploying robust Customer Success strategies that optimize processes, integrate impactful technology solutions and empower cross-functional teams. In this interview, Naz shares her expertise on how to design a powerful CS strategy that equips your team with the right tools and resources to drive an exceptional employee experience and champion phenomenal growth.

Q: What was your first job? How did you get started in Customer Success?

My first job was printing photos and developing film at a professional photography studio. From there, my professional path took a few fortuitous turns; I worked as a PADI scuba diving instructor and a photographer before I landed my first job in the tech industry as an Agile Project Manager. After that role, I got involved in the Customer Success domain via a tech-startup that was building and scaling their CS processes, services, and team from the ground up. I’ve stayed in Customer Success Strategy and Operations ever since.

Q: What excites you about working in the Customer Success domain? How do you think the domain will continue to evolve from here?

I’m passionate about helping people drive efficiencies to achieve their goals faster; there are unlimited opportunities to do just that in Customer Success. As a CS Strategy Consultant, I’m able to support our clients in achieving success with their technology investment and help these organizations deliver value consistently and efficiently through designing bespoke CS strategies and best practices. 

Improving efficiencies through CS Operations is the key to scalability and it’s one of the fastest growing trends in Customer Success. The pace and scope of growth also makes it one of the most exciting domains in Customer Success and one I’m thrilled to work on everyday. More and more, recurring revenue businesses are growing their Operations function and adopting technologies that enable automation and more powerful tech-touch engagements. The role of CS technology in our digital first world is undeniable; many of the critical pieces of customer information, such as engagement, usage, and adoption data, can be obtained from a solid data governance model run through an effectively implemented CS technology platform.

Q: In your experience, what have you seen as some key challenges that software organizations are facing when it comes to designing a Customer Success strategy?

One of the biggest challenges organizations face occurs with the common misconception that adopting a CS tool (like Gainsight, Meta CX, Totango, etc.) is equivalent to having a Customer Success strategy. In reality, your technology investment won’t deliver sufficient value without a robust strategy and a clear understanding of how the tool needs to be operationalized. Another important piece of this is data governance. While it’s important to track and analyze data using your tool, it’s equally as important, if not more so, to identify which pieces of data are actually relevant and useful to your organization and what the purpose of that data is in terms of identifying trends, triggering actions and maintaining account records. 

Another huge challenge organizations face is focusing too much on internal processes instead of the actual value delivered to the customer. Often, CS leaders are so laser-focused on designing processes and reports based on their internal needs that they lose sight of their “why” – to drive customer value. If you institute efficient processes that don’t actually deliver value to your customers, you’re jeopardizing your retention efforts and missing out on potential expansion opportunities. Customer Success’ north star is to ensure that the customer is consistently deriving value from the product offering – that is the key to growing your business and generating more revenue from the customer. A thorough and well-rounded CS program needs to have an equally robust value management and verification process to ensure meaningful and measurable customer outcomes.

Q: You’ve helped many organizations align their teams around Customer Success. What have you seen as the most common obstacles companies face when they try to bring their Customer Success and Sales teams together? How can organizations successfully align their teams around the customer?

Traditionally, SaaS organizations have placed more of an emphasis on acquiring new customers and net-new sales than maintaining and growing their existing customer base. While this legacy structure is shifting, the mindset is slower to change and this is still one of the biggest obstacles in ensuring a smooth customer hand-off from Sales to Customer Success. If the Sales team is only accountable for generating revenue, regardless of the customer fit or needs, then the CS team has to work overtime to overcome constant challenges and prevent that customer from churning. This issue can be addressed by aligning both teams on targets that are focused on customer-centric Value-Based Outcomes (VBOs). Implementing and unifying your Pre- and Post-Sales motion around a strong set of VBOs will allow you acquire the right customers for your business and ultimately drive higher Net Dollar Retention, expansion and referrals for your business. 

Q: In an ever-changing SaaS environment, what have you seen work really well to keep Customer Success teams engaged and excited about the product they are supporting?

Providing clear roles and responsibilities for your teams is essential. This ensures that everyone is on the same page to avoid confusion when it comes to ownership of specific customer outcomes and risk mitigation. In the same vein, you need to be transparent with your team about your expectations when it comes to customer relationships, especially difficult ones, and provide adequate support when issues arise. 

