In this month’s webinar, “4 Benchmarks You Need to Know: Customer Success + Product Management Alignment,” we welcomed three expert product management and customer success leaders: Jason Brett (ProductCamp Atlanta), Rachel Orston (UserIQ), and Todd Eby (SuccessHACKER). They joined us to examine the key findings from our survey, on the benchmarks of alignment between customer success and product management teams. If you missed out on the webinar, not to worry, we’ve got the highlights right here:
Benchmark #1: Successfully aligned Customer Success + Product teams have shared touchpoints in the customer journey
Data from our survey shows that 61.93% of respondents said Customer Success teams are solely responsible for onboarding. This leaves product teams — and the opportunity for software-powered onboarding efforts — out of the equation.
How can product partner with customer success during the onboarding process to reduce some of the high-touch efforts that 85% of respondents reported are occurring now?
The onboarding stage is where customer success and product management have the weakest points in alignment. “As the relationship grows and matures, we get closer and closer together as we start thinking about retention and renewal. We have a lot more conversation about how to keep the relationship alive than we do about how to have a good foundation in that early relationship.” So product managers must think about the entire “getting started” experience as part of the overall product design, starting from the very moment of purchase all the way through each step of the process and even before the user opens the software for the first time and into that first-use type of experience.
“Product managers must be even more aligned with customer success during the early stages of the relationship as well.” Customer success teams are at the front lines of onboarding so the product owners have to view their customer success colleagues as a magnifying glass within the product adoption and the entire user experience.
“You have to have regular, qualitative discussions with the customer success team to identify the things that don’t show up.” By the time a client submits something like a NPS survey, they’ll be rating their entire experience with the business. So even if they had onboarding challenges or a strong onboarding experience the survey results will be diluted by however customer success or the rest of the company has interfaced with them along the way. You really have to dig in to get some qualitative discussions with the customer success team in order to understand the picture as a whole.
Benchmark #2: Successfully aligned Customer Success + Product Teams have the right tools in place
Our report found that 78.06% of respondents are satisfied with their current technology solutions, yet more than half also say they’re using separate software applications for customer success and product management.
Why is it critical for Customer Success and Product Management teams to use the same tools and hopefully, one platform?
In the webinar, Todd says that the biggest challenge that most customer success and product teams face is that they often aren’t speaking the same language: “One of the things that would be a tremendous benefit from being on a unified toolset would be the fact that, not only are you sharing the same data, but you’re sharing a common language.”
“With these platforms, workflows are built out for them. They start to see the journey that the customer is on, the lifecycle exposed in a manner that helps them keep the customer going down the right path.” By having both product and customer success on the same tool they will be able to dig into that same view of the customer and see where friction is being inserted and where customers are experiencing common challenges.
Benchmark #3: Successfully aligned Customer Success + Product teams have clear target customers and a long-term strategic plan
In our survey, we found that respondents said the most important factor in creating alignment was understanding customer needs (88.07%). But surprisingly, respondents felt least aligned on who their ideal customer actually is (34.48%).
What are best practices you’ve seen organizations use to align on ICPs and create a long-term strategic plan for customer growth?
“Understanding why your customers hired you.” There are a lot of different ways to create profile and personas that can help guide you. But being able to translate your value proposition down to tangible things that literally have almost a binary, either you hit it or you missed it, is a big challenge for both teams.
“We found the most successful approach to it is to have a jobs-to-be-done perspective.” You get down to the core of why your customers hired your product and what jobs are they seeking to actually do. Instead of designing a definition of success based on your goals of getting them to use particular features and aspects of your product, it comes down to understanding what your customers want to accomplish.
“The best practice is to sit down with the product team and go through your feature catalogue and tie it to a job that your customers are actually doing. Not only does it give product clarity on what they’re using and what they should be looking at in terms of where the friction is in getting them to the ultimate success, but also customer success can then create playbooks focused on getting them to that end state.”
It takes a bit of pre-work to get to this state but once you have you’ll be able to be very targeted in how you approach the customer, deliver success, the way you speak to them about expansion, and easily transition into the advisor role rather than just be the tour guide of what’s possible with your product.
Benchmark #4: Successfully aligned Customer Success + Product teams have consistent communication and shared metrics in place
To raise the quality and commitment between teams, many companies implement Service Level Agreements (SLAs), but 71.59% of survey respondents said that they either didn’t have an SLA or were unsure if one was in place.
We found that 71% of respondents either don’t have in SLA in place or weren’t sure if there was one. What are some SLAs that are appropriate for CS and Product to share?
According to Todd, there are 3 SLAs that are no-brainers:
1. Feature Requests: If a customer brings you a feature they need, you’ve already created the business case, perhaps already translated to products’ language, even placed it in the form of jobs or user stories, and then wrapped it up with a bow. However, you still want to know when it’s going to be looked at and the SLA in place for you to get an answer that you can communicate back to the customer.
2. Design: Working on design is one of customer successes’ dreaded phases. Customers had a view of how the feature should work and product managers had a view of what the customers wanted, unfortunately, they don’t always align. So having an SLA that focuses on when those designs are going to get looked at and when the story will be unpacked and discussed is absolutely critical to customer success. “Our job is to be that voice back to the customer to represent them within our company and we thrive on having information to share. The absence of information is crippling.”
3. Bugs: You need to know what the SLA and the turnaround time is according to priority type so that you can give the customer information about an acute pain that they’re suffering.
There are a host of others but if you have those three in place it’s a good start! The challenge again is they have to be jointly agreed upon, can’t be something that you’re forcing otherwise it will have unintended political consequences that are hard to recover from. You need to be seen as working together and having that data available to you in terms of timing is absolutely critical.
We appreciate our customer success and product management experts for providing us with effective strategies and helpful advice for facilitating alignment between these two teams. This recap focuses on some of the key takeaways we had, but if you’re ready to dive in deeper, feel free to download the full recording of the 4 Benchmarks You Need to Know: Customer Success + Product Management Alignment webinar and grab your copy of the 2017 Benchmarking Report: Customer Success + Product Management Alignment.