Structure Customer Success on Delivering Strong Transformational Value

6 min read
01 Nov

In this interview, Mary Poppen, Chief Customer Officer at Glint Inc, explains that companies, regardless of the size, stage, or financial capacity, should consider establishing Customer Success early and ensuring that the right people are in the right roles for organizational success.

Twin Advantages of Customer Success

WITH THE RISE OF SAAS came the need for Customer Success. In the early days of SaaS, customer delivery was focused on implementation and support; ensuring adoption and lifetime revenue was realized over time. Today Customer Success is well-known for delivering on the customer experience and ensuring business results in the way of revenue and growth.

In chatting with Mary, we uncovered that she began her career in SaaS with SuccessFactors and realized quickly that customer outcomes are directly related to business outcomes. She pioneered various customer delivery models to drive increased adoption and success. 

Over time, Mary and others growing the Customer Success space collaborated to derive best practices and impact measures (both for the customer and for the business). After SAP acquired SuccessFactors, Mary was asked to lead the SAP Cloud business as the Chief Customer Officer.

She shared the following viewpoints:

  1. Define who owns the renewal (Sales or Customer Success) and ensure clear responsibilities and compensation aligned to desired revenue, growth, and referenceability.
  2. Understand that not all customers are alike; you must work with them thoroughly and understand their unique business aspirations to bring about a tailored solution aligned with their goals.
  3. You must understand and adapt to the culture of your customer.
  4. Identify the KPI’s you’re going to measure (or monitor closely).
  5. Invest enough in CS resources, including headcount, processes, and systems, to foster an amazing customer experience.
  6. Ensure that customers are fully engaged and involved throughout the journey and understand the value of the partnership.
  7. Document customer success stories to share with other customers and to learn from.

The Interlock of Organizational Success: A Service-First Mindset

Mary recalled how other roles changed when the new business model came into the limelight. She said the Customer Success Delivery Model (or SaaS now) brought together the pieces that in the past had been separate, including implementation, support, training, and marketing, while adding adoption and ROI on top.

There are many intriguing new thoughts on harmonizing the role of CS and Sales. I asked Mary for her thoughts about this and how CS could help sales ensure renewals are coming in as projected and offer better insights on developing better relationships.

Mary said both of them are viewed as relationship builders, and there is a twin advantage if they’re going to work hand in hand. Sales can leverage CS for updated information on customers since this team “has the most data points for delivering transformational value and can help structure a business ROI.”

CUSTOMER SUCCESS wasn’t born out of obligation. It comes as a direct response to changing business needs, and it starts from a service-first culture; leverage this approach to build what your customers want.

Key Considerations for Getting the Customer Success Role Right

Establishing passionate and robust customer success teams is an essential prerequisite for survival and growth. It is no longer sufficient to sell software; It is mandatory to facilitate value realization. Great customer success teams enable this virtuous flywheel that reinforces itself repeatedly.

I inquired if Mary favors upskilling talent from cross-functional teams like Marketing, Sales, and Support. She said - “it depends on the drive and interest of an individual. It is a different skill set and focuses. It can work, but one has to figure out how to bring his/her expertise to drive ongoing success for the customer.”

I asked Mary if she would hire someone, what are the essential skill sets (or attributes) she’ll be looking for, and why it matters in the CS role?

She told me that inspiring candidates must possess a customer-centric mindset. They need to bring the customer’s voice into the organization, so they must be a champion for their customers.

He/she must be curious and open-minded. They should learn how to communicate well with all stakeholders, including the executive team, to know what issues (or customer concerns) we will deal with and find optimal solutions.

They need to be a strong team collaborator. Working together will help find the best solutions for customers and also help each other be successful.

Besides, Mary said, “focusing on both employee and customer happiness will yield great returns for your business. Measuring the right things at the right time, and acting upon results, all in real-time, are the keys to establishing strong and passionate customer success teams.”

Shared Definition of Customer Success

I asked Mary what kind of support she has provided her team and ensuring that everyone is aligned with the process. She said, “When it comes to Customer Success, focus on aligning everyone around a single customer journey, defined with roles, deliverables, and measures at each stage.”

“In terms of support, we offer several different tools, which are intuitive and integrated for our technical and CS teams to support our customers. A Customer Success Management System was implemented for our full CS team and allowed 360-degree customer views as well as notifications and action tracking to ensure we deliver a consistent, proactive, and amazing experience every time.”

“The Customer Success team and our customers can also learn from and leverage a number of resources and content within our online Community; both customers and CSMs can interact and learn from each other.”

The bottom line is that the foundation for a good working relationship is mutual respect, appreciation, and collaboration. Alignment is difficult to achieve, but it’s one of the most effective ways to improve business results.

I appreciated getting Mary’s insights on delivering strong transformational value, and I hope to talk further with her in a future interview.

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