One of the most challenging aspects of rapid customer growth can be ensuring that all departments are on the same page about driving value for the customer. At Demandbase, addressing this involved taking a step back and seeing how we could make Customer Success a more prominent and integrated part of our overall process.
As we experienced rapid customer growth, we saw the need to work with customers across the entire lifecycle – at scale. We wanted to focus as much on our process for customer success we did on net new business. Furthermore, we wanted to make sure we were thinking about customer success right from the beginning.
Different parts of the lifecycle are managed by different teams, which makes it even more critical to have what we call “One View of the Truth” when it comes to the entire Customer Lifecycle. That view extends from pre-sales activities to the time the contract is signed to the time of value to and throughout the rest of the customer lifecycle.
We saw that with an Account-based Marketing strategy, we could start thinking about customer success beginning at the top of the funnel. We took a hard look at how we developed prospects. We focused our marketing dollars on the accounts that had a strong chance of seeing success with Demandbase based on characteristics they shared with previous, successful customers.
Previously, Customer Success would come in after a deal had closed but we found that injecting Success during the negotiation phase was ideal. The Customer Success Manger meets with the new business representative and the sales engineer to ensure that all the knowledge is properly shared with the prospect. Furthermore, they play an integral part in developing the plan as they can identify the best path for specific accounts based on their experience with other similar accounts. In many cases, the Customer Success Manager is introduced to the client at this point, and we’ve found it’s quite helpful for clients to be able to leverage a team geared around driving value.
Once the deal is closed, a kickoff meeting takes place with our Services team, the client, the new business rep, and Customer Success. Ideally, this meeting will take place onsite. This kickoff makes sure that new players are introduced to what Demandbase does, what the client bought, what needs to happen for implementation, and what the criteria of success looks like. The Services team “own” the customer during this phase until they’re live. Based on extensive knowledge of the new customer’s business, industry and needs, a Success Plan is created collaboratively. Everyone knows what the strategy is and what the implementation timeline will be.
Our account-based approach breaks down departmental silos because each team’s goals are oriented around target accounts. By having clarity around key accounts, industries and use cases, we’re able to create an integrated approach to ensure all of our customer-facing teams know what to do in every aspect of the cycle. These teams include New Business Sales, Sales Engineer, Services and Customer Success. The Customer Lifecycle process only works if everyone is onboard with the plan and expectations, and we find that including Customer Success at all phases of the process is extremely beneficial.
One of the best ways to ensure ongoing customer success is to ensure that the customers you acquire are set up for success from the get-go. Along the way, you can remove gaps or speed bumps to value by taking a step back, evaluating your process and focus on aligning your entire teams around driving value. Ultimately, the customer relationship is a partnership, and when the whole organization is committed to continuous communication and optimization, it’s much more likely to be a successful one.
(A version of this post originally appeared on the Bluenose Customer Success Blog.)