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5 Steps to Building a Strong Customer Success Team

You build a marketing team to attract new leads. You build a sales team to close new customers. And you build a customer success team to retain those customers and keep them happy.

And when it comes to solving a customer retention problem, there are so many places to start that it’s near-impossible to know what to tackle first.

Over the course of the last year, I helped our customer success team here at HubSpot improve revenue retention from 80% retention to 100%. Through careful trial and error, I determined the first five actionable steps I would carry out if I were to redo my experience building my team -- and I’m confident your team will see similar success in half the amount of time if you follow them from the get-go.

5 Actionable Steps to Build a Customer Success Team

1) Customer Success Starts with Talking to Customers

It might sound crazy, but the number one action item for a new customer success team is to figure out is your target market.

Make one list of the customers that have reported success with your product, and another list with the customers who have canceled or given negative feedback. Once you have these lists, start reaching out to them to learn more about the why behind their sentiments. Once you’ve written down all of your notes, highlight the trends for your happy and unhappy customers.

This is the first step in your persona development. If you're not bringing in the customers you're building your product for, you're going to be always fighting an uphill battle. So make sure to take care of this step first.

2) Create a Survey at Each Stage of the Customer Lifecycle

As your customer base grows, you'll need a more sustainable feedback mechanism for determining customer satisfaction. Prioritize getting feedback in all areas of the customer experience by creating and deploying a regular survey system.

A Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey is one common way to survey your customers, but you can also add in surveys to other parts of the customer lifecycle -- without overdoing the communication, of course. The checkpoints when I suggest sending out a survey are after initially onboarding a new customer and at the point of cancellation. The more you can do to gather information if and when a customer cancels, the better you will be able to understand and help those customers -- and retain more in the future.

3) Be the Voice of the Customer

I received this suggestion when I first started our customer success team here at HubSpot.

One of the most important reasons to have a customer success team is that, by working with customers directly every day, you are the best people to represent their feelings about your product and company. Compile this feedback by writing a paragraph once weekly titled “What it’s like to be a customer at [Your Company].” Describe the highlights and lowlights of feedback from the customers' points of view, and make sure this is visible to the whole company either via email or any other internal communication system you use.

If needed, plan a weekly meeting where your customer success team meets with representatives from your product development and engineering teams to communicate customer feedback and pain points.

4) Focus on Your Resources

It’s critical for your customers to get quick, simple answers to their questions when they use your product. And sometimes, their preferred method of getting help isn't jumping onto a phone call -- it's conducting an online search to get their questions answered. That's where a knowledge base comes in -- like ours here at HubSpot.

A simple way to get started with creating resources for your knowledge base is to write down any questions your customers ask more than once or twice. Once the question hits this threshold, you need a help resource to provide customers with the information and to solve for a common customer roadblock.

Knowledge base help resources might typically take the form of how-to articles, but today’s modern buyer may benefit more from a quick answer, a how-to guide, a video explainer, or a webinar. Consider your persona and what they would be most likely to leverage if they ran into this problem when deciding which type of knowledge base content to create. Not sure? Just survey a few customers!

My final tip when creating help resources is that they don’t have to be perfect.

Let me repeat, they do not have to be perfect.

In fact, the more you agonize about the quality of your resources, the less efficient you'll be. The frequency with which you will most likely need to update these articles as your product changes won’t be sustainable if you're worried about them being perfect.

4X as many customers would prefer to watch a video about a product than read about it, so don't be afraid of taking the plunge into the world of video content -- here's how to get started if you haven't made one before.

5) Send a Weekly Customer Success Report Card

Sending a weekly report card tracking KPIs is critical for keeping all teams on the same page.

The weekly report card should include things like the customer narrative, team process updates, relevant product changes, and relevant KPIs -- like NPS or other survey results. This helps everyone committed to customer success keep a pulse on what's happening with your team on the front lines.

These report card should communicate metrics, but they should communicate qualitative feedback, too. This information is just as valuable and empowers your team to learn from past errors and help customers using time-tested best practices.

These are just some of the things I've learned from starting a customer success team -- I'll be back soon with more of my learnings about what happened when our team got up and running. 

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