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Why Your Sales Organization Needs a Customer Success Specialist

July 8, 2020

Sara Howshar

Your whole revenue organization’s fundamental goal is customer success — for your clients to squeeze all the value they need from your product. However, on SaaS sales teams, there is a particular role dedicated entirely to helping your customer “win” with your product — and appropriately, that role is known as the customer success specialist.

Relationship dynamics are intrinsic to SaaS sales. No sale can truly be successful until each customer has seen through their contract with satisfaction (perhaps with an upsell or two along the way). Because SaaS products are complex and represent big investments, ensuring that each customer can derive as much value as possible is vital. This devotion to customer success is all the more important in times of real uncertainty in the market.

That’s why your sales organization needs a customer success specialist. Their job is to guide that relationship through the key phases of the launch lifecycle, to make sure your customer is comfortable and ready to get the most out of your product. They, more than any other single role in your revenue organization, hold the key to maximizing your customers’ lifetime value (LTV).

Let’s take a look at a customer success specialist’s profile, examine their typical duties, and evaluate exactly what they can bring to your revenue organization.

What Is a Customer Success Specialist? #

A customer success specialist is a professional who provides a smooth, personalized onboarding and launch experience for new customers. They come into the picture after your sales rep has done their thing and secured a closed-won deal. While your sales rep then goes back to winning their next customer, your customer success specialist takes over the reins of the relationship to get your customer up to speed with your product.

To that end, your customer success specialist will oversee what’s known as the launch lifecycle. The launch lifecycle involves everything from making sure your new customer is sent the right software version and credentials to actually training them on how to use your product.

Your customer success specialist will act as a fulcrum between other pods in your sales organization. For example, they will interact with sales development representatives (SDRs) to understand buyer pain points and the reasons why your customers need your product.

Customer success representatives also deal with account executives (AEs)/sales reps (whichever handles the bulk of your actual sales process). Your sales rep has built an existing familiarity and relationship with this new customer. They will, as a result, possess vital information about what makes this customer tick and what they need. Your customer success specialist will require this information to make their onboarding successful.

Finally, customer success pros will also meet regularly with devs/product designers. Customer success specialists need to know all about your product. In fact, they should know as much or more about it than any other client-facing member of your revenue organization. After all, they’ll be the ones showing your customers how it works. Customer success specialists will, therefore, liaise with developers/product designers to understand new and current feature arrays and how to train customers in their use.

How Customer Success Specialists Handle the Launch Lifecycle #

There’s a reason that customer success specialists occupy their own niche on a sales team: the launch lifecycle they manage is a complex job and can last an indefinite period of time. Your customer success representative will look after your customers closely for the first three-plus months of their time with you. Depending on the complexity of your product, speed of upselling, the state of the market, and other particulars of customer use, that period may be longer.

Handling the lifecycle involves:

Developing and storing documentation #

Your company wiki is a vital component of knowledge sharing, and it should be well-fed with new information gleaned during the launch lifecycle. Your customer success representative should be making careful records of:

  • Customer responses to new and present features
  • The ease and frequency with which customers use particular features
  • How closely your SDRs anticipated user behavior (based on buyer personas) aligns with how your customer is actually using your product

This information can be of vital use for other arms of your business as well:

  • Sales reps, for knowing which features have particular value for certain kinds of buyers
  • SDRs, for understanding the accuracy of their buyer personas
  • Product developers, for knowing how to tailor new features to customer preferences

Customer success representatives should see the dissemination of learning from each of their onboarding experiences as a vital part of their job.

Maintaining progress reporting for new customers #

We already spoke about the benefits of rebooting that old warhorse, the sales report, for your departmental benefit. Assiduous reporting can help you ensure customer success as well. New customers are particularly vulnerable to frustration when using your product for the first time, and this can lead to lessened LTV and even churn.

Keeping tabs on progress reporting allows your customer success specialist to tend to any customers who aren’t quite tapping into your product value yet. Additionally, it can help assess the effectiveness of your customer training and onboarding.

Holding tutorials for customers #

Perhaps the key interaction for customer success specialists is the interactive tutorial/training session for customers new to your product. Customer success specialists will work with your developers/product designers to create a logical training program your customers can follow. They should prepare your customers for a frictionless relationship with your product.

Customer success specialists who prefer the hands-on approach may prefer to simply hold a Zoom call with new customers and guide them through the product via a simple screen share. Where scaling makes this difficult, there are many ways to standardize customer training. For example, interactive content and interactive walkthroughs are fast gaining in popularity in customer success circles. These kinds of straightforward “learn-by-doing” approaches to user training also help you gather quantifiable information about user engagement at this early stage in your relationship with this new customer.

