Running a start-up is all about getting as much value as you can about every resource available to you. While it’s easy to rest your chin in your hand, letting your eyes glaze over as you dream of an ideal world where you can hire an army of CSMs to provide that critical after-sales support, you might just have those one or two staff that could be wearing multiple hats or are quite new to the game. No matter! This article is going to be about how we can scale customer success leverage to get more bank out of your buck using the DEO Model.
I’ve written before about the “Silent Killer” of customer success in every start-up, being that you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s easy to forget to tell the CSM something critical that you might have heard directly from the client when you reached out to say hi, something that could affect the renewal down the line or their onboarding experience. By democratising information, you make it accessible to everyone in the company, so everyone can make informed decisions. Here are some suggestions on how you might do this.
- Company Wikis: building an internal wiki using a tool like Confluence or Guru allows anyone in an organisation to add and structure knowledge that ensures any new information can be recorded and shared.
- Slack: Slack gets a bit of a bad rap sometimes, but in general it’s still a great tool for the emerging SaaS company to communicate and share information quickly. Downside is that it can be difficult with all that darn Channels!
- Stand-Ups: the name doesn’t matter so much, having regular meetings where critical information is shared and recorded is a great way to make sure that there are no nasty surprises when a CSM goes to speak with customer who might have been spoken to by someone else earlier.
Establish Feedback Loops
This is another strategy to ensure that customer success can be leveraged. I’d like to think of it more as a principle rather than a technique, since it’s an underlying way of thinking rather than a “trick” or “hack”. Feedback loops are often misunderstood as being just, “you tell me something, I tell you what I think”. Done better, it can make CSMs work more efficiently, as well as deliver more value to customers, all without increasing headcount. Here are some ways to do this.
- Reward Unblocking Bottle Necks: good CSMs love solving problems for their customers. Often, what frustrates them are broken internal processes. Setting a bounty on identifying these processes, documenting them and putting in a fix as a side project is a great way to get feedback from CSMs while improving your start-up.
- Roundtables: unlike a start-up, a roundtable is tends to be a longer meeting where CSMs present new information, strategies or techniques that pertain to particular situations they came across speaking with customers. These situations might be more akin to edge cases, but are still valuable for the greater department to be aware of and take feedback about.
Lastly, taking a step back and looking at the processes that underpin how CSMs work is something that all SaaS start-ups have to look into eventually, especially as they get larger. In the start-ups I’ve worked in, the early days were very much about putting out fires and was a really reactive process. Using software that allows department leads and you as the founder to track efficiency might be expensive upfront, but will have off dividends in the long run. Here are some suggestions how you might do this:
- Spreadsheets: good, old spreadsheets. They are the first port of call for all sorts of business. If you’re particularly tech savvy, you might be able to build a robust API (or get your developer to) that feeds metrics from your SaaS into a spreadsheet that can act as a makeshift dashboard for your CSM. Less sustainable in the long run.
- Customer Success CRMs: to run a SaaS start-up, you have to also invest in your own tech stack. a CS CRM like Gainsight is a great way for to not only allow CSMs to find out who they need to speak to day to day, according to Success Plans that are created to fit specific customer profiles, they let you as the founder have more visibility into the general effectiveness of your CSMs and the sorts of conversations they’re having.
- CS Operations Manager: this is someone who isn’t an actual CSM, but someone who enables CSMs to do better work by removing all the bottlenecks for them. More suited to larger tech companies with more mature customer success departments, a CS Ops manager would be an expert in tools like Gainsight, but might also have a CX background and be great at running the show behind the scenes.
Customer Success leverage is the holy grail for highly technical SaaS start-ups. Like the solution you’re trying to build, it’s a work in progress that matures as the company grows. The key is trying to stay ahead and getting your CS team out of the “putting out fires” stages as soon as possible so they can focus on doing good work.