A while back, I sat down with Paul Piazza for a fireside chat at one of our PulseLocal Silicon Valley Customer Success event series. At that time, Paul Piazza had already had multiple Customer Success systems deployed and configured. In this conversation, Paul shares lessons learned from his own experience implementing Customer Success software solutions. He also focused on system selection criteria as well as implementation tips. This blog captures some of the questions that were addressed during this fireside chat.
Irit: How do you know it is time to invest in CSM software? What are the key identifiers of when a company should implement CSM software?
Paul: There are a handful of factors that let you know when it’s time to invest in CSM software. First, you must have a smart team that challenges you. Second, you must establish your processes and make sure that they are aligned with the business partners in your organization. The third and final factor is that you must not wait until all of your data is aligned because that will never happen, utilize the data that your business partners use.
In my opinion, there are three key identifiers that determine when a company should implement CSM software, in this specific order:
These three key identifiers also go hand in hand with knowing when it is time for you to invest in CSM software.
Irit: What are the most asked-for measurements? What are they? Are these the best?
Paul: I will answer this question by first stating my mission statement: to measure and deliver a return of investment (ROI) to my internal and external business partners.
Measurements are interesting. Typically, most people think of the usual CS measurements that focus on Churn/Expansion. But there is much more. I believe that the core measures are what your CS team is doing. For example, measure the impact of your playbooks and the touchpoints of your CS team. I have found the CS units that measure what the CS team does, and how effective their playbooks are will have a greater impact on the core measurements. Another item that I am starting to measure is how my CS teams impact other departments. I have set up objectives and key results (OKR) for my teams that are being measured by our internal business partners.
Irit: What has been the hardest process to operationalize with a CS software?
Paul: People’s behavior. A CS representative has to be able to change management on a frequent basis. Change yourself and your customer’s habits to deliver value. If you can’t even change your behavior, how do you expect to change others? I am amazed by how many organizations do not use their software.
Fundamentally, the team that your organization’s software is built for should be closely aligned with your company’s product team. It is astonishing how many organizations do not focus on how to change the behavior of their internal groups to help them understand the behavior of their external customers. Changing management is hard but critical to the success of a CS team. Ultimately, that change in behavior is what delivers your ROI.
Irit: What is the most efficient and effective way to leverage a Customer Success system to create transparency and increase cross-functional collaboration?
Paul: Establishing a method of communication across your organization is key. For example, at my current company, our sales team utilizes Salesforce (a tool that makes customer relationship management (CRM) available through cloud computing). We also use a Google Document to track Customer Success managers’ activities with clients. We have defined and documented our Customer Journey including processes, internal feedback loops, and specific touchpoints, and how we internally align with the sales team.
Communication and collaboration with other client-facing teams is key to the ability of the Customer Success team. As such, when choosing a Customer Success system it is important to pre-define how the system should help you increase collaboration and cross-functional transparency.
Irit: What is the overall total cost, not in terms of money, but in terms of the software?
Paul: There is definitely a lot of time and commitment that goes into CSM software. My advice is to look for certain techniques that make the cost easier. In other terms, take some low hanging fruit. One of the lowest hanging fruit is a net promoter score program (NPS), which is a customer loyalty metric. Apart from the NPS methodology, there is also Intercom, which is another software program that creates customer messaging platforms.
Irit: What are the strengths of each leading CSM software?
Paul: Some of the strengths are as followed:
● Supporting a wide range of your customer success programs at scale
● The CSM has a better understanding of touch-points, and the value it possesses for the customer.
● Integrating customer data from a variety of sources provides better visibility and proactiveness
Irit: Where are the best places to store data? Where do you draw the line between enough data to store (especially historically) and too much? How do you decide what to show to CSMs and what to use from an Ops side simply?
Paul: You should definitely work with your Ops team, as it is their responsibility to handle data. CS should not be in ownership of the data. The company itself should be in actual ownership of the data. The company should also align with its business partners and come to a conclusion on how the internal data will be utilized.
Irit: What are the main problems a CS platform can solve?
Paul: The main problems that a CS platform is capable of solving are:
● The unification of data.
● Measurements of the CS team.
● A credible source that is easy to search when wanting to verify the said source.
Irit: Besides the data usage part of the system, what is the most relevant and useful to your team?
Paul: I can think of three:
● Measurements of the team.
● Internal practices.
● Helping my team by internally aligning them for success.
Additionally, a common source of truth helps my team assist one another for success.
Irit: What are the biggest pitfalls that you see people making in implementing a CS Software?
Paul: Definitely prioritizing usage data over the CS process. Your CS process needs to be clearly defined before putting a system in place. In most cases, your product team will want to have a way to track key usage. Let them figure it out, then leverage and align with them on the main measures. Both of these techniques will help you have a successful software launch.
Irit: What does it take to convince management to invest in CSM software? What is the best practice of limiting the number of external data sources?
Paul: To convince management to invest in CSM software, you must have:
● Internal team alignment.
● A return on investment (ROI).
● A good implementation plan.
The best practice on limiting the number of external data sources is understanding the key drivers of ROI, so this is a good place to start. After that, you must look for leading indicators and trailing indicators of success.
Irit: What advice about customer success that you know now would you tell your younger self just starting in customer success?
Paul: My advice is not only applicable to CS but business in general too. I would tell my younger self to get a career mentor as early as possible. I’ve had leaders who were significant to my career growth. It wasn’t until recently that I have realized the impact that a good leader/mentor can have on my career.
● A successful organization establishes clear ownership of any internal data. The company itself owns the data and aligns with business partners accordingly.
● Establishing a communication method with your team is a vital and key step in maintaining awareness of touchpoints from multiple clients.
● It is important to have a clear CS process defined before putting any sort of system in place.
Does your customer success team have CSM software? How large was your organization before implementing CSM software? What CSM software is your business currently using? Feel free to share in the comments area below.