What to Look for in a Potential Customer Success Specialist #

As a sales enablement professional or sales manager, you will likely help vet candidates for customer success specialist positions. An ideal customer success specialist’s resume would include attributes like:

  • Experience in implementation, customer success, and/or account servicing. The most obvious attribute of them all is just a little experience in customer success.
  • A warm, convincing communicative manner. The customer success specialist deals with one of the key phases in the client relationship. They’re in charge of welcoming the customer and showing them around. As a result, it’s no surprise that a good bedside manner goes a very long way. This is particularly important in the current climate; it’s vital to assure customers of the value of your product in helping their company weather economic storms.
  • Competence as a problem-solver. The title “customer success specialist” can give something of a false impression of the role. Life as a CSS is frequently fast-paced and deals with a lot of unforeseen circumstances. Particularly if your company likes to put custom packages together for new customers, your customer success specialist will be the frontline support for your clients’ teething troubles. Malfunctioning portals, incomplete download packages, missing features — they’re all bound to happen to one client or another, and your customer success specialist needs to know how to deal with these issues.
  • Ability to speak multiple “languages.” As well as being tied to your customers, your customer success specialist will be linked to every department in your company. In order to understand and communicate the needs of the various parties involved, your customer success specialist will need to be able to communicate competently with marketers, devs, and support departments alike.
  • Strong presentation skills. Although they don’t necessarily have the word “representative” in their name, customer success specialists are, in many ways, the most representative members of your sales organization. They need to be able to devise and deliver effective, logical training sessions. They need to make sure all instructional packs, PDFs, and tutorial decks they send out are well-structured and on-brand. Good presentation is a game of inches, but the inches add up fast.
  • Systematizing intelligence. Linked to presentation skills, your customer success specialist needs to have good awareness for storing and maintaining informational databases. Their sense of how best to clearly express and store information must be on point. They must also, given the scope of their role, be able to prioritize their time effectively.

Why a Customer Success Specialist Is Fundamental to a SaaS Sales Organization #

Although customer success specialists appear the moment a deal has been won, they’re fundamental to any SaaS sales organization. As we alluded to above, a customer success specialist is a lynchpin role that serves vital functions for both internal teams and customers, functioning as a crucial connector.

SaaS sales are, after all, about relationships. Not only are they about building relationships; they’re about relationship maintenance, too. The customer success specialist takes on this task as a separate discipline. Not only does this free your already time-strapped sales reps to focus on selling, but it also allows your customer success specialist to take a 360-degree approach to client retention. Training, frontline tech support, upsell outreach, informal check-ins, and survey building — your customer success specialist is in charge of it all.

The presence of a customer success specialist also enables a more direct understanding between your internal teams and your customer’s pain points. Your SDRs and sales reps will have an informal or partial understanding of pain points from their own time with this new customer. However, the customer success specialist has a front-row seat for how these pain points manifest day-to-day with your customer and how your product solves those problems. Your specialist can then communicate insights from this first-person experience to other teams (like sales, product, tech, marketing, etc.).

Feeding back the right information from onboarding to your product/tech team can, with the right solution, lead to better product outcomes.

It’s easy to think that a deal is done once the client signs on the dotted line. However, that is a vestige of pre-SaaS sales thinking. The period immediately after signing — i.e., onboarding — represents a time of peak churn risk for customers. Having a customer success specialist on hand to tailor and guide customers through the process prevents late-deal and onboarding churn by supporting new user experience (NUX). While a less noted cause of churn, poor onboarding 23% of overall deal risk. A customer success specialist reduces the likelihood of these kinds of avoidable losses.

Detailed Demo Deck UI Redesign

Chorus.ai’s Deal Hub in action, showing all assets pertinent to an ongoing sales process.

How to Enable Your Customer Success Specialist #

Once you’ve sourced the right talent, your main responsibility as a frontline sales manager is to make sure your customer success specialist is equipped to do their job. But this task isn’t as straightforward as it might sound.

Your customer success specialist’s own job success relies on the management of client context: their needs, pain points, and more. Ironically, few SaaS companies plan their analytics architecture for customer success; or, at least, they don’t plan them for their customer success specialists. The information your customer success specialist needs will probably be scattered throughout your CRM or across multiple CRMs. It may be contained in private email chains. Pressed-for-time sales reps who have discovered key client insights on call may not have recorded this important information in any form whatsoever.

That’s where a solution like Chorus.ai’s Deal Hub comes in. It’s a tool designed explicitly with customer success and customer success specialists in mind. It collects disparate data in one place and enables reps to provide a clean and comprehensive handover of vital information to customer success specialists when the time comes. From a chronological feed of client emails to deal review specifics detailing what made your new customer choose you, Deal Hub can be a foundational pillar of a stellar onboarding and service experience.

Hire for Success #

So, it’s true that customer success is the story of an entire department’s good work. It’s also true that said success is made all the more likely by having someone on your team for whom that’s their primary responsibility.

So many departments are involved in making a product successful for a customer. With sales reps already spending only a fraction of their time selling on average, a customer success specialist can both free up your department and make it more effective. By having someone at the center of events, you can maximize each customer’s LTV while keeping your entire revenue organization in the loop in terms of how your customer is doing with your product.

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