So You’re the First Customer Success Hire at Your Company…

Congratulations! You’ve joined the exclusive club made up of individuals who are the first customer success hire for an organization.

What now?

Well, since Customer Success is still a new concept, every organization and every situation is different. We know that many organizations are finally starting to see the value in having a solid CSM team and are making the right moves to put it in place.

Take my experience for example. I was the second Customer Success Manager hired at my current company. It was me, another CSM that had been hired about 6 months previously, and the Head of Customer Success who was a woman who had been with the company for about 5 years working in various roles. When I was hired we had a cheap CRM and that’s about it. No playbooks, no CS Software, no real CS processes in place. I was still pretty new to my CS career so this was an exciting challenge to be a part of a CS department that was basically in “start-up” mode.

Now, a year and a half later, things are much different. We have HubSpot, Churn Zero, a Customer Journey Map in place, playbooks and processes so we know what’s expected for us to excel in our roles, and have a growing global team of rockstar CSM’s. It’s been a fun, bumpy ride up to this point and we’re still growing and evolving every day.

If I could sum up what I’ve learned being one of the first CSM’s at my company, it would be this: Collaborate with your fellow CSM’s on a daily basis and never be afraid to voice your ideas. As I said earlier, Customer Success is still new so many of your ideas on how to improve, streamline, and innovate things can be very valuable to the department’s and company’s growth.

So how about being the first Executive of VP-level Customer Success hire?

After doing some field research on the subject, I came across some great advice and best practices.

For starters, Gainsight wrote an article about this very subject and outlined the 7 most important things every new VP of Customer Success should prioritize:

1) Understand your customers
2) Understand your team
3) What is your segmentation strategy?
4) What is your engagement strategy?
5) What tools do you have at your disposal?
6) What are the boss’s expectations?
7) Make sure your CEO is all-in

Read the full article here: https://www.gainsight.com/blog/youre-the-new-vp-of-customer-success-now-what/

I also asked my fellow LinkedIn community about their experience being the first CS hire. I asked them to share the top 2 or 3 lessons they learned. And, as always, the advice did not disappoint.


1. Success teams are most reactive when they aren’t communicating or collaborating well with product, support and sales.

2. Digital engagement is key for Success teams, especially when there’s a large SMB customer base at play, but paradoxically, self-service strategies are useless if you don’t continue enough 1:1 conversations to know what your customers pain points are.

– Liz Stephany, Director of Customer Success at Close


Learn as much as you can about the sales process and do some support tickets to quickly learn what customers are regularly struggling with.

– Rav Dhaliwal


1. We know enough to listen and “love” on our clients, but are we doing this internally with our team? Continually improving new hire onboarding, and taking the time to understand each CSL’s superpower has been helpful in creating harmonious collaboration. Advocate and support your talent like you would your top client.

2. CS moves fast and information changes daily. Don’t assume that other key players across the organization know what’s going on. Take the time to pause and educate others on your process and share the “why” behind the decisions that you make to create buy-in. Trust can be ruined when decisions are made in vacuums. 

-Amanda Torrelli, Associate VP of Client Success at Mongoose


1. Be flexible. Customer Success is an integral part of any organization. With as much weight as CS holds, you can’t expect processes and procedures be 100% correct in their first iteration – fleaxability is key

2. The challenges you are facing are not specific to you/your organization. Leverage your network, connect with other CS professionals and don’t try to recreate the wheel for everything.

-Nashad Abass, Customer Success Manager


Lesson #1 – Infront of the customer, you are the CEO of the company and you got to own everything.

Lesson #2 – You got to set the expectations right at your customer’s end.

Lesson #3 – Its okay to question the processes at your organization and suggest changes which can expedite the delivery to your clien

-Amit Bhadu


1) Recognize that your CSMs will likely be more reactive to begin with and take that into consideration in your planning. There are probably a lot of quietly frustrated customers out there that no one is seeking out.

2) It’s already been said, but active listening in the first 30-60 days is critical to get a sense of what you need to prioritize. This applies to both customers and employees. Go on a relentless pursuit of learning WHY things are the way they are.

3) Don’t assume you’ve got the “playbook” from previous roles. Every company’s needs are different. Apply your best practices from the past, but don’t assume that they will all have a place.

-Parker Chase-Corwin


Make sure Executive Leadership is clear on why they are hiring YOU and why NOW. I’ve joined organizations where the leaders thought they understood CS or why they needed the function but clearly “didn’t get it”.

-Kristi Faltorusso


Progress over perfection, the program will constantly evolve. Be scrappy don’t get stuck over-engineering for scalability. Get started simple see what works and resonates then iterate. Build a foundation of every interaction adding value to the customer not a culture of “checking in” noise.

