Your Customer Success Starter Pack
4 Essential Resources To Build A Department From Scratch
It’s Time for Customer Success
You’ve brought on your paying first customers. Woohoo! You’re a dream team of one: sales rep, implementation specialist, and technical support combined. Things are going great. So great, in fact, it’s time to make “Customer Success” an official thing.
Where do you begin??
Here are 4 great resources to help you start your Customer Success department with confidence.
4 Essential Customer Success Resources
1. Your First Customer Success Hire (article)
This article from Atlanta Ventures (written by yours truly 😉) covers:
Who to hire
What they’ll be doing
Where to post the role
How to interview them
Why Customer Success is so important!
2. The Customer Support Handbook (book)
Why this book is great:
Simple, short, practical
Recommended by the best support leader I know – Vincent Migliore. He is phenomenal at building technical support teams and making customers happy.
Required reading for many years on the award-winning Customer Success team at Pardot!
3. Customer Service 101 Training Deck (slides)
Hundreds of Customer Success hires at Pardot, Salesforce, Rigor, and beyond have been trained from variations of this deck. It’s fun, practical, and specific.
Feel free to copy and make it your own!
Key components of a great customer interaction
What if they’re upset?!?!
Customer service writing
BONUS: intro section to clarify your company values and customer goals
4. Customer Success Conversations with Francis Cordon (podcast)
This podcast is a perfect overview for someone who likes to understand the big picture before diving into details.
Francis Cordon is a Customer Success visionary whose philosophy and tactics apply to all companies, big and small. (He’s been wildly successful at both.)
Learn why Francis advocates for:
Pre-sales as post-sales; post-sales as pre-sales
Showing objective ROI to your customer’s boss’s boss
Customer Win Slides
Customer Success as a competitive advantage - now and as you scale!
Any other recommendations for founders who are ramping up their Customer Success function? What else should be included in this Customer Success Starter Pack??
I've saved the Customer Service 101 Training Deck -- amazing resource that will save founders hours and hours of work.
Thank you so much for the mention! Also the incredibly good and succinct summary of some of the Customer Success Principles that I often speak about!
I wanted to add my two cents as a way to potentially generate a healthy discussion around Customer Success.
One of the topics I have been thinking about is ‘why Customer Success is needed.’ A friend of mine and I recently chatted about this and it has been on my mind. There are some sources who argue that Customer Success is not ‘needed’ - that a powerful platform, product or solution should ‘renew and expand’ itself, and that you might as well pour those resources into the product itself.
Needless to say, I disagree with this. But not necessarily for the obvious reasons, and I do think this argument does have some lessons for everyone to learn, and although I understand those lessons, I do not land on the same conclusions.
At face value the argument may make sense. But so would it apply to sales and presales, too.
Here’s the thing - to me it is less about whether you should or should not do Customer Success - but that ANYTHING WE DO, we should do well.
Like sales, you can do honest and helpful sales (which guides, which architects solutions, which proposes real projected ROI) or bad sales (saying what we have to say to get the deal now, without qualification for the particular solution we have in our hands).
So my argument is that both presales and postsales can be done well or not.
When you do Customer Success ‘badly’ is when it’s making up for deficiencies the product has. Unfortunately, many many SaaS companies fall into this category (at least in part). It is this ‘way of doing Customer Success’ that inspires people to think it would be better to just have a good product instead of Customer Success. But this is not rightful criticism. They are reacting to ‘bad’ Customer Success. Like criticizing all Martial Arts because one watched a movie with fantastic Martial Arts with people doing outrageous impossible physical feats and saying that 'it's too fantastic and it won't work in a real fight'.
So here it is: GOOD Customer Success STARTS with a GOOD PRODUCT.
I will say it again, without a solid platform that works, you can’t even start to do TRUE Customer Success. Customer Success is NOT a way to make up for a product that doesn’t work or that does not deliver on promises.