On a more human level, being seen and appreciated is always encouraging and empowering, and Customer Success teams are no exception. Acknowledging and celebrating team wins, even the small ones, will go a long way. Another important element of driving an exceptional employee experience is ensuring that your employees are heard; check-in often, listen carefully,  and incorporate feedback from your team about what’s working and what’s not to drive efficiencies and uplift morale. Keep in mind that creating a culture of open communication is the crux of a strong team; you need to create a safe and open space where folks can feel comfortable sharing their thoughts about what’s bringing them joy in their day-to-day work and what they find overwhelming, inefficient or difficult. This type of feedback can help CS leaders shape the various roles within their organization more effectively and ensure everyone has what they need to succeed.

Q: In today’s competitive market for CSMs, what are some things a B2B SaaS company can do to keep their Customer Success team strong, their employees engaged and ensure they are staying ahead of turnover?

Assessing customer fit against your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) in Sales, and not just accepting anyone that’s willing to pay, plays a huge role in preventing frustrations for the CS team. It’s common for CSMs to deal with customers that were sold on exaggerated and often unrealistic or unachievable promises, leaving the CSM to handle customer expectations that they are unable to meet and that the product is unable to deliver. To avoid CSM burnout and achieve industry-leading retention rates of 95% or higher, make sure you assess every customer against your ICP, verify that your product can meet their needs and prescribe an agreed upon set of VBOs from the acquisition stage. 

Empower your CSMs through efficient processes and a strategic plan for your CS technology investment. CSMs are often held accountable for risks or issues that they cannot directly influence or identify, and that are actually the result of a lack of thoughtful strategy. In a high-growth company, a purely reactive CS team can quickly turn into an exhausted resource with limited capacity to plan ahead for their customer’s success. Instead, clearly articulate the value of your technology investment and implement it with a thorough strategy that reduces your team’s manual workload in the long run. When done correctly, using technology to automate processes will enable your CSMs to reduce the number of engagements they have, identify risks in a timely manner and proactively drive meaningful engagements with your customers.

Q: What would you say are the top 3 most important components of a strong customer success strategy?

First and foremost, I think customer-centricity is the most important component of an impactful Customer Success strategy; it sets the stage for your people, processes and tools.  

A close second is maintaining a balanced focus on ‘the now’ and the future. Enterprise organizations face a myriad of challenges on a day-to-day basis, such as keeping track of customer needs and renewal requirements; in this environment, it is tempting to focus on the needs of today and, in the process, forgo the needs of tomorrow in regards to scalability and the strategy needed to scale. Automation is the key to scalability; if you don’t enable tech-touch engagement, especially for lower tier accounts, you may run the risk of overwhelming your CSMs and ultimately impacting your customers’ success. On the flip side, transitioning from manual to tech touch too quickly can leave your customers feeling neglected and without the proper support they need to succeed. There is a fine balance that needs to be achieved when transitioning to and implementing an effective automation program but ultimately this will help both your CSMs and your customer succeed. 

Last, but certainly not least, Customer Success needs to be a company-wide priority, not just a departmental mandate. Your entire organization needs to align around the notion that your success as a company is directly and intimately tied to the success of your customers. Once everyone is on board, you can adopt company-wide strategies that focus on delivering value to your customers, resulting in churn reduction and greater potential for sustainable growth.

Bonus Q: What’s your favourite way to spend a Sunday?

Either a chill day with my family or a nice hike or a bike ride with friends in the beautiful Vancouver area. I especially enjoy long hikes that end with a beautiful view at the top!

Creating A People-Powered Customer Success Organization

To maximize customer value through an elevated and engaging employee experience, here are Naz’s top 3 recommendations:

  1. Customer-centricity should be the steel thread that connects your Pre- and Post-Sales team. By identifying and prescribing the right set of Value-Based Outcomes for your customers, you will ensure a seamless handoff between Sales and Customer Success and a frictionless Post-Sales journey for both your customers and your team.
  2. Champion your CSMs by empowering them with the right tools and resources, backed by a thorough strategy. With a proper plan in place, your CS team can make the most of your powerful technology investment to drive meaningful, timely and proactive customer interactions that boost engagement throughout the customer journey.
  3. Create an environment of open and honest communication to obtain relevant team feedback about what’s working, and what isn’t. This valuable feedback will provide important insights about improvements that need to be made and uncover opportunities that you can leverage to drive greater employee and customer satisfaction. 

The right distribution of resources and tools is foundational to driving an exceptional employee experience. Discover how you can build a thoughtful and thorough capacity plan to create a streamlined organizational structure, effectively allocate your finite resources and maximize customer value. 

Mirah Gocher

Mirah is our team's Marketing Manager. With a creative and data-driven mindset, Mirah helps lead Valuize's marketing efforts to deliver meaningful results for our company, clients, partners, and stakeholders.