-Samantha Styles



Learn as much as you can about the sales process and do some support tickets to quickly learn what customers are regularly struggling with.

– Rav Dhaliwal


1. We know enough to listen and “love” on our clients, but are we doing this internally with our team? Continually improving new hire onboarding, and taking the time to understand each CSL’s superpower has been helpful in creating harmonious collaboration. Advocate and support your talent like you would your top client.

2. CS moves fast and information changes daily. Don’t assume that other key players across the organization know what’s going on. Take the time to pause and educate others on your process and share the “why” behind the decisions that you make to create buy-in. Trust can be ruined when decisions are made in vacuums. 

-Amanda Torrelli, Associate VP of Client Success at Mongoose


1. Be flexible. Customer Success is an integral part of any organization. With as much weight as CS holds, you can’t expect processes and procedures be 100% correct in their first iteration – fleaxability is key

2. The challenges you are facing are not specific to you/your organization. Leverage your network, connect with other CS professionals and don’t try to recreate the wheel for everything.

-Nashad Abass, Customer Success Manager


Lesson #1 – Infront of the customer, you are the CEO of the company and you got to own everything.

Lesson #2 – You got to set the expectations right at your customer’s end.

Lesson #3 – Its okay to question the processes at your organization and suggest changes which can expedite the delivery to your clien

-Amit Bhadu


1) Recognize that your CSMs will likely be more reactive to begin with and take that into consideration in your planning. There are probably a lot of quietly frustrated customers out there that no one is seeking out.

2) It’s already been said, but active listening in the first 30-60 days is critical to get a sense of what you need to prioritize. This applies to both customers and employees. Go on a relentless pursuit of learning WHY things are the way they are.

3) Don’t assume you’ve got the “playbook” from previous roles. Every company’s needs are different. Apply your best practices from the past, but don’t assume that they will all have a place.

-Parker Chase-Corwin


Make sure Executive Leadership is clear on why they are hiring YOU and why NOW. I’ve joined organizations where the leaders thought they understood CS or why they needed the function but clearly “didn’t get it”.

-Kristi Faltorusso


Progress over perfection, the program will constantly evolve. Be scrappy don’t get stuck over-engineering for scalability. Get started simple see what works and resonates then iterate. Build a foundation of every interaction adding value to the customer not a culture of “checking in” noise.

-Samantha Styles


To read my nearly 150 answers I got on my LinkedIn post, click Here

So friends, if you find yourself being the first CS hire for an organization, you’re in for a fun ride. There will be challenges along the way but make sure you have an open channel of collaboration with your team and the C-suite and a clear vision of what you want to accomplish for the organization.

Best of luck to you and, if you’re not only new to the org but new to Customer Success, welcome to the family!

Additional Resources

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/one-step-time-lessons-learned-from-building-customer-success-steve/

https://360leaders.com/2020/10/09/customer-success/

Customer Success and Product: A Vital Partnership

I grew up watching the Karate Kid. One of my favorite movies. In this movie, the main character, Daniel, immediately becomes enemies with Johnny after a misunderstanding and scuffle on the beach. This rivalry continues until the end of the movie where they face-off in the final championship match. Over 30 years later, they are reunited in the new Netflix series, Cobra Kai.

The rivalry is far from over.

After a new series of misunderstandings, poor communication, and actions based on preconceived notions, Daniel and Johnny find themselves competing, once again, in the ring. This time as rival coaches.

Obviously, there’s a lot more to the story here (I recommend watching Cobra Kai) but my point in sharing this is that you have two boys, now men, who both want the same thing: To be great at what they do.

Both had the same goal and both could have easily worked together to make their dreams a reality. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get past petty fights and minor differences.


I see some similarities in the relationship between Daniel and Johnny and the relationship between Customer Success and the Product team.

We both are working towards the same common goal: to better serve our customers.

While Customer Success is on the frontlines communicating with customers daily, the product team is working behind the scenes to ensure our customers have a seamless experience using our product. Both teams help mitigate risk and ensure a quality customer experience.

So what does this mean for Customer Success Managers like you and me?

First off, it means that we need to be mindful that the product team has the same goal that we do. They are here to serve our customers. They are aware of most the product issues. And the ones they are not aware of, it’s our job to present those issues to them. But it’s through this communication process where words can be misconstrued, tone can be read wrong, and misunderstandings can occur.

As a CSM, you need to have a strategy when it comes to presenting product issues to your product team. Megan Bowen, Chief Customer Officer at Refine Labs, says it best.

“My rule of thumb for working with product teams – DO NOT ask them to build new specific features – rather identify the biggest pain points of the customer and bring them the biggest friction points or pain points with data to back up how many customers are impacted. Then, let product do their job to identify the right solution to the biggest customer pain points.”

