The more customers that are going to get upset by inefficiency, the more important productivity becomes.
Customer success is a relatively new job, created through necessity in the booming SaaS market, but it takes cues from old-style account manager positions.
The account managers of yesteryear would have a paper list of customers and contact details, but you have a CRM, analytics, automation tools, and a whole heap of ways you can improve consistency and productivity.
As a CSM, you're juggling onboarding, relationship building, and adoption across multiple customers. You need to measure and improve customer satisfaction as well as work on proactive customer support and education.
It can seem like there aren't enough hours in the day, but laying a foundation of best-practice productivity systems is the way forward.
In this post, I'm going to outline four core tenets for working more efficiently in an increasingly digital world.
4 Productivity Tips for Customer Success Managers
1. Create processes and make your work repeatable.
When you're tracking manual work like kick-off calls and requirements gathering, you need a process for each customer to ensure consistency. This means that nothing gets overlooked, and all your relevant data is in one place.
At Process Street, we love finding out how other businesses run their processes. It makes for insightful content for our audience and gives us insight into the real world applications of our product. We interviewed Aaron Lapierre, then-director of customer success at DoubleDutch, to get an inside look at how they run customer success team operations.
Their process includes:
- Preparation for the kick-off call
- Topics to discuss on the kick-off call
- Formulating customer recommendations based on their needs
- Scheduling follow-ups
- Providing webinars and training material
- Reviewing deliverables
- Conducting a strategy call
- Sending an NPS survey
(You can get a copy of their customer success process here.)
Research I conducted across 14 different SaaS companies revealed very similar processes, with some variations.
For example, Ambition broadcasts customer success on their social channels. Whenever a customer hits a high-score with Ambition's sales reward platform, Ambition tweet about it:
It's not just the main meat of the customer success process you need to track with processes, it's these little touches, too.
2. Build customer tracking into your processes.
An expert tip I learned from Keep | Grow is that customers are easier to manage in "lifecycle chunks." For example, it's easier to deal with back-to-back customers with similar needs than it is to deal with a row of customers that are all at different stages of adoption and implementation. Keep | Grow author Phil O'Doherty gives an example of a table he uses to track this:
However, if you run a process for every vital customer, you can build this information into the system.
First, you'd need an automated system that notifies you about new big customers. Clearbit's Zapier integration with the HubSpot CRM is ideal for this -- every time you add a new contact to HubSpot (which can be done automatically when they sign up), Clearbit looks up information about company size and automatically fills it in.
Next, you'd need to use that data as a trigger for a second automation. When a variable (like employee count, for example) in the customer data is above a certain threshold, Zapier triggers a Process Street checklist that includes form fields for lifecycle, stage, key milestones, targets, etc. (This data can be easily auto-filled by adding that as a step in Zapier.)
In turn, this can be sent back to your CRM to centralize your data (more on that later).
3. Build automated email sequences to let customer success run in the background.
Proactive customer success involves reaching out to customers at certain stages of the customer lifecycle with predictive messages, offering support, resources, and a connection to a member of the customer success team. These can be triggered automatically based on events that happen inside your app.
The most basic event is a user converting to a paid plan. We have an automated email set up inside our automation tool for that purpose:
While the outreach is automated, we manage each reply manually inside our support ticket tool. The aim of the email is to get motivated customers on the phone to ensure successful onboarding and adoption.
As Process Street Customer Success Manager Blake Bailey puts it, "a good customer success strategy is both proactive and reactive, leveraging automation and psychology in a balance that allows for more things to get done while maintaining the essential human element."
To help reduce customer churn at certain vital stages, we also have an automated email that goes out to all paid accounts over 90 days old. The email offers an hour-long call to discuss advanced Process Street features that we have identified as key factors for long-term adoption, namely form fields, workflow features, and automation.
By positioning this as a 1-on-1 review of the company's processes and offering best-practice advice on streamlining workflows, we've seen over 15% of our paid customers sign up for a personalized onboarding call.
The email sequence looks like this:
- Welcome to the business plan
- Process Street account review call (90 days in)
- Process Street account review call (180 days in)
- Follow-up to #3 (4 days later)
Each email in the sequence is triggered based on a set of rules. If the customer already scheduled a call with us, they're discounted from the rest of the sequence. This allows us to be tenacious with our follow-ups while ensuring we don't barrage customers with irrelevant emails.
4. Minimize the number of places where you store data.
Customer success managers need to get a pulse on the entire mindset of a customer. If you have fragments of data siloed in the sales CRM, and bits stuck in a support agent's inbox, you can't see the big picture.
There are a few solutions for data centralization:
Using a very limited amount of tools, or a suite that does it all.
For example, HubSpot acts as an all-in-one suite for managing contacts and automated customer success emails, but they're also building dashboarding, insights, customer feedback, and knowledge base tools soon. The more you can work within a single solution, the better view you can gain of your customers and their health.
Connecting disparate tools with integrations.
At Process Street, we use a CRM, a support tool, and our own workflow tool. They're all connected with integrations, which allows us to work inside the best tools for the job while keeping data centralized and tidy.
The power of Zapier integrations really can't be overestimated. It has allowed us to sync hundreds of thousands of data points between our sales, support, and customer success systems. We love it so much, we've written a big ebook guide to getting started that you can download for free here.
Alternatively, HubSpot has a tool called GrowthBot that allows the whole company to access customer data by querying an API in plain English.You can do this right within Slack and get customer information back instantly:
Improve Your Productivity Today
For customer success managers, productivity improvements are brought on by processes and automation. The simplest way to get started is to examine your day-to-day workflows and pick out the factors that are slowing you down.
Do you have to do regular CRM maintenance? Could that be handled automatically? Do you set ad-hoc reminders to follow up with customers? Could that be part of a process, instead?
You're not going to be able to double your productivity overnight, but you can start making tiny improvements today that will compound in the long run.