If you search for “customer success” on Indeed, you’ll find more than half a million jobs. But what is customer success? How does it differ from customer service, customer relations, or customer support? Most importantly, is it really necessary for businesses?
Many credit Salesforce for creating customer success positions and the concept has been deployed widely by software-as-a-service providers. However, there’s been a massive uptick in the number of industries (e.g., venture capital, outsourcing/staffing, consulting, IT, etc.) that already — or plan to — invest in customer success roles, as evidenced by the number of Indeed results.
Customer success can be interpreted as a strategy, function, or role. No matter how you view it, customer success is a means of ensuring customers achieve their desired outcomes by using your products or services. This relationship-focused approach to client management is designed to align vendor and client goals for mutually beneficial results that, if done effectively, will decrease customer churn and increase upsell opportunities.
The customer success role differs from traditional customer service and support because it requires an in-depth knowledge of the industry, product, and client’s position in the market. Most often, customer success managers — the most common title for someone in this function — leverage their product and application expertise to consult and advise customers after a sale.
Ultimately, customer success exists to grow the lifetime value of a customer. Customers who are happy with your service are 90% more likely to buy more and 93% more likely to be return customers, according to HubSpot. If you want to reap these rewards and more, you should strongly consider forming a customer success team.
Using Research to Define the Role
Successful hiring in any department requires organizations to pinpoint which responsibilities, skills, and behaviors lead to success. Because the customer success role is so new, however, most organizations don’t know how to use it or what to look for when hiring.
To better understand, GrowthPlay studied how customer success — specifically the customer success manager role — is defined. As we talked to hiring managers and audited customer success job postings, we found the role’s responsibilities mostly involve the following:
- Ensuring customers use the services they purchased.
- Cross-selling, upselling, and adding to existing accounts.
- Responding to any and all customer questions and resolving complaints.
GrowthPlay’s almost 50 years of research illustrated that each of these responsibilities requires different skills and characteristics. Because of that, it can be challenging to find a current employee or a new candidate capable of performing each duty successfully.
In light of this, we examined the daily activities of customer success managers to determine what helps people in these positions thrive. These activities included providing advice and recommendations to customers, proactively engaging customers at risk, removing pain points, advocating for customers, and understanding customer goals.
The people performing these tasks must be skilled at building relationships, engaging others, and soliciting feedback. Beyond these foundational skills, more research needs to be done to understand the required expertise fully — and so hiring managers can accurately write job descriptions and place people in the right roles.
Building Your Customer Success Team
HubSpot reports that 55% of growth companies believe an investment in customer service programs is “very important.” Comparatively, only 29% of companies with static or dwindling revenues said the same. It’s clear that customer success plays a decisive role in a company’s revenue. If your customers are happy, they’ll keep coming back.
By now, you may be thinking that you need to get someone — or several people — in the customer success role. In this age of the customer, you’d be correct. Hiring for talent that resonates with the purpose of your product and service is perhaps more critical than in the past.
Customers have choices, so a team that knows how your offering solves customer problems is the key to retention and growth. New clients become returning clients by remaining engaged over time and understanding the continued value a brand can provide them.
The following five strategies can help you recruit and hire a successful customer success team:
Identify the Purpose
While a customer success team can be helpful, don’t create one just for creation’s sake. Determine why you need a customer success team, what it will look like (will it be one person or a full group?), who is responsible for what, and what goal or anticipated ROI you expect.
Once you have this information, you can use it to gain buy-in from stakeholders. Tying this initiative to your bottom line is a viable way to get stakeholders and decision makers on board.
Consider Market and Consumer Needs
Experts find that different market segments benefit from working with customer service managers with diverse skill sets and expertise. For example, Irit Eizips is the CEO of CSM Practice, a customer success consultancy that uses a three-dimensional model to help clients think through their staffing needs.
She concludes that a startup in the B2B space serving a high-touch customer segment requires a vastly different role than a mature firm serving a low-touch business-to-business-to-community market. Determine what needs your customer success team will fill, and then populate it with members who will ultimately push the team toward that goal.
Gauge Future Success
When deciding who to include in your customer success team — whether current employees or new hires — it’s most beneficial to measure how well a person will fit the role objectively. Use predictive assessments, which can forecast job performance and other outcomes.
Ultimately, these metrics will help you determine whether a candidate has a natural aptitude for the customer success role. Poor hires can cost as much as three times the base salary of the position they’re in, which is why it’s so important to measure candidates beyond résumés and interviews to make sure they’re a good fit.
Assess Potential Job Performance
One 2017 study found that the cost and time to train each employee amounts to an average of nearly $2,000 and 50 hours a year. To save valuable time and money, use simulations to find candidates who will require less training.
Much like predictive assessments, simulations measure whether a candidate has the necessary knowledge and skills to perform the core job functions. They differ in that simulations measure particular skills — rather than general aptitude — allowing you to see whether prospects can do the job before you hire them.
Keep Employees — and Customers — Engaged
Companies that have engaged and happy employees are more productive and profitable than those that don’t. That’s especially true for members of customer success teams.
They’re the ones who interact with clients after a sale, a period in which the majority of revenue happens. The emphasis at that point should be on keeping customers longer and expanding those relationships. And the best way to engage customers is via engaged employees.
Encouraging Lasting Success
With a growing number of customer success positions out there, it’s clear that businesses are seeing the value. If you want to create lasting relationships with customers and keep them engaged, start forming your own customer success team today.
Have you used any other strategies to create customer success teams? Let me know in the comments!
customer service reps -DepositPhotos