You have a job to do and so do they. Finding ways, like Megan pointed out, to make their job easier will greatly impact the relationship you have with them. Showing the “Why” behind a product request through any kind of data will help the product understand the need for it.

Krista Roberts, Enterprise CSM at IntelliShift, also added her two cents based on her experience.

“Regular communication with Product is key! Inviting them to attend customer calls, EBR’s and other times where they can hear first hand how customers are using the product, want to use the product and how our product is and can solve their business challenges is so helpful.”

Just like how sales and marketing should work closely, CS and Product should be working closely and meeting regularly. Knowing how your customers are performing and adopting the software is vital information for both of you to know. Identifying usage gaps and pain points can help both teams excel in their individual jobs as well as grow together to help the overall growth of the company.

In one of the most recent episodes of the Women in Customer Success Podcast, Katrina Coakley shared her experience as a CSM and how she has built good relationships with her respected product teams. She explains that how important is for anyone involved in building out the UX/UI of the product to involve representatives in the company who work with the customers face to face. Customer-facing reps can help identify and avoid certain pitfalls they know their customers have the potential to experience.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

One last word of advice to my fellow front-line CSM’s; just remember that our fellow product specialists are here to do their job just like we are. Sometimes misunderstandings occur and there might be some frustration. I’ve been there. But consistent communication (in person, if possible) where ideas are shared and pain points are identified will make a huge difference for you and your customers.

Maybe send them some donuts sometime to show your appreciation. They’ll like you a lot more. Trust me, it works.

If you’re interested in technology that helps product and CS teams communicate effectively, check out https://productsignals.com/

Customer Success and Reimagining the Modern Workplace

Author: Corinne Goldberg, Customer Success Manager at Slack


There is a large opportunity for organizations to re-think the modern workplace as the global economy continues on the road to recovery from the pandemic. Jared Orr and I sat down to discuss some of the trends and transformations we have seen to the workplace over the past year, and the role of the Customer Success organization in shaping the future of work. Here are some of our observations.

Operationalizing Remote Work     

In 2020, leaders were grappling with the unprecedented operational feat of standing up remote environments for their employees as quickly and effectively as possible. Empowering teams with hardware, secure network access, and adequate licenses for collaboration tools such as Zoom and Slack were top of mind for IT leaders. 

Providing employees with the tools they needed to remain productive and engaged at home was a necessity to protect continuity of service, mitigate risk, and maintain any semblance of business as usual for customers. 

As organizations move into a new steady state and operate a fully remote or hybrid workforce in the year ahead, new concepts will be trialed, and experimentation will be rampant. It will be fascinating to watch how the modern workplace evolves not only inside the companies where we work, but also at our customers. 

Customer Success at the Center 

Customer Success should be at the center of the dialogue as companies reimagine the future of work. This is especially true for customer-centric organizations. We recently spoke with Sarah Bierenbaum (Founder of Sarah B Consulting), and she mentioned that more and more companies are realizing how important it is to invest in their current customers. Focusing their attention on a quality Customer Success team to ensure a high LTV for each customer is one of the greatest investments organizations can focus on in the year ahead. 2020 taught more businesses than ever this important lesson. 

From a customer perspective, Customer Success teams are intimately aware of how the workplace is changing at our customers, and how we should adapt our engagement model and our product over the longer term to meet their evolving needs. As our own organizations future proof their workforce model, understanding the tools and processes required to continue to serve our customers effectively will be even more important as we adapt to a new normal. 

These are some considerations we should bear in mind as we think about how our customers will adapt to the modern workplace: 

  1. How have our customers adapted their workforce to new ways of working, and how is their leadership team thinking about the future of work at their company? Understanding their roadmap will help us be more thoughtful in the pursuit of success motions that are in line with their broader business changes, helping them realize greater value from their technology stack.  
  1. How will their engagement model with their suppliers, vendors, and customers change? Companies are interacting with their networks in different ways, and we can all probably agree that email alone is on the way out. Understanding how our customers engage with their customers and business partners will help us continue to develop meaningful relationships across different stakeholder groups as their business evolves. 
  1. Mindshare can be a scarce commodity as companies move remote. Are we being purposeful and intentional when engaging customers? Business reviews on-site used to be the norm and a valuable channel to both gather intel about customers, understand where we might be excelling and falling short, and get to know them personally. Thinking about alternatives we can employ that cater to a remote context will be vital to mutual success.   

Understanding how the modern workspace will evolve, and how our customers are adapting to a new normal will make us more effective and impactful strategic advisors, better customer advocates, and stronger partners to more meaningfully influence the product roadmap so that it considers the evolving needs of our customers as they adapt to their new workplace environments. 

