Chapter 6

How customer success works with other departments

This is a chapter from The Startup CEO’s Guide to Customer Success and Onboarding.

Common misconceptions:

🚫 Customer success should only collaborate with my sales and support teams.

As your first customer success hire (and eventual team) gets into their groove of engaging with and talking to your customers, the last thing you want is for the rest of your company to be left in the dark as to what they are hearing and learning.

Cross-departmental collaboration is critical to the success of your customer success team, your company, and the experience your customers have with you. We can't emphasize this enough.

The insights you gain from your customer's feedback will help you shape the direction of your product, your marketing strategy, and your approach to the overall customer experience.

In this chapter, our intention is to highlight ways for your customer success team to collaborate with other departments in your organization. This should also set a precedent for the "voice of the customer" to always be present as your company grows and evolves. That voice is best represented by your customer success team.

Whether you have the following departments established or not, the general idea is to make sure folks from the customer success side of the house have a chance to collaborate with folks from the product, marketing, and sales sides of the house. Don't stop there. As you add branches to these departments or add new departments all together, save a seat at the discussion tables for representation from your success team.

Let's dig into the value strengthening these partnerships can provide.

Product | Customer Success

This should go without saying, but we are here to say it anyway: you should build features that your customers want and design them in a way so they are easy for your customers to adopt.

Who better to help inform that than the person talking with said customers.

To get started, you'll want to:

  1. Create a system to capture feedback from your customers. A simple spreadsheet or table will work to get started. You'll want to document:
  2. who the feedback is from - so you can ask questions and provide updates when the new feature is available.
  3. assign a scale to rank priority and complexity - to help your product teams prioritize the work.
  4. a detailed description of the customer pain that can be alleviated by prioritizing the ask.
  5. Set a cadence to discuss the feedback. A weekly meeting is a great starting point. Use this time to understand the ask from your customer success team and set expectations for the next steps.
  6. Involve your customer success person as the feature gets created and designed, both so they can provide clarity and feel confident to discuss with customers once it's launched.

Your product designers and developers will appreciate knowing their work is impacting customers in a helpful way and your customer success teams will feel more inclined to keep sharing future feedback.

Marketing | Customer Success

Your acquisition, product, and customer marketing efforts should all be catered towards the needs of your customers.

All of these functions should be talking with your customers already to learn what's needed. Adding the learnings from your customer success team will only make their output better.

This collaboration will help:

  1. Create content resources your customers say they want versus ones you assume they need. This prevents your marketing team from spending time in the wrong places and ensures your customers see the most current content.
  2. Market towards the right prospects - the more you know about the needs of your current customers, the faster you can find your future ones.
  3. Help improve product release notes so they make sense to your customers by partnering with customer success to ensure the messaging lands with customers.

Your marketing teams will appreciate the direction towards what customers actually want and your customer success teams will be more inclined to use the resources being provided.

Sales | Customer Success

Your sales team is (or eventually will be) trying to discover what pain points your prospects have and highlight how your product or service will help solve those. Any information gathered here should be smoothly handed off to your success team so everyone is on the same page.

But the truth is, you can only discover so much during this phase, and new pain points arise well beyond your sales cycle.

Your customer success teams are discussing these new pain points throughout the customer lifecycle, sometimes even re-setting expectations of what your product or service can actually do.

  1. During onboarding, they are digging further into each customer's needs and showing customers how to best use your product or service.
  2. During business reviews, they are learning what new strategies your customers have and discussing how your product supplements said strategy.
  3. During renewal conversations, they are learning what worked well and what could have gone better in the partnership.

All of this information can arm your sales team with answers to future questions that prospects have, helping them close deals faster. Setting the right expectations for what your product or service can do during the sales cycle gives your customer success team more time to show your customers the value you provide.

Your sales teams will appreciate the knowledge gained for future conversations and will hand off more qualified customers to your customer success teams, making their jobs much easier.

In conclusion…

Learning from the insights your customer success team gleans during conversations they have with customers will help guide other departments towards putting your customer's needs first.

Fostering this environment requires collaborating, communicating, and potentially compromising on prior ways of working, but the impact will be felt as you streamline the overall customer experience. Remember, happy customers stick around longer and grow their business with you, resulting in more revenue for your company.

Download the entire CEO's Guide to Customer Success

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