It can seem overwhelming setting up a new a department. Where on earth do you start? What tools do you buy? These questions can be daunting, particularly if your business is small, or perhaps you're just starting out.

This feeling can be exacerbated if you're investing in an industry that is still in its infancy, like customer success. You might even be met with some slight reservations and may have to convince investors of the worth of customer success technology.

To help combat these challenges, we spoke to Dan Farley, VP Customer Success at Seenit, who gives his account of how to build customer success with a modest budget. If we've whet your appetite, tune into Dan's talk at this year's Customer Success Festival. 👈 ✅

Q. How did you get into your customer success career?

A. I started out in Engineering and realized I was rubbish! As I was a third-line engineer, I got the opportunity to speak with customers more and realized that I took to it really well!

I then joined Spredfast (US-based company) who had a really mature CS setup and amazing CS leadership. I got the bug from there and realized it was where my future lied!

Q. Which three budget-friendly CS tools get your vote, and why?

A. Salesmachine - They're a French company, with a great team and a really user-friendly app 🇫🇷

Custify - Again, really user friendly and very good price 💵

Planhat - I've heard really great things about them 💡

Q. Looking back on this past year and how the pandemic has ravaged a lot of small businesses, how would you propose they adopt customer success going forward?

A. Pretty simple. If you run a subscription-based business and you do not invest in customer success, you will go out of business: period.

More importantly you will have a lower company valuation and struggle to raise any serious money from venture funds without a customer success team in place.

So basically... adopt it 100% and adopt the overall principle behind it.

Q. What is your proudest moment as VP, Customer Success at Seenit?

A. When visiting a customer roughly 24 months ago, they pulled me to one side before I left. They then told me that our Customer Success Team felt like an extension of their team, felt like we worked for their business and told me that they had never experienced this working with any other tech solution.

Out of all of the success we have had, that one exchange validated absolutely everything that I and the team had been trying to achieve since we started customer success at Seenit.

It was the greatest feeling and since then that has been our aim every single time we bring on a new customer, make them feel like we are one of them.

Q. More and more small businesses are investing in CS earlier than ever before, but when do you think is the optimal time for orgs to bring in a customer success team/representative?

A. This is a really hard one to answer and ultimately depends on a lot of different levers (ARR, Paying Customers etc).

For me, I always recommend you use the 10% rule:

Your customer success team should never exceed 10% of your company annual recurring revenue (ARR).

Use that rule as you scale and invest, and ensure you have the right team in place to minimize churn and drive net retention rate (NRR). Whilst customer success is important, it needs to balance with the overall margin of the organization and must hit the bottom line.

Q. With more small companies beginning to use customer success, do you think there are enough solutions out there to meet their needs, compared to the needs of large, established organizations?

A. If you had asked me this 5 years ago I would have said ‘no way’.

However, I feel the sheer increase in 1 - 10 person companies investing in customer success has driven a huge change here.

Now the market is fully loaded with solutions, to the point where companies like Gainsight have much more flexible options and purchasing modules, allowing smaller businesses to invest in their tech.

Q. What do  you think people can walk away with after attending your talk today?

A. Physical, practical guidance on how to quickly put together a customer success operation that really wows your CEO and Board of Directors. This stuff is actually super simple, you just need to have an obsessive approach to getting it in place!