How are your customers thinking about their workplace in the weeks and months ahead, and what has been top of mind for your Customer Success organization to meet the evolving needs of our customers in today’s business climate? How has your team been influential in shaping your organization’s approach to work?

About The Author

Corinne Goldberg is a Customer Success Manager at Slack. She’s fascinated by how organizations use technology to collaborate, automate, scale, and the Future of Work. Being a front-line CSM at a company that is reimaging the future of work, she gets first-hand experience and knowledge everyday on how companies are innovating and adapting to current work trends.

LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/corinne-goldberg

3 Tips to Stay Ahead in The Customer Economy

We are living in the subscription economy. Or as I like to call it, the Customer Economy!

The ability to provide a great customer experience while delivering desired outcomes is the very essence of Customer Success. It’s also the foundation of every business that is striving to stay ahead in the Customer Economy.

As Dana Niv, Strategic Customer Success Manager at WalkMe says, “Today’s B2B customers feel empowered. They demand a whole new level of customer focus, expecting companies to know them personally, recognize their challenges, and cater to their needs.”

In other words, your customers know they have the power. It’s no longer a secret.

If you’re still with me, allow me to share three tips that I believe are essential to staying ahead in the Customer Economy.

Customer Success is a Company Mindset, not just a Department

In a recent interview, Dan Steinman talked about the exciting and promising future of Customer Success. He talked about how important it is for the Product team and the Customer Success team to be on the same page.

“The only real scalable thing in your company is your product.” He said, “If you’re going to scale Customer Success, it has to start by doing things within your product. Nothing is as impactful than delivering on something in your product that makes a difference with regards to user adoption and clear ROI.”

When Product Success and Customer Success come together, world’s collide. In a great and scalable way!

Dan went on to talk about the relationship between sales and CS.

“If Customer Success is not a slide in your sales deck, you’re not doing it well enough.”

I’ll give you a minute to take that in…

Prospects these days aren’t only thinking about your product and what it can do for them. They are also thinking about what your company can provide as far as service and client experience. This can only be accomplished well if the CS team is on the same page with sales, product, marketing, and other departments.

The customer journey involves all departments to some extent. Make sure all of them know what they need to do to provide a legendary experience.

Full interview can be found here:

Track the Health and Success of your Customers

One of my favorite books on CS is The Startup’s Guide to Customer Success by Jennifer Chiang. You can’t find a more detailed book regarding what you need to do to become a successful startup.

In the book she quotes Jeff Cann, Senior Director of Client Experience at Sysomos. Here is what he had to say about tracking customer success metrics:

“There is an incredible amount to learn from customers outside of that 1:1 opportunity that you have a responsibility to know. Product usage behaviors, areas of your application customers may have challenges with, NPS, the frequency of support requests. All of this information is critical to understanding the health and success of your customers and you owe it to them to be diligent with how you not only learn from it but act on it.”

Understanding the health and success of your customers is vital. Some metrics are quantitative and others are qualitative. Both are important when determining how your customer is performing with your product or service.

ClientSuccess goes into detail about these metrics and how you can best use them. See what they have to say here: https://www.clientsuccess.com/blog/6-metrics-help-calculate-customers-health-successscore/

Be Ready and Willing to Adapt

As JFK said, “Ask not what your customer can do for you, ask what you and your product can do for your customer!”

I may have misquoted slightly but you get the idea.

Customers understand that the software and technology landscape is constantly changing and evolving. If they get the feeling that your company isn’t one step ahead of the game and not willing to adapt, they will shop around for a new vendor.

One of the first career lessons I learned is when I was still in college. I was working for the student housing office and they were rolling out a lot of new policies and initiatives. Many of these initiatives didn’t make a lot of sense to me. So I asked my direct manager why we were doing all of this extra work that, to me, just added a lot of unnecessary tasks for us.

He told me that any business that isn’t constantly innovating is not moving forward. He explained how vital it is, even for a student housing office for a university, to always be thinking of ways to innovate and adapt to inevitable changes. This lesson has stuck with me ever since.

Irit Eizips, CEO and CCO of CSM Practice, spoke with Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight, about the importance of Customer Success in today’s business ecosystem. Listen to their conversation here.

What are your thoughts? In today’s customer-centric world, what are some ways businesses can stay ahead and really ensure their putting their customers first?

2020: A Year in Review for Customer Success

“Happy New Year” will take on a whole new meaning when we ring in 2021.

If this blog withstands the test of time and someone is reading this who hasn’t heard about 2020, go ask your grandparents to tell you the stories.

