Why CS Enablement is The Secret Sauce of Customer Success

Why CS Enablement is The Secret Sauce of Customer Success
Sumitra Narayanan

Customer Success Enablement is the engine of Customer Success. CS leaders – if you wish to boost your team's productivity programmatically, here is everything you need to get started.

What is Customer Success Enablement?

From Abby Gettys, Manager of Global Customer Success Enablement at Klaviyo, Customer Success Enablement is "the collaborative approach to identifying and delivering the right training, resources, support, and tools to Customer Success teams so they are fully equipped to help customers achieve their goals."

Unlike Sales Enablement, Customer Success Enablement is a relatively newer area, though rapidly growing in relevance. Giorgia Ortiz, Sales and Customer Success Enablement veteran, sums up this relevance in her talk with Growth Molecules about building an effective Customer Success Enablement Strategy:

"What I've seen happen is … the CS organization is just its own content-creation machine – and it takes time, about a year (!), to unravel that behavior and to get the trust from the selling and the support organizations that you can support them ... that you can create content that is not only going to serve them but looks better, that's going to be branded, and on time, and that you're going to deliver it, and that it's not going to be a bottleneck. It takes a lot of time to have to build that out. They spend too much of their time doing non-CS related functions … Having specialized folks that can curate that information (with reference to Customer Success Enablement resources) … just exponentially gives you return on your investment."

So - why Customer Success Enablement?

  • From the CSM perspective, it's about streamlining the CSM workflow so CSMs are happier and more effective – being the best CSMs they can be.
  • And from the Company perspective, it's about improving the retention and growth of our customer base by equipping our CSMs to be the most effective they can be.

With this understanding, how do we start defining a Customer Success Enablement Program?

Three Pillars of Customer Success Enablement

I learned about the 3 Pillars of Customer Success Enablement from DesiredPath's chat with Melissa Madian, who is an expert in the field of Sales and Customer Success Enablement:

  • Recruitment: Hiring the right talent based on your Ideal CSM profile to ensure your customers are successful.
  • Onboarding: Equipping CSMs with a structured plan to ramp up and begin contributing as quickly as possible.
  • Ongoing Enablement: Empowering existing CSMs with training and assets to be effective in their roles so that Customer Success owns a consistently strong portfolio of value-realizing customers.
The three pillars of Customer Success enablement
The three pillars of Customer Success enablement

1. Recruiting

Similar to how organizations have an Ideal Customer Profile, or an ICP, it's equally - if not more - important to have an Ideal CSM Profile.

It's crucial to define an Ideal CSM Profile that aligns with the Customer Success team's purpose, based on:

Skills and Experience

These are the things we’re used to looking for in a potential CSM hire, including:

  • Relevant domain knowledge
  • Customer Success experience
  • Commercial experience
  • Communication skills (via speaking, writing, etc.)
  • Data intelligence
  • Time management
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Project management
  • Consultative mindset
  • Strategic thinking
  • Strong technical acumen

Character Qualities

Oftentimes, hiring managers to stop short by only considering the skills and experience needed for the role without focusing on personality traits and character qualities needed as a CSM including:

  • Empathy
  • Work ethic
  • Discernment
  • Humility
  • Prosocial
  • Proactivity
  • Trustworthiness
  • Adaptiveness
  • Mental fortitude
  • Growth mindset
  • Scrappiness

These character qualities are best demonstrated through behavioral interviewing using the STAR Method (situation, task, action, result) questioning during interviews. Sometimes past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior.

Pillar 1: Recruitment
Pillar 1: Recruitment

How Recruiting impacts ROI

When I was leading the Customer Success team at my previous organization, I led a series of brainstorming sessions with our COO and our Director of People & Culture to define the skills and experience, as well as character qualities, we deemed important in a CSM hire. These depended on factors such as our product, customer needs, the industry domain we were in, company size, and more.

