Launching Customer Success in Early-stage Startups – Should Founders Bother?!

April 30 2019 0comment
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There are many stages in the life of a business: An early startup stage with a handful of customers, or a much mature stage with a larger customer base. Somewhere in between, it becomes crucial to monitor and ensure customer success in relation to your business. But at what point in your company’s life establishing a customer success program become necessary?

Even during the early stages of a startup, founders should not only focus on defining clear-cut strategies for winning customers and increasing their client base, but should also focus on discovering how to ensure their existing client base is continuously successful and satisfied. Once the questions to these answers become clear, startups are encouraged to hire a specialized teams that focus retaining and expanding their client base.

Customer Success Benefits for Startups

A Customer Success program should not be an afterthought. It should be an integral part of your business vision, goal and mission. Establishing a Customer Success program can help achieve significant objectives of the company as well as serve your customers needs. The lubricants to retaining customers lie in your company’s capacity to manage them. The way to manage customers is to engage them with a specialized team that is trained to do the right thing at the right time. Done right, establishing a customer success team will help your clients gain maximum value out of their relationship with your company.

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Founders of early stage startups should consider the gains of establishing a customer success team can add to its overall business potential. The profit margin garnered from successful customers is vital to the financial health of a recurring revenues business model. High renewal and net retention rates play a key factor in much funds a startup’s founder can raise in the next round of funding. The investment in your customer base’s success effectively in your early stage is crucial to maximizing retention and growth.

Customer Success Possibilities For Startups

The size and business model of your company will determine the kind of Customer Success Management (CSM) program you should establish have.

At a very early stage of your company, you might not have a support team or an on-boarding team. Your customer success manager would likely be responsible for all of your customer’s needs: implementation, support, upsell and renewal. In this stage, the customer success team typically comprises of a handful of team members who are willing to go the extra mile to ensure the success of each customer.

Collective Responsibility For Customer Success

There is a high tendency for customers to experience difficulties with the product at its early immature stages. As such, cross-collaboration across all teams to ensure customers have a positive experience becomes essential to customer retention and success. As such, at this early stages of a startup’s life, everyone in the company should be responsible for the churn or renewal rate.

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At this stage the customer feedback collected by the customer success managers regularly and communicated back to the product team. Ideally, the product team considers customer feedback in a way that significantly influences product road-map decisions; the product is adjusted to the customer’s wishes while solving their most pressing issues.

If your product is still fairly immature, you should consider providing your customer success team a multilateral support from all teams associated with the product. By doing so, communicating customer needs and preferences to relevant personnel can effectively impact needed changes in the product in a bid to ensure that every customer is successful.

Customer Segmentation For a More Mature Business Stage

As your client base grows from a meager number into the thousands, you will want to hire Portfolio Success Managers where each team member owns a portfolio of hundreds of clients based on region, industry or persona. If you have fewer clients with higher recurring revenues, a high-touch approach is recommended.

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As your business grows and your need for scalability increases, consider using segmentation and split your customers into different tiers with customer success managers assigned to different segments. You can have a team of customer success managers at the top tier to manage your strategic accounts. When your startups matures, carve out specialized roles for support, on-boarding, and pre-sale, for example. When planning your customer success hiring, you should accommodate for different engagement models, pending on your defined client segmentation.

Pending on your go to market strategy, you might need to consider adding additional specialized roles to manage your client base more effectively, such as establishing a Partner Success Program.

Summary

It is paramount that you implement a plan to follow up on customer success vis-à-vis your products and services early on in your business lifecycle. At an early level, customer feedback compiled by your CSM is instrumental to your product development efforts. As your client base grows, your Customer Success Program should consequently evolve to meet new needs your solutions can solve for.

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Irit Eizips
Written By:

Irit Eizips

Irit Eizips brings deep expertise in the area of Customer Success. As an early member of Gainsight's executive team, Irit has been pivotal in shaping Customer Success methodologies and best practices. For the past 3 years, Irit has been voted as a top Customer Success influencer and is frequently featured as a speaker at conferences and Customer Success public events. Irit serves as CEO for CSM Practice, a global Customer Success consultancy firm. The firm specializes in working with customer success leaders to accelerate the creation and implementation of Customer Success strategies, derive extensive value from Customer Success technology solutions as well as certify and train customer facing teams in becoming more proactive and efficient.