2020 has been a ride. And not one of those fun rides you go on at Disneyland or Six Flags. It’s been more like the rickety, rusty rides you see at a local carnival that are assembled by a hungover 20-something with weed in his back pocket.

So while it’s been one of the hardest years many of us have gone through, there have been many highlights and things that have made this year memorable in a good way.

For Customer Success, this year has been one for the books.

Here are a few ways 2020 has positively impacted the Customer Success Community. These are simply my observations. Feel free to add your own observations in the comments!

The Rise of Online Communities

According to Kantar Profiles, 1 in 5 people are turning to online communities for stress management in 2020.

With online communities becoming more common, thanks to lockdowns and quarantine, the CS community has been a leader in creating and participating in these communities. Gain Grow Retain, Product-led Growth Hub, and RevGenius are a few examples of spaces where CS professionals have made their mark, grown in their presence, and collaborated with hundreds of other online professionals.

Online communities for business professionals will continue to grow and Customer Success will continue to be at the forefront of the growth.

The Emphasis on Customer Experience

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The companies that make Customer Experience a priority, will win in the end.

More companies have discovered this in 2020. Many have doubled down on their efforts to take care of their customers and provide a legendary customer experience.

Cisco and GitLab are great examples of this.

Cisco has implemented a Customer Experience initiative that has helped their customers deliver extraordinary experiences to their own customers. Today, they have more than 27,000 people around the world working daily with customers and partners to build solutions that delight and inspire.

GitLab has created, what I believe to be, a model Customer Journey Map that should be duplicated and tailored to every other organization. They created a Customer Success vision and put that vision to work through a well-thought-out journey map. Their goal with this customer journey is to “deliver faster time-to-value and customer-specific business outcomes with a world class customer experience, leveraging the full capabilities of the GitLab application.”

Follow these links to learn more about how these two organizations took 2020 by the horns:

https://about.gitlab.com/handbook/customer-success/vision/

https://blogs.cisco.com/customerexperience/intro

Many frontline CSM’s and CS leaders learned that putting their customers first was the best solution for driving success forward. Not only for their customers but also for them and the company they work for.

This podcast episode is full of CS professionals sharing their wins and success stories from 2020.

The Strength of the CS Community

I got my first official CS job in 2018. I knew right away that I was on a great career path.

Around mid-2019, I started getting more involved in the community on LinkedIn. It was great connecting with other like-minded professionals and reading their CS-related content.

Well, we all know what happened around the beginning of 2020. With all the uncertainty and stress that it brought, the Customer Success community became stronger and bigger.

Online communities like Gain Grow Retain and Success Chain started popping up and gaining new members on daily basis. People who had gotten laid off and wanted to start a new career in Customer Success were welcomed with open arms. CS job boards via LinkedIn and Slack were created. CS professionals were connecting 1 on 1 via Zoom to collaborate, network, and learn from one another in record numbers. Many of these Zoom conversations were posted on LinkedIn if one or both of the participants were looking for a job.

The more CS professionals I connected with, the stronger my network became and the more inspiring my LinkedIn feed would become.

Being a part of all this confirmed to me that I am part of the best professional community there is.

To see more of the progress CS has made in 2020, download this free report from TSIA: https://www.tsia.com/resources/the-state-of-customer-success-2020

How to Make the Most out of Your Executive Business Review

Have you ever had to sit through a presentation when the presenter was basically telling you how amazing they are?

If you answered “Yes” to that, you’ve either sat through a Tony Robbins seminar or a crappy Executive Business Review.

In the Customer Success world, an Executive Business Review can take on a few different titles. The two most common being EBR and QBR (Quarterly Business Review). No matter how often it occurs, it’s the perfect opportunity for you to meet with executives and have a dialogue with them about their progress and experience with your product or service. Every one of your customers should receive some version of an EBR at least once a year.

I recently posted on LinkedIn and asked the CS community how they get the most out of their EBR’s.

The advice did not disappoint.

Since I value the advice of these individuals over my own, I’ll share what they had to say rather than ramble on with my opinions and advice!

There are some critical components to EBRs that I’ve found beneficial and add great value to customers.

First, make sure you understand what your customer’s want to get out of their EBRs. If you don’t know [and meet] their expectations, you won’t add value.

Second, don’t tell them what they already know or read a bunch of metrics. Provide insights, thought leadership, and guidance. Be strategic. Those are some of the qualities of a Trusted Advisor.

Third, keep your EBR to a reasonable time and keep the information at a high (executive) level. Many people confuse EBRs with QBRs. They’re not the same. Avoid getting into the weeds on anything unless your customer takes you there. Customer executives are busy people and they want to get in, get what they need, and get out.

Fourth, never throw your day-to-day contact under the bus to their leaders in an EBR. In fact, you can solicit your D-T-D contact’s help in preparing for the EBR.

