What's your framework to prioritizing needs/deliverables when you're the first customer success manager at a company establishing the function?
Been there, done that! IMO, it’s pretty simple – start with who is screaming the loudest and why. Take what they are frustrated about, ask them to prioritize their needs, and then see about knocking them off, one at a time. You can’t fix everything overnight, but get a win under your belt, and then another win, and so on. And then take those lessons from your loudest clients and see what you can apply for other clients.
· Ask lots of questions of your internal teams to see if you can solve issues or to get answers
· Do as much as you can before escalating
· Be targeted about who you are escalating to and what you expect from them – is it a timeline for the client, a fix for their issue, a meeting with internal experts?
· Make sure you are following up diligently with your clients!
· And then, add meetings in with your non-screaming clients when you can – you don’t want them to feel neglected – don’t take them for granted – quiet isn’t always good 😊
Here's a framework you can use to help prioritize:
- Assess the current state of customer success: Before you can prioritize needs and deliverables, you need to assess the current state of customer success at the company. What processes, tools, and resources are currently in place? What is working well, and what needs improvement?
- Identify critical stakeholders (internal and external): Who are the key stakeholders in the customer success function? This may include executives, sales, product, and support teams. Identify their needs and expectations for customer success. Who are the key stakeholders from the customer's side? It is important to understand who your buyers are and the market that you are working in order to define your plan. If you are working in a highly regulated field, for example, your customer success strategy will be very different than if you are working on an unconstrained market.
- Define customer success goals and metrics: What are the key goals and metrics for customer success at the company? This may include customer retention, NPS, and expansion revenue. Define these goals and metrics so that you can prioritize deliverables that align with them.
- Prioritize based on impact and effort: For each need or deliverable, assess its impact on customer success and the effort required to implement it. Prioritize those that have the highest impact and the lowest effort.
- Create a roadmap: Once you have identified the most important needs and deliverables, create a roadmap that outlines the timeline and resources required to implement them. Prioritize those that will have the greatest impact on customer success in the short term, while also planning for long-term goals.
- Monitor progress: As you implement changes, monitor progress and adjust the roadmap as needed. Regularly assess the impact of changes on customer success goals and metrics, and make adjustments as needed.
By using this framework, you can prioritize needs and deliverables in a way that aligns with customer success goals and ensures that you are making the most impactful changes first.
Having been the first EMEA customer success hire at a couple of high-growth companies, I recommend several steps to tackle the priorities ahead;
Ask why the company requires a customer success manager and function, including how your experience can support that. This should be clarified in the interview process and help define your short-term focus areas.
Understand the install base - How many customers, what they spend with the company, plus what segment and geography they fall into. Once that view is understood, overlay the current team alignment to understand the existing customer engagement framework.
Analyse how your customers engage with you, leveraging whatever available data sources. Some examples may include support ticket usage, login's, no. of meetings, marketing case studies,
High-level customer journey mapping - it's good to understand the steps the customer goes through to become classified as a customer. Understand this, plus what happens immediately afterwards. Is there a clear path for how customers will derive value from their investment? Is that consistent across customers, or does it vary by customer cohort?
Historical and forward-looking views- review the trends. What's the retention rate currently and like historically? (go back years, if possible, can be helpful), what's the expansion rate? Is the company tracking NRR, or can you get a view of that? What is the forecast for the current quarter plus two next quarters?
Interview as many customers as you can, asking what's working, what's not and how you can improve
The trends will then give you an initial view of focus areas and recommendations for what the business and customers require you to do in the near to medium term. Next, leverage the customer journey map you did earlier in the process to layer on people, process and technology initiatives to improve the areas of the business you wish to impact. This should allow you to design the blueprint for the proposed customer engagement framework.
Before I start, know this is a difficult question to answer.
Here is how I approach it:
Review the job description and make sure I understand it
Review it with my manager to ensure we're aligned. The point of this is uncovering any gaps between you and your manager
Note: if there are others involved, you should make sure they're aligned too!
Establish a priority list. I prefer Google Sheets/Excel so they can be stack ranked with health status (red, yellow, green)
Description (in 1-2 sentences, what is this)
Status (New, in progress, completed...etc.)
Ownership (who owns this)
Due date / estimated completion date
Exit criteria (what will exist when this is complete)
Monthly update fields (what was done during this month)
The priority list may be overkill for some, so start small with just the title, description, status (RYG), and notes. I have found having a document like this helps everyone stay abreast of what's happening, knowing where to go with questions, and feeling confident that it is effectively managed.