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.
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?
With this understanding, how do we start defining a Customer Success Enablement Program?
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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).
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.
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:
And most importantly, tangible Assets. These include:
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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