Imagine sitting around a campfire with all your colleagues. You’re sipping hot cocoa and getting ready to sing to a gently strumming guitar. It’s peaceful. Everyone gets along. Everyone works together to keep that campfire ablaze.
Now think about the real world – where everyone is so laser-focused on their own goals and projects that we often forget to use greetings in our Slack messages to one another (a “good morning” can go a long way).
While technology brings us closer to people who are geographically far away, it’s a double-edged sword; the convenience of technology makes it so easy to lose connection with one another. It gets even harder to stay connected when you’re working for a company based on a different continent, like I do.
In this article, I’m going to examine the three most important internal relationships a Customer Success Manager (CSM) can cultivate, the relationship between:
Why it’s important to maintain strong cross-functional relationships
Connection is important, and it stems from a desire to understand one another. Learning your colleagues’ goals, how they’re measured, and what’s most important to them is going to be key to getting what you want. And the same applies to you.
It’s key to articulate your own goals and metrics so your colleagues can understand how you’re motivated. A clear, mutual understanding helps you empathize and partner together. It’s by no means easy, but it’s necessary.
The truth is, getting anything done nowadays is impossible without an army of people there to support you.
What we do at Akeneo
Using Akeneo PIM software, our clients deliver on-brand, compelling product experiences to their customers all around the globe via a multitude of channels. It requires a lot of work to help our customers expand their footprint, find their audience and convert lurkers into buyers. So naturally, it takes a village (an international one) to support their mission.
The relationship between marketing and customer success
Like two peas in a pod, marketing and customer success are close for good reason.
Customer success holds the key to the relationships with our customers, and marketing helps us drive the customer’s journey and keep them engaged. At the risk of making the understatement of the century… they need to be aligned.
And how do you ensure both marketing and customer success departments are singing from the same hymn sheet? You make sure they’re meeting regularly.
Now, a culture of alignment and collaboration doesn’t just magically happen, you need to work for it, and it needs to come from the top. Your department leaders should be communicating often – a monthly biweekly call is a good cadence. I’ve found that having one dedicated person of contact (POC) to share information for each department will cut down on noise for everyone.
In terms of the first steps toward a collaborative utopia, an easy win to centralize resources and communication, and generally keep things organized, is to set up dedicated Slack or Microsoft Teams channels for different campaigns.
I can’t stress enough how much value comes from bridging your marketing team and your customers. It's transformative to the customer experience. I urge you to work closely with your marketing team to suggest (or even help plan) webinars that your customers are interested in.
As a customer success professional, you know your customers inside out. You have that unique connection no one else in the business has. If there’s a customer story you know will resonate with others, you might have stumbled on to your next blog post that can be shouted from the rooftops on social media.
There’s something wonderfully cyclical when a marketing team gets its inspiration from customer success. It feels like the organization is working as a real ecosystem for customer-centricity. We love to talk about the cool things our customers are doing, and our customers love to tell their stories and share their wins.
A word to the wise: be sure to create channels for this feedback to travel, it’s not going to reach your marketing team without the proper internal processes. Customer stories are like gold dust – share the wealth!
Through interactions with our customers, my team helps target the right customers for upcoming email campaigns and knows who marketing should interview for blog articles. We help make company events successful. We create buzz! And we do it in record time while also doing many other things.
Marketing can help CS by supporting the need for enablement, slides, talk tracks and email templates to communicate effectively and efficiently to customers about these events. The best way to ensure CS is sharing the right information is for marketing to create the collateral needed and close any knowledge gaps.
The relationship between sales and customer success
We’ve all been there. There’s nothing worse than when you inherit a new account from your sales team and you instantly know it’s not a good fit. It can feel like you’ve been handed a bomb that’s about to explode. You can foresee heaps of issues with this account, and know the buck will stop at your team’s feet.
Unfortunately, nobody’s immune to this pain. Every once in a while, you’ll get an account that sneaks by and makes you wonder, “Who on earth approved that deal?!”
But when you really think about it, we live in a different world compared to sales. While in an ideal world, every department is focused on customer outcomes, the reality is that for most organizations, sales and customer success have different priorities.
The differences between sales and customer success
Your sales team won’t have the same in-depth product knowledge as your customer success team has. Where CSMs have no choice but to be bonafide product experts, sales typically depend on sales architects and engineers for demos.
While both sales and CS are customer-facing roles, you’ll find that sales don’t have as much experience talking to customers during implementation and after go-live. Now, of course, your sales team isn’t maliciously motivated when signing an ill-fitting customer. The reality is that a lot of salespeople aren’t too clued up about what happens after the customer signs. But things don’t have to be so siloed.
How to unite sales and customer success
In a bid for unification and consistency, customer success must help sales understand our customers better. The result? They’ll be better informed to identify the right prospects who’ll become satisfied and engaged customers.
If we want our sales team to hand over customers with clear-cut use cases and targeted business objectives, we should share with them what those things look like with our existing customers. By sharing this kind of information, we’re arming sales with intel to overcome objections.
Recognizing success stories like their own, customers can see past problems and visualize their own success. That’s why it’s important to keep communication between these two departments flowing. Your leadership team needs to demonstrate how the partnership should work by being seen working together, collaborating, communicating and sharing ideas.
Regular meetings, like quarterly business reviews, are a great way to ensure that everyone is sharing customer stories, best practices and ideas when it matters most. It can often feel like sales and customer success butt heads from time to time, but in truth, they’re two sides of the same coin: building camaraderie is a big help to ensuring these two departments are working well together.
The relationship between product and customer success
Earlier in this article, I mentioned the ecosystem of feedback between customer success and marketing. There isn’t a stronger and more valuable ecosystem of continual feedback than the one between customer success and product.
We’re the first line of communication with customers and they share more feedback with us than anyone. (Actually, this mantle may be tied with professional services.) Every part of the product roadmap needs to drive value back to the customer, so this feedback is vital to a product’s success.
Building bridges with your product team doesn’t just help your customers, it transforms their experience and prevents blockages with customer progression. Your customers get to share feedback with the people in charge of making changes happen. They get to take part in beta tests, try new features, and potentially influence product roadmaps.
For tech early adopters or anyone heavily invested, this is a value add. Keeping a good relationship with product might help you get your customer in the door of the next beta test when there’s only one seat left.
How to enhance the customer success and product relationship
With that being said, we can help product by ensuring feature requests from our customers are clear, concise, and written in a way that explains the customer’s business use case for that feature. For example, ask yourself, “Is this going to be something that saves the customer money or makes them money? Does it solve a pain point in the process?”
It’s also a good idea to search for existing feature requests before creating new ones. Companies generally have a way to vote on these, but if one customer is asking X, it’s likely another needs it, too.
Keeping accurate tallies is the only way to ensure the right feature requests are getting attention. Follow the process and set realistic expectations with customers when it comes to feature requests.
So, there you have it! Cross-functional collaboration is essential for organizational success. Cultivating strong working relationships with departments like marketing, sales, and product not only helps us do our jobs better but also creates immense value for our customers.
By keeping open communication, sharing insights and feedback, demonstrating partnership from leadership down, and understanding each other's roles and motivations, we transform the customer experience and fuel our company's growth.
There will always be some natural tensions as we balance competing priorities, but by proactively building bridges through shared goals and camaraderie, we can maintain alignment and consistency across the organization – leading to better business outcomes all around.
Ultimately, when CSMs and CS leaders utilize our unique position to connect the dots company-wide, we unlock our full potential to drive change and nurture happy, successful customers.