Customer success is the center of your professional world, but do other departments care? We talk a lot about being centered on customer success, but walking the walk is different than talking the talk. Or perhaps you’ve started to realize alignment with your product team, but collaboration ends there.
No matter where you’re at today, you have the opportunity to use your customer knowledge to impact other departments. Plus, you can learn a thing or two from others in your company that might make your job easier. Every other department has an intersection point with customer success, and we’re here to help you identify and strengthen it.
The case for collaboration
Customer success alignment across the organization isn’t just a “feel-good” strategy; it’s an impactful business move. Our 2019 Customer Success + Product Management Alignment report revealed the case for collaboration. The most important (and enticing) side effect of having well-aligned departments is higher retention, which leads to more revenue.
In the benchmarking report, we found that 87% of respondents with a churn rate of less than 1% said their Customer Success and Product Management teams are either fully or somewhat aligned. Customer retention rises when there’s customer success alignment because each department can use insights to make their work more impactful at scale.
Departments don’t need to give up control of their channel or drastically alter the way they work, either. Whether it’s obvious yet or not, there’s a natural intersection between teams where sharing insights creates serious value. Working together just creates a seamless experience for the end-user.
Customer success and product teams
The intersection between customer success and product teams is one of the most significant alignment opportunities in your company. The customer success team has access to customer feedback that can shape the direction of the product, and the product team can create tools to help the CS team scale. When they work together, they can evolve the product and experience based on fact, and prioritize what needs to happen first.
At this intersection of teams, the customer success team is the gatekeeper of insights. As they talk to customers every day and review engagement data, they learn what matters. Which features are most important to each segment? What benchmarks of engagement are most important? How do customers actually use the product? All of this information is worth its weight in gold to the product team. Using these insights, your company can prioritize updates, re-work product flows, and evolve with the user base. The product team is creating a tool for the end-user, so having a shared view of the user with the customer success team is crucial for creating something that resonates.
On the flip side, the product team can help customer success with their processes. The two groups should work together to find the onboarding balance of high-tech and high-touch that best suits the audience. Customer success also benefits from the product team’s knowledge of, well, the product. Discussing current capabilities and limits give CSMs the tools they need to guide users.
Best practices + tips:
- Work with the same tools. Having separate data sets and tools keeps everyone working in their own silos.
- Have shared metrics and incentives. Creating a new habit of collaboration is tough, and there needs to be shared metrics and goals to increase your chances of success. Metrics you should be sharing include feature usage and adoption, churn, customer feedback (sentiment), and customer lifetime value.
Customer success and sales teams
Communication and collaboration between the customer success and sales team are put to the test when sales pass an account to CS. After the sales team has worked to secure the new account, they’re passed on to customer success for the long haul. There may be another transfer if the sales team comes in for renewal, upsell, or cross-sell discussions. There are a few things each team needs from the others to make this work well, though.
First, the customer success team can help the sales team by monitoring customer health and engagement. CS can tell sales who may be in the best position for an upsell, and who is having a hard time. By sharing what they know about how a customer is doing, what they need, and what they want to accomplish, customer success can set the sales department up for success.
The sales team also holds valuable information that customer success can use. Any information that the sales rep has gathered about the customer’s goals or current challenges help CSMs deliver a personalized experience. Similarly to the alignment between CS + product teams, the sales department and CSMs need a shared customer view. Identifying top performing segments and customer personas helps the sales team with lead scoring.
Best practices + tips:
- Create a regular schedule to share top-performing users or opportunities. Sporadically sharing insights is only marginally better than no collaboration at all. Setting up a routine sharing schedule will build momentum over time.
- Establish shared retention goals. Customer retention serves the entire company, and everyone can pitch in to make it a reality. If the sales team shifts its focus from easier one-time sales to cultivating better matches that stick around longer, retention in the long-run will rise. To do this, though, they’ll need insights from customer success about who those top-performing users are.
- Be upfront about what information each team needs from the other. The sales handoff process has the best chance of success if everyone is clear about what information the other department needs. Having a shared place for customer information also makes the transition easier.
