Bridging the Gap Between CS & Everyone Else

Bridging the Gap Between CS & Everyone Else

If you’re leading a Customer Success initiative, the importance of a cross-functional ecosystem can’t be emphasized enough – establishing one will help break down silos between CS and the teams you collaborate with, making working together easier and creating a more seamless customer journey.

Below is a detailed breakdown on how you can approach this with each team CS typically partners with.

CS & Sales Interlock

Sales to CS Handoff

To stay organized, consistent, and provide a unified front to your new customers, set up regular check-ins with Sales to understand what’s coming CS’s way. It also greatly helps to have Sales provide CS with an agreed-upon list of information about new business.

This list, commonly known as a handoff checklist, is recommended to have the following items:

  • Contract details and deal-related information, such as services list, contract term, renewal date, and more.
  • Important customer-side stakeholders (executive sponsor, champion users, day-to-day users).
  • Context around stakeholders and their roles as it relates to leveraging the product.
  • High-level customer goals and strategic objectives.
  • Customer use cases that are relevant to their goals.
  • Product feedback and requests along with associated urgency.

Grab Catalyst's Sales to CS Handoff Template' here.

Ideal Customer Profile

Isn’t it frustrating when Sales bring in new customers who can’t seem to stop complaining or derive value from your product? Not only is this frustrating, it wastes precious CS time – you’d much rather have your CSMs spend time adding value through purposeful, productive work.

This is why it's important to align on what the Ideal Customer Profile looks like for your product so that you can identify not only who your product is right for, but also who it is not right for. You can typically figure this out based on the use cases – and consequently, high-level goals – your product is built to accomplish. Even if this leads to some short-term deal losses, it’s important to partner with Sales to help them understand the longer-term view of sustainable (and therefore, much more easily maintained) business.

Upsellling and Cross Selling

The purpose behind Customer Success is to help drive value for customers, which positions your CSMs perfectly to develop and identify expansion opportunities (upsells, cross-sells) for their customers. Such opportunities are typically called ‘CSQLs’, or ‘CS Qualified Leads’, and are typically your best-vetted opportunities given they’ve been carefully nurtured by your CSMs in existing customers that rely on your product. The commercial side of this can often be complex and distract CS from focusing on delivering value, so pass it onto Sales at this point to have them actually close the upsell or cross-sell. Win-win for both CS and Sales, further strengthening your partnership and reinforcing a strong pipeline of future wins!

Voice of the Customer (VoC)

A robust Voice of the Customer program is effective at disseminating customer feedback throughout the company in order to truly make it customer-centric. It could be as simple as setting up a bi-weekly ‘Customer Storytime’ session in which CS team members share their customers’ experiences with the product and how well it’s helping them achieve their goals. Such a program lets Sales know what current customers are saying, aiding them to uncover what prospects could need. This enables Sales to influence prospects more easily and therefore generate new business more easily – again, a joint win for both CS and Sales.

CS & Onboarding Interlock

Onboarding to CS Checklist

Onboarding needs to provide CS with all the details about how onboarding went so CS can focus on driving value with their customers. It’s a good idea to loop in CS as early as possible (generally around 30 days prior to the onboarding end date) so that the transition is as seamless as possible.

Here’s what Onboarding can provide to CS in their handoff checklist:

  • Customer-side stakeholders they primarily interacted with (project managers, technical leads).
  • Onboarding-related services checklist with notes flagging any incomplete onboarding items that will prevent CS from enabling the customer to achieve their high-level goals. It’s also nice to have a qualitative ‘health score’ for the integration (red, yellow, green) to reveal positive and negative trends with respect to onboarding completion.

Voice of the Customer (VoC)

As discussed above, a Voice of the Customer program is multi-purpose in its aim of elevating team efficacy across the company. For Onboarding, such a program could inform what stumbling blocks current customers are facing during onboarding and even what shortcuts could help make it easier to operationalize the product. This enables Onboarding to design a more streamlined onboarding program, reducing Time-to-Value (TTV) for customers and ultimately improving retention rates – again, a joint win for both CS and Onboarding.

CS & Support Interlock

Triage Process

From the moment a customer experiences a technical issue or concern, CS and Support can work together to streamline ways of working, clearly separating CS accountability from Support accountability. A rule of thumb we have at Braze, a marketing automation platform, for instance, is that pre-campaign launch 'strategy' queries will go to CS and post-campaign launch 'troubleshooting' questions will go to Support. To actually receive such inbound queries, it's ideal to have a centralized form the customer can fill, with defined picklists, to ensure all information comes through accurately to be routed to the correct entity between CS or Sales.

Implementing this sort of process will help create a seamless customer experience and help prevent a ton of internal confusion, redundancy, or work falling through the cracks.

Customer Health Scores

As Guy Galon discusses in this CS Insider article, it takes both proactive and reactive guidance to influence the customer experience. If Support and CS are working closely together, CS will have a bigger-picture view into the customer’s health score not only as it relates to deriving value from the product, but from a support standpoint.

