Start-ups are usually born from founders asking one, bold question. They could be challenging the status quo, the way that things have always been done or pointing out the elephant in the room. There’s blood, sweat, tears and a pinch of luck then suddenly the founder has raised $1,000,000 in their seed round and has a handful of mentions in the local news.
They’re busier than ever, there’s too much to do. They know that they need good people who also believe in the pursuit of the answer to the question that they originally asked. The founder hires a Sales Development Representative (SDR), an Account Manager, a CSM and a marketing all-rounder who also doubles as the receptionist. The developers are doing what they do best, building the SaaS that’s going to change the world one day. Life’s good.
…It’s never quite that straight-forward is it?
While the team might look something like that, there’s a lot happening behind the scenes that I didn’t just then. You haven’t forgotten that one, bold question that you dared ask all those months ago, it still drives you. The problem is that that one question has created a whole plethora of other questions that relate countless other facets of the business.
Founder, do any of these questions sound familiar to you:
- Have I told the CSM about that new client who signed-up through me directly?
- Have I put some time into the CSM calendar to tell her about the clients I sold to before she started who are up for renewal soon?
- There’s a bug that’s broken a key feature that our clients rely on. Should I get the devs to fix it first or give the CSM a heads up?
- The SDR is selling like gangbusters, he’s really hit the ground running! Have I spoken with the CSM to make sure that what he’s selling is meeting the customers’ expectations?
- That testimonial the CSM got from the client the other day is too good not to share. The marketing intern’s going to post it on our socials. Have I briefed the CSM on this?
The questions are all generalised, but you get the gist. Seemingly innocent and can come up at any given time. There’s a subset of the hundreds you have to field in a week that relate in someway to comms back to the CSM.
From the CSM’s point of view, knowing the answers to these questions could be the difference between hitting the account growth target or a customer churning. In case you haven’t figured out, the silent killer of customer success in every start up is not knowing what you don’t know.
As a CSM, if I’ve been:
- trained up on all the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs),
- taught the onboarding procedures,
- made aware of the CRM to use to keep the founder up to date of all my actions,
That’s fine. If a customer churns and it comes back I didn’t follow up with them frequently enough or they didn’t see the value of the solution soon enough, then that’s on me. But if there is churn because:
- the new customer that was suddenly handed over to me hadn’t been followed up with for a month after she had been sold to,
- the customer had gone with a competitor since I hadn’t spoken with them renewals, since I didn’t know that they had been with us for a year to the day (because it wasn’t in the CRM),
- the bug that I’ve been asking the devs to fix for two weeks now has been deprioritised,
- the SDR is telling new clients that our SaaS does something that it doesn’t,
- the customer got pissed off that we posted the testimonial on LinkedIn that she shared with me in confidence without getting her approval,
Then that’s on you as a founder. Consistent communication where all parties who need to know everything can access that information is a key component of customer success that the leader of a start-up can set the standard for. It’s worth taking the time to set up the structures to support this – or find someone who’s job it is to do this. The CSM will thank you for it!