Customer success and marketing teams
The intersection between customer success and marketing teams is all about messaging and positioning. Customer success managers are talking to users day in and day out, which gives them unique access to the customer perspective. Similarly, marketing teams have data about which campaigns and tactics have worked the best. Together, they can share information to make each department stronger.
As CSMs handle onboarding, check up on users, analyze journey paths, and assess feature usage, they’re compiling a picture of what matters to users. What common themes about frustrations or goals arise? Marketing teams can use what CSMs have learned from current users to shape their messaging and marketing materials. Customer success can also teach the marketing department about the most engaged users, which they can use to attract better leads from the get-go. Finally, customer success should let the marketing team know which accounts may be perfect for case studies or related marketing materials.
What can the marketing team contribute to this intersection of skills? For starters, they can give customer success a heads up about the types of case studies or insights they’re looking for. As different campaigns and tactics go live, marketing teams can also share what they’ve learned about customers. For example, an A/B test may reveal that positioning a feature in a new way is more compelling than what’s been the status quo. If the marketing team shares this with CSMs, they have a new tactic for opening up a conversation about that particular feature. Marketing teams should also be sharing relevant content for CSMs to pass along to users.
Best practices + tips:
- Follow up with how leads and campaigns engage in the long term. Marketers know how their efforts perform upfront, but without customer success input, they may not know how cohorts retain over time.
- Collaborate on in-app messages and promotions. Customer success teams generally handle in-app engagements and messages, but they aren’t limited to tooltips of product updates. Marketing teams and CSMs can collaborate to announce webinars or promotions within the app.
Customer success and customer support
The secret to successful collaboration between these two departments lies in clearly defined roles. Customer support teams help with technical issues or things that are “broken,” while customer success handles product adoption or fundamental questions about the product’s value.
How can each team help one another? If customer support reps see themes or recurring questions, they can pass the information to customer support to create resources. For example, if customers keep reaching out about a particular feature, then customer success may want to add a tooltip about it.
The best thing that each team can do to work together is to outline what types of questions or topics each department can and will handle. A process to pass customers between departments is also critical.
Best practices + tips:
- Create a plan for passing users between teams. Sometimes a question is better resolved by one team or the other. Setting up a system to transfer users between departments makes sure customers get the help they need as quickly as possible.
- Establish a connection to share recurring themes. The customer success and customer support teams may not need to meet as regularly as CSMs and product managers do, but there should be a point of contact.
Customer success and the C-Suite
Alignment between customer success and the C-suite is critical for setting the stage for collaboration. By creating a direct line of communication between customer success and leadership, you create lasting cultural change from the top down and send a signal that customer-centricity is a priority.
The C-suite can empower the customer success team to do their best possible work by equipping them with the tools and structure they need to find and share insights. Atop their spot at the helm of the company, leadership should also work across all teams to establish shared metrics and goals, and make sure that communication is happening.
It’s then the customer success team’s responsibility to share what they’ve learned about users with the C-suite. Since leadership is in charge of high-level strategy, CSMs can share whether or not the reality of engagement and how customers define success matches with company assumptions.
Best practices + tips:
- Have department heads report to the C-Suite. User-centric alignment is nearly impossible if all departments don’t have a seat at the leadership table. Having the head of customer success meet with leadership regularly shows a commitment to users, and allows CSMs to share what they’ve seen.
- Establish company-wide metrics. Customer success as a company-wide mindset can seem abstract until you tie numbers to it. Making user success and retention everyone’s priority brings a new perspective into how departments work. Let everyone know they contribute to company-wide goals and make sure they know how to play their part.
Successful and engaged users stick around longer, refer you to their peers, and may even grow their account. Each department has a unique skill set and task list, but they’ll all benefit from a user-centric approach. While customer success operates as its own department, there are ways for CSMs to benefit, and benefit from, every other department.
Want to learn more about customer success alignment? Check out our guide, The Road to Customer Success + Product Management Alignment.