Finally, follow up your EBR with a warm thank you. Let them know that you appreciated their time and engagement, and ask whether your customer received value from the meeting.

David Ellin, Chief Customer Officer at Centric Leadership Strategies

Setting expectations for the EBR to be prepared by both customer and supplier as part of the partnership commitment. This is key for transparency on performance goals and achievement. Celebrate wins and correct gaps with an action plan with clear responsibilities for both supplier and customer.

Sue Nabeth Moore, Founder of Success Chain and Success Track

I recall my most successful series of EBRs were really a progression of story telling. Of walking the customer through their success and positioning my key contact as the star of the show. It resulted in an expansion deal and his promotion.

Peter Armaly, Senior Director of CS Enablement at Oracle

Always have a new project for the client to commit to as part of the EBR. Continuous engagement is key.

Emilia D’Anzica, Founder and CEO at GrowthMolecules

The EBR is a time to highlight not only what the partnership has accomplished to date but also brag a little on our main point of contact with the customer. This is a great time to shine the light on the hard work they are doing with setting and working towards goals. This is actually how I often sell the idea of an EBR as often they are nervous or put off by the idea of a member of their SLT joining a call. But when you tell them that it is all about them and how awesome they are it usually helps to ease their mind! Getting that buy-in is so key to a successful meeting.

Krista Roberts, Enterprise Customer Success Manager at IntelliShift

Another great resource is a recent video created by Rick Adams, CEO and Founder of Practical CSM. In this video, he talks about the essential practices for any effective business review. I like his emphasis on the word “business”. EBR’s should not focus on upselling or technicalities. They should focus on business and outcomes.

At the end of the day, an effective EBR/QBR/BR helps the customer understand the value they are getting from you. Plain and simple.

What do you do in your EBR’s to prove your value?

Additional Resources

Providing a Legendary Customer Experience

This is a piggy-back off my previous blog post Customer Success vs Customer Experience. I recommend reading that before diving into this post.

Personally, I live life by very few rules. One of these rules, thanks to my favorite TV character, Barney Stinson, is to be “Legen … wait for it … DARY!”

Be Legendary.

To be legendary is to make a lasting impact on those you come in contact with. To be legendary is to not do anything half way but to fully commit to your dreams, goals, and ambitions.

Now to tie that into the point of this blog post: to provide a legendary customer experience is to treat every customer as if they are your first. You commit to them. You do everything you can to help them see long-term value in your product or service. You see them as the key to generating more customers and long-term growth for your organization.

So how do we get to this point will all of our customers?

Well, it all starts internally within our organization. One of the best interviews on Customer Experience is on The Relentless podcast.

Customer Experience Expert, Liliana Petrova, is interviewed and talks about the importance of “starting from the top” when creating your customer experience. “It starts with culture. This is the only thing that allows you to scale.” She says. Regarding CEO’s, if they can be engaged with their employees and make them feel valued and happy, then the employees will have a greater desire to make their customers happy.

“It starts with your connection with your team and building that trust. And they will become even better versions of you, who knows?!”

She also emphasizes the importance of having a vision for your customers. Otherwise known as a customer journey. A quality customer journey has touchpoints and each of those touchpoints needs to be constantly evaluated to ensure the customer is getting the best experience throughout their lifecycle.

Listen to the full episode here:

Check out Liliana’s website: https://thepetrovaexperience.com/

I grew up in McKinney, Texas — a suburb of Dallas. There was a Papa Murphy’s pizza store not too far from my house. Since my family is of Italian descent, we love pizza. Like a lot. We would go to Papa Murphy’s more times than I care to admit.

For those that are not aware of this particular pizza chain, it’s “Take and Bake”. Meaning, they put the pizza together with fresh ingredients, and then you take it home and bake it.

Every time we would go into this place, the incredible aroma of fresh pizza dough and toppings filled the air. The workers were lined up at the assembly line with smiles on their faces ready to put the pizzas together. The owner and manager were always warm and welcoming. The service was quick, the prices were reasonable, and the product was always exceptional.

Well, my senior year of high school, I got a job at this Papa Murphy’s store and learned very quickly why their customer experience was the way it was.

The owner and manager ran a tight ship and expected the employees to deliver exceptional service. And at the same time, treated us all with the same respect they expected us to deliver to every single one of our customers.

They also trained us well enough so we knew what duties we had to do all hours of the day in order to be prepared to deliver a legendary customer experience. Such tasks like keeping up with toppings and ensuring they are well stocked, baking and cutting pizza dough, cleaning the assembly line and floor, and ensuring the promotions and discounts were up to date and well advertised were some of the many duties they expected us to keep up with.

