Dear Insider: Which CS Strategy Fits Best for a Small Team at a Large Company?

Dear Insider: Which CS Strategy Fits Best for a Small Team at a Large Company?

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Q: We are a large company with multiple products and services, but a small team up <8 CSMs. Which approach to success is the most feasible given the team's size, scaled & digital, high & medium touch, or a combination of both?

This is a great question and my answer is “it depends”.

Customer Engagement models must be designed outside in and not inside out, meaning you have to design the program that will meet the needs of your customers. Once you understand what your customers need and how best to make them successful you can design an effective model.

That being said here is where I would start:

  1. Group my customers based on their needs and current state: If you segment your customers based on ARR exclusively I would challenge you to rethink this process but even if you do, you can create sub-segments that all you to group customers based on their needs. This will help you create the appropriate experience.
  2. Design the Programs to Deliver What they Need: Once you group your customers appropriately and know what they need, you need to design and create the programs and resources to help them achieve their goals.
  3. Align on the Approach and Mechanism: What is the model that will best allow you to deliver what the customers need based on your current resources - 1:1 CSM discussions, on-demand content for self-guided experience, 1:Many live programs, peer-to-peer learning via community etc.
  4. Collect feedback from Customers: Once you’ve designed the programs select a cohort of customers to review this with and get their feedback.
  5. Test: Identify the appropriate tranches of customers and start to roll out these programs. Measure and modify as needed.

In any organization I’ve ever managed, there has never been a one-size-fits-all approach and we’ve always had a combination of programs and approaches to help deliver the appropriate experience for customers to ensure their success.

Q: I have recently joined as the first customer success hire at a start-up. They want me to create a CS playbook and define the KPIs for the CS team. I am working on it but finding it difficult to structure the playbook properly. Another issue I am facing is that the average ARR of our contracts is $10k-$15k. I am finding it hard to get the C-suite/sponsor attention as it is a very small sum so I might be considered a small vendor. Can you help?

Building out a Customer Success strategy is not easy and will be specific to your organization based on the market, product, buyers, stage etc. That said, start simple. Don’t try and over-engineer the CS playbook day 1 - determine the 3 things that will help make your customers more successful with your product and the partnership.

While I have no context on your business or what you are working on I will say Onboarding is always a good place to start, determine key KPIs that represent both leading and lagging indicators and be prepared to test and iterate.

As for customer engagement, investment isn’t the issue, it’s the perceived value and impact to the business that will determine the level of attention you’ll get from customers. Throughout my career I’ve had customers making very small investments and be highly engaged because it was important to their business.

Your technology exists for a reason, and your customer purchased it for a reason. Get aligned on your value and positioning, and then try to engage your executives.

Q: Best advice or recommended online courses/content to improve data analysis/financial literacy and planning for someone in Head of Account Management/CS role?

This is a great question and an area that many people need support with. My first piece of advice is always to start with your CFO to get a handle on the metrics that are most important to your business. Companies at different stages prioritize and focus on different metrics, start your learning journey inside out.

That being said, Jay Nathan and Jeff Breunsbach, recently released a new course on just this topic Cover Your SaaS. The content is broken down into 3 sections 1) The Fundamental Language of Business 2) Understanding Subscription Businesses 3) Making an Impact. This course is the first to focus on this topic and will be able to answer most if not all your questions.


Want to get advice from CS Insider and Kristi Faltorusso?

Send your questions for publication here. (Questions may be edited for length.)


Q: How does someone who believes they have the skills and even took some training in CS, but has never actually done the job, find an opportunity when all of the posted opportunities are looking for experienced CS employees with a book of business and a history to prove their capabilities?

I understand that finding a job in this market can prove to be very difficult and even more so with no experience. Everything comes down to positioning and helping hiring managers understand how your transferable skills will help you be successful doing the job - it’s storytelling.

My interview process is 100% behavioral style interview questions - “tell me a time when”, “give me an example of”, “if you experienced X, how might you handle the situation” etc. I do this because I care less about what they’ve done and am more focused on what they will do. It’s easy to draw parallels from work and life experiences and directly correlate those to the responsibilities you will be tasked with.

I see this often with Teachers - They’ll talk about Performance Plans they create for students and parents and talk about thow this is like creating a Success Plan for a customer OR the different techniques they use for teaching and how that will work fo training and enablement.

Spend time researching the roles you are interested in and get really clear on what you’ll need to do, then think back to your career or experiences and how this is applicable and will support you in doing the work they require. Lastly design a resume that speaks the language of the opportunity you are applying to.

Now while all this is going to help, you also need to network. Far more effective then any resume is your personal network. Spend time really building and nurturing a network of professionals in the industry you are looking to break into. Those relationships will eventually turn into leads and those resources will help you find the right opportunity.

Best of luck!

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