Over time, we leveraged qualitative data from team experience as well as the performance and KPIs of our CSMs. Using this data, we continued to iterate on our Ideal CSM Profile. I ensured these were documented and updated within a centralized and accessible space and utilized in our hiring process.

Through this process, our Ideal CSM Profile became more well-defined over time, improving our overall team dynamics and health.

Quantitatively, this brought about a reduction in the percentage of time I invested in hiring and team management efforts by roughly ~25% when comparing the current quarter to a few quarters earlier. The time gained back was being used to focus on higher-priority items such as team strategy and truly making our customers successful, leading to increased ARR stability and, ultimately, customer retention.

2. Onboarding

The Onboarding Pillar of Customer Success Enablement focuses on getting a new CSM up to speed and in a position to contribute as quickly as possible. It covers the following broad areas:

Tool onboarding to streamline the CSM workflow (in many cases via automation) and help them be data-informed.

Process walkthrough to understand how the Customer Success team, and overall company, operate.

Training resources on:

  • Domain-related knowledge
  • Product
  • Customer Success best practices and team goals
Pillar 2: Onboarding
Pillar 2: Onboarding

How Onboarding impacts ROI

To get this pillar in place, I created an onboarding plan for new CSMs, mapping out a checklist of items to get through (in the form of readings, audio/video recordings, and live meetings) each day for the first two weeks (considering an 8-hour work day) in Google Sheets. This plan covered all three areas (tool onboarding, process walkthrough, and training resources).

With this onboarding plan in place, comparing the current quarter to a few quarters earlier showed that CSM Ramp-up Time was halved from around ~1 month to ~2 weeks. I had devised the onboarding plan to prioritize getting the CSM to take on their own book of business at the end of the 2-week mark*. Reducing CSM Ramp-up Time ultimately leads to increased ARR stability and therefore, improved customer retention.

*Even for a smaller org like ours, two weeks is still a short timeframe for the comprehensive onboarding of a CSM, so while our onboarding plan prioritized enabling the CSM to take on a book of business as their first goal, additional training on process and the product continued past the 2-week mark.

If your org has the resources, you can create a more sophisticated, streamlined CSM onboarding program via a Content Management System (such as Seismic or Contentful) combined with a Learning Management System (like LearnCore (now acquired by ShowPad)) or even via a combined Learning Management + Content Management System (such as SalesHood).

CSM trying to upsell
CSM trying to upsell

How are CSMs supposed to stay on top of things and do it all!? This brings us to the last pillar and to that last piece of the CS Enablement puzzle.

3. Ongoing Enablement

Finally, the Ongoing Enablement Pillar of Customer Success Enablement is set up to keep the existing Customer Success team effective and running smoothly. It covers the following broad areas:

Tool & process-related updates, and training and this is where there’s overlap with the onboarding:

  • Domain-related knowledge
  • Product
  • Customer Success best practices and team goals

And most importantly, tangible Assets. These include:

  • Customer Playbooks for various touchpoints of the customer journey (Slide Decks, Talk Tracks)
  • Competitive Battlecards that are meant for Customer Success, not Sales! (Customer Objection-Handling Assets)
  • External-Facing Material to share with customers (Feature One-Pagers, Use Case How-Tos)
  • Thought Leadership Content you work together with Marketing to build (Snackables (read more on these here), Customer Case Studies)
  • Business Review Tools to make it easy to communicate the value your solution is providing to customers (Plug-and-Play Business Review Templates, ROI Calculator)
Pillar 3: Ongoing Enablement
Pillar 3: Ongoing Enablement

How Ongoing Enablement impacts ROI

As we started to put training and assets in place as part of the Ongoing Enablement Pillar, we found that this enhanced our CSMs’ ability to secure eligible renewals and identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities, visibly moving the needle on our Customer Success team’s North-Star metric, NRR.

I hope this article provides you the basics you need to build your own Customer Success Enablement Program! Feel free to let me know how it goes for you by messaging me via LinkedIn.

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