While I may have only been 17 at the time, I learned a very valuable lesson from David (the owner) and Karri (the manager). It’s the same lesson taught by Liliana Petrova.

Happy employees and a well-thought-out customer journey are exactly what every organization needs (whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or a local pizza chain) to scale and succeed. Doing this will lead you to make a long-lasting impact on your customers. Or in other words, a legendary impact!

In other words…

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer [journey] a little bit better.”

jeff bezos

Voice of the Customer: A Strategy You Need

The customer may not always be ‘right’ but they are always the most important.

It’s easy to say that the customer is important to your organization. There are many companies that say that but, let’s be honest, we all know a few that could use a little help with that statement.

One of the most important ways a company can demonstrate their desire to put their customers first is to implement a customer-feedback program.

Otherwise known as Voice of the Customer (VoC).

Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a strategy that, if implemented, can be the ultimate customer feedback program for your company. It can generate real-time insight into your customer’s experiences.

“Companies use VoC to visualize the gap between customer expectations and their actual experience with the business.”

Hubspot

Implementing this can help any organization do the following:

  • Identify risk of churn early
  • Increase customer retention
  • Help identify ways to improve brand image
  • Know what product customizations need to be a priority
  • Improve the overall customer journey

The Aberdeen Group conducted a study entitled The Business Value of Building a Best-in-Class VoC Program. In this study they came to the conclusion that top performers using VoC best practices retain up to 87% of their client base and, as a result, enjoy nearly a 10-times greater year-over-year increase in annual company revenue.

See the full study here: http://meritdirectlistmanager.com/creative/aberdeen/10449-RR-VoC-business-value.pdf

A quality VoC program can take many different forms.

I might be a bit biased here but I currently work for a company that has this whole Customer Feedback thing figured out. Currently, we have three different methods our customers can reach us:

  1. A dedicated Customer Success Manager. Since we are a global company, we have 1 or 2 CSM’s for almost every region in order to give every customer a main point of contact.
  2. A 24/7 support line. This not only is great for our customers but also great for me. If I need some help answering a technical question, our support team is always on call and very quick to respond to employee and customer inquiries.
  3. A chat feature on our website. This is also a quick method our customers can use at anytime to get in contact with a company representative. Our product is virtual data rooms and we recently implemented this chat feature in each data room to make it easier for data room users to receive answers to their inquiries.

Every time a customer interacts with our support team via chat, we ask if they could rate their experience with the representative. Seen here.

We send the customer a similar inquiry for email conversations as well. This feedback is used to determine how well we are communicating with our customers and how they feel about the experience they are having with us. We also gather feedback data through exit interviews and NPS surveys that I, as their dedicated CSM, conduct.

To see how other companies are revolutionizing the way modern organizations are implementing VoC, check out this article: https://www.myfeelback.com/en/blog/top-brands-collect-customer-feedback

So whether you’re a start-up or seasoned organization looking to make some positive changes to your customers’ overall experience, I highly recommend implementing a quality VoC program.

As I like to say, Voice of the Customer isn’t just a buzzword, it’s a highly effective strategy.

Additional Resources

Start-ups: Creating Your Customer Journey

The Customer Journey. Like Americans and budgets, most business owners know they need one but few actually create one and implement it.

*Dave Ramsey has entered the chat*

The Customer Journey has evolved in recent years. Back in the day it mainly consisted of getting the customer interested in your product and selling it to them. Now, it involves all internal departments working together from the time your customer first hears about your product all the way through to when they are a happy and productive customer.

This can only be accomplished through consistent collaboration between sales, marketing, CS, support, product, and executives.

Salesforce recently explained in an article why every organization needs a Customer Journey Map and how to create one.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is redefining customer expectations every day, with the average consumer now using 10 channels to communicate with businesses. All these touchpoints create increasingly complex customer journeys, making it more difficult to always ensure a great customer experience. But customer experience is more important than ever and according to recent research from Salesforce:

80% of customers now consider their experience with a company to be as important as its products.

69% of consumers want to talk with a company in real-time.

60% of customers in the UK expect the customer experience to be connected.

Read the full article here: https://www.salesforce.com/uk/blog/2016/03/customer-journey-mapping-explained.html

Now that I have your head spinning, let me let you in on a little secret that’s really not a secret at all: The companies that implement this the soonest will be the companies that win in the end.

Hence the title.

So, Ms. or Mr. Start-up owner, if you’ve read up to this point, you’re probably wondering how to best map out a quality customer journey. Well, the truth is, there is no one-size fits all for a successful journey map. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. Every start-up is different regardless of how similar your product or service is. Every client is different also.