Think about it, the same can be said for ‘superstar SEs’. Almost all SaaS companies with Series A will invest their precious limited resources in hiring SUPERSTAR presales engineers, the best of the best. Why? Couldn’t we argue that if the product is good and the value clear this would not be needed? Yet it is one of the earliest investments (or when the company is young and small, a super sales Account Executive is hired that is technical enough to also be a great presales engineer). As a customer I could see that. Again and again. But the issue for me as a customer is ‘you are not going to leave this superstar SE with me, you are going to leave me with your platform and your Customer Success Team’ - and so I was careful to not confuse those two. To know the platform they were selling me was going to help me in front of my boss (=CIO).
Don’t forget, I created my Customer Success Philosophy and Methodology when I was a customer. At BNY Mellon I ran 9 difference practices / shared service offerings, and I needed more than 20 vendors to even start delivering on my promises. I needed vendors, they were key to my success. A good vendor solution enabled me to report value up to my CIO. A bad vendor solution, bad Customer Success, bad support model, was a drag and a lost investment that eroded my credibility in front of my boss and everyone else at the Bank. It is in this environment, with many disappointments on ‘bad’ Customer Success by some of the most prestigious ‘vendor brands’ on earth, where I started to craft the specifics of my Methodology.
The products and solutions I purchased at BNY Mellon were not ‘simple.’ If that was the case I would only need one vendor, a big button that says ‘solve everything’ and to sit and reap the benefits. These solutions may exist, but I have never been in an environment where the problem to solve was as unsophisticated as that.
There’s a reason why to implement some of my value proposition I needed multiple vendors working together and still find many gaps in those solutions. I needed BOTH a powerful solution that could help me achieve my goals, as well as a team of humans (in sales and postsales) to help me. Why?
Because I knew my problem (in a true end to end environment with technology literally of all sorts) was not possible for a single product to really solve. I needed many vendors, collaborating solving complex solutions, and working with the various experts at the Bank.
***I needed Customer Success, to, to train my Team so I could take ownership, but above all, I wanted their guidance capturing and documenting ROI (not making up for a product that doesn’t work well). In a complex environment like mine I knew technology alone wasn’t going to do that (example: we solved a problem with a product that had never been solved before at BNY before and to be best of my knowledge that vendor had not ever solved before either, ever, but it required a ton of expertise and creativity with this product working across native tiers that were not easy to instrument - to me a win like this was a lot bigger than a simple plug and play win and it required both vendor and BNY expertise working together for quite a long time). And what I mean by Customer Success here is a combination of technical, solution and relationship experts (I don't use the term 'Professional Services' because that has come to mean a delivery and billable model, rather than the actual expertise).
The goal of Customer Success was to help me do that, while making my Team increasingly self sufficient in doing that - so I didn’t need Customer Success in the future for similar WINs, mind you (which is not always emphasized by Vendors which is a mistake, I believe). BUT ALSO for them to sit with me to help me capture and document for my Boss that ROI of what we just did (until I got that semi-automated in the future).
I agree it’s not good to depend on Customer Success. It’s a mistake. But true Customer Success is amazing when done well, and when it creates self-sufficiency in the long run (=ownership)
So I believe that Customer Success is way to:
* Create customer ownership and self-sufficiency
* Provide expertise in achieving, capturing, celebrating and expanding ROI, measurable and trended
* Establish a journey Map for the customer to go beyond the ‘anecdotal win’ so that there can be a progression of increased value realization as the customer resources learn and can apply the solution to increasingly sophisticated problems to solve
* Helping connect departments, groups, resources so that a common language and set of practices can be agreed upon so that increased collaboration can create increased value (again, documented, measurable and trended over time)
And all of this for ONE PURPOSE: for the person, the individual. Always. For the individual that picked this technology to go home having had a good day in front of their boss and thus a higher quality of life back home, relaxed and satisfied that work is going well and without stress. For the organization to increase employee satisfaction, create happier people. For the organizations those customers are serving to be assisted, helped, their lives made better, so that, again, their PERSONAL lives are better when they go back home, have a nice dinner with their spouse or friends and discuss what a great day they had and how well recognized they got by the executives in their companies. Helping their lives, helping their careers. Helping people be happier. There is no other goal.
***We do everything we do because it’s personal, because it helps people. It STARTS with a powerful product, and it develops itself though empathy, expertise, and true caring.***