Voice of the Customer (VoC)

A Voice of the Customer program can help Support understand what customers often need help with most. With this information, Support can proactively maintain a Knowledge Base with comprehensive answers to customer FAQs, thereby cutting down incoming support tickets and turnaround times for the tickets that do end up coming in, saving critical time and costs – and that’s how the joint win manifests for both CS and Support.

CS & Product Interlock

Product Feedback

The gist of an effective CS<->Product interlock is the following.

  1. Avoid the common mistakes CS teams make when partnering with Product (some of these may surprise you – and yes, I've been guilty of all of the below!). Here are some common mistakes CS makes when collaborating with Product. *Sharing 'important' customer requests with Product as they come in rather than batching and sharing them in a structured, systematic way. *Summarizing customer feedback in your own words rather than providing an actual gist of what the customer is saying. *Proposing potential solutions to 'make it easier' on Product vs. just letting them do their job of solutioning. *Going around Product, directly to engineering, to solve 'urgent' issues.
  2. Have the CS team dig into customer problems with a structured user research framework (this tip was insightful, I'm definitely an advocate for this now - read more about setting up such a framework in this article by Dscout).
  3. Aggregate and quantify high-level, outcome-driven problem themes. An example of a problem theme could be "We have 'n' number of customers that currently struggle to achieve 'X' outcome that our product is supposed to help with", and – if you can tie each problem theme back to ARR based on existing customers and deals in the pipeline that could benefit, your Product team will love you for this and it's so much easier to influence the product roadmap (and overall company goals) – and – you got it, it’s so much easier for CS and Product to win together!

Voice of the Customer (VoC)

To the point above, it goes without saying that a Voice of the Customer program can help Product refine key product themes to focus on to build a more customer-centric product.

CS & Marketing Interlock

Voice of the Customer (VoC)

A Voice of the Customer program can help Marketing hone in on top customer needs, enabling them to create case studies and use case solutions pages that spark more ‘epiphanies’ among those in the market for a product like theirs. This in turn generates solid Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) that result in higher-LTV (long-term value) business – and that’s how the joint win manifests for both CS and Marketing!

Customer Advocacy

CS can share customer case studies generated by Marketing with other customers and prospects Sales is working with. This goes a long way towards building a strong community of customer advocates, in turn increasing customer retention, expansion, and even second-order business through increased customer referrals.

CS & Engineering Interlock

Voice of the Customer (VoC)

A Voice of the Customer program can help Engineering easily uncover customer experience flaws and potential bugs, putting them in a position to “extinguish the smoke before it turns into fire”. The earlier these issues are identified proactively through a regular Voice of the Customer cadence, the more time Engineering saves to reinvest in feature development and other Engineering initiatives. Engineering wins and CS wins with additional shiny features and a more robust product – further delighting customers.

Technical Themes

When CS and Engineering proactively share knowledge about customers' technical issues and needs, Engineering can prioritize their efforts more effectively. The themes that surface in CS-Engineering discussions can bubble up to inform high-level Engineering initiatives. These themes could even pave the way for things like Engineering hackathons (or even a cross-collaboration CS-Engineering hackathon) to bring a fresh perspective to innovating on the product.

CS & Ops Interlock

Voice of the Customer (VoC)

The Voice of the Customer program can help Ops serve as the backbone of Customer Service, highlighting the inefficiencies and gaps in CS processes that prevent them from serving customers, as well as the knowledge barriers that prevent customers from experiencing value from the product.

Customer Success Enablement

CS Operations can provide the Customer Success team with the processes, tools, training, and tangible assets needed to operate more effectively. If you’d like to understand how to get a Customer Success Enablement program up and running, you can read more here in my previous CS Insider article.

CS & Finance Interlock

Retention and Expansion OKRs

At the end of the day, it’s Finance that’s responsible to both save and make money for the company. By setting goals that trickle down from Finance's overall goals of saving or making money, CS receives clear big-picture direction in terms of what to strive for in terms of retention and expansion – the North Star metrics for CS teams.

Voice of the Customer (VoC)

For easy visual reference, I’ve created the quick table below sharing how an effective Voice of the Customer (VOC) program – run by CS to share the customer experience broadly within their company – can benefit many of the departments they work with. If you’re curious about how to get a VOC program off the ground at your company, check out this article written by GTM Expert Lucia Chung.

VoC Program Overview


Winning together…

  • Makes life easier for teams working together
  • Breaks down artificial silos between teams
  • Keeps teams aligned and accountable towards common OKRs or KPIs
  • Helps teams prioritize genuine company needs more effectively
  • Leads to a more seamless customer journey

I hope this article proves just how crucial it is to build an effective cross-functional ecosystem for CS! Thoughts? Let me know by messaging me via LinkedIn.

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