The most successful journey maps ensure that the product can be tailored to meet the needs of each client. When needs are met, outcomes are achieved. When outcomes are achieved, customers becomes long-term and successful.

Like Jeff Bezos says, “We innovate by starting with the customer and working backwards.”

When mapping out your first customer journey, here are 3 questions I recommend asking yourself. I call this The 60/24/3 Rule:

  1. If I could put 100 of my niche customers in one place for 60 seconds, what would I want to say to them to get them interested in my product or service?
  2. If every new client had 24 hours to use my product or service before they could get a full refund, what would I do within those 24 hours to get them to sign on for another 3 months?
  3. If every client that signed on for 3 months could get a full refund after their term was done, what would I do within those first 3 months to ensure they see long-term value in my product or service?

Answering these questions will give you a pretty clear vision of how you want to attract your niche customers, what their first experience as a new customer will be like, and what you will do to consistently show them value.

How potential customers hear about you is vital. But the first experience they have as a new client and the 90 days following are the two most critical parts of your customer journey. These two components are what will help mitigate buyers remorse and affirm to the customer that they made the right choice by signing with you. This will ultimately help reduce churn and pave the way for a more loyal and happy client base.

Remember, each journey map is different depending on the product or service, and the individual needs of your clients. If you are part of a SaaS or Digital Marketing start-up, and are looking to construct your customer journey, I would love to connect.

Gainsight created a great video about the importance of journey maps and how to create them.

Feel free to reach out and we can collaborate on how to give your customers a great experience during their time with you.

Cheers

Additional Resources

The Customer Success Manager: Why the Hype?

The Customer Success Manager is the single most important role a company can hire for.

Now, if I were Bill Gates or Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank, you might have taken that first sentence a little more seriously.

Let me see if I can convince you. Stay with me.

The Customer Success Professional’s Handbook is a must-read for anyone wanting to get a deep dive into the impact CS can have on an organization. One page 4, it describes perfectly why the CSM role is so vital especially for the SaaS industry.

“Because of the current business landscape, the customer’s requirements have evolved. Customers expect outcomes, not just a completed transaction. Businesses have realized they must deliver value in a way that fulfills their product’s promise and meets clients’ expectations. Enter Customer Success! The CS function is the bridge between customer expectations, the experience they receive, and ultimately their retention. As a result, Customer Success is now one of the most significant contributors to company growth. In 2016, McKinsey & Company published a report that was titled “Grow Fast or Die Slow: Focusing on Customer Success to Drive Growth.” They concluded that ultimately the focus on customer success not only accelerates revenue growth but also creates a more efficient and effective go-to-market organization.”

Check out the full study here: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/technology-media-and-telecommunications/our-insights/grow-fast-or-die-slow-focusing-on-customer-success-to-drive-growth#

Kellie Lucas says in her book, The Customer Success Pioneer “It is literally life or death for your business, if you are not fully and demonstrably committed to knowing and understanding your customer. Return on Investment (RoI) has been crowned as being king for your customer; this is absolutely a key objective. In a business economy where customers have the freedom of movement more than every before, the urgency for embracing Customer Success is a reality.”

She then goes on to quote Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, and a true pioneer for CS. He says, “Nothing is more important to Salesforce than customer success … And that’s why I believe being so committed to the customer is more important than it’s ever been … because it’s really this culture that’s driving us forward.”

Zendesk, a customer engagement software company based in Silicon Valley, weighed in on the importance of hiring CSM’s for your organization.

In a recent article, they shared this analogy, “Have you ever gone out to eat and were overwhelmed by the menu? And what you really want is someone to help you decide? That’s how I view [Customer] Success,” explains Delores Cooper, Customer Success Associate at Zendesk. “[We] look at the picture in its entirety; what will provide immediate gratification as well as long term stability. Success members accompany the customer on their journey and stick around for the entire lifecycle.”

Read the full article here: https://www.zendesk.com/blog/customer-success-manager/

There’s no other way to say it: Software companies are no longer living in the days where they could sell a product, make a profit, and not have to speak with the customer ever again unless for emergencies.

As SaaSX puts it, “SaaS companies have to keep customers happy to make a profit. Instead of selling a piece of software for a lump sum, you might sell a subscription to an app for a monthly fee. That means customers have to keep getting value out of your software in order to maintain their subscription. If your customers succeed with your product, they’ll keep using it, and your business will profit.”

Full article here: https://saasx.com/2020/04/08/the-importance-of-customer-success-in-saas-and-how-to-help-your-customers-succeed/

So there you have it. The need for a quality Customer Success team has never been more important especially for SaaS companies.

And if you’re a start-up, then jumping on this bandwagon can be the single more important decision you make. I’ll explain more in my next post.

Cheers!

Additional Resources