Every SaaS company starts with the same idealistic visions of what their relationship will be with customers. Customers will of course see immediate value in your product and practically manage and upsell themselves. Those of us on the ground know this is rarely the reality. This is the first of a 3 part series that dives into the components that lead to a successful partnership with your customers.
Customer Success Managers (CSM) are handed the responsibility of the customer relationship after the Sales team closes the deal. This transfer should follow an established Sales to Customer Success handoff process. One of many things the Account Executive (AE) and CSM will discuss is who will be the Customer Success point of contact. This is not necessarily the person who signed the contract. In fact, unless the company is very small, it is better if this is not the decision maker the AE worked with to close the deal. The CSM needs a point of contact who is going to be available, engaged, and, perhaps most importantly, accountable for the success of this product internally. Working with the right point of contact makes the CSM feel like the two share similar goals and objectives, which will make their job not only easier, but will allow both parties to enjoy all the potential benefits of the partnership!
Who should be the Customer Success point of contact?
Who the right contact is will depend a lot on what your product does. If your product is a dev tool you will want to work with the Director of Engineering. However, if your product is automated quality assurance software, you might find that the most relevant point of contact is on the Product team because they’re the ones ultimately responsible for deploying bug-free code. This person’s title is less important than whether or not they’re able to work with your team towards common goals. A good point of contact will help you navigate their company’s internal structure and workflows, as well as integrate your product into their organization in the most effective way. They will be able to identify shared interests across their organization and yours and use this understanding to drive success.
During the launch process the CSM should work closely with the decision maker and the point of contact to determine what their goals are and what metrics they will be watching to measure success. The CSM should also have a good pulse of the internal layout of the company and if there will be any other folks responsible for the success of the product (such as team leads) to ensure those folks are looped in when appropriate. Never assume the Customer Success point of contact has seen the product. They could have been completely removed from the sales process and have no idea what they’ve been assigned to manage. That’s why I equate this to the final step of the sales process- sell the value of the product to the folks who will actually be using it and managing its implementation.
After an account has a designated point of contact the next challenge is to establish accountability within the customer organization. Don’t forget, Customer Success isn’t about you and your company’s goals- it’s about the customer. The importance of digging into what constitutes success for each individual customer cannot be overstated. Uncovering these underlying goals and objectives allows your Customer Success team to provide real and meaningful value to your customers. Having someone within the customer’s organization also be accountable for the success of your product increases the likelihood that you’ll be able to deliver on their expectations. When a Customer Success point of contact fails to buy into accountability, it’s easy for the relationship to flounder and it becomes harder for CSMs to deliver meaningful results for their customer.