I was recently in the Bay area and I had signed up to attend the local customer success meet-up that was happening while I was there. After five customer meetings that day that took me up and down the 101 and 280 I was feeling energized from meeting with customers but also a bit overwhelmed as I knew I needed to get moving on my follow ups as I had a long flight the next day. I decided to attend and I have to say, it was definitely the right decision.
I was able to meet up with some of the best and brightest in customer success and I was also able to chat with some of our customers who were in attendance. That was a fantastic bonus. The game changer for me though was the speaker, Dave Lieberman who is the VP of Customer Success from Demandbase. Dave had been with Demandbase for a while but it was only until recently that he took over the customer success team. He made me reevaluate how I see customer success.
The Three Levels of Customer Success
I used to think there were two levels of customer success. Customer success managers need to be able to do the following extremely well to ensure that customers would remain loyal and possibly increase their spend with you:
- Establish a strong relationship with customers and provide amazing service.
- Show the customers the value that they are achieving and what more they could be doing
While you may be able to get away with one without the other, the most successful companies have customer success teams that get both of these items done and knock it out of the ballpark.
What Dave taught me was that you can have the best relationship with your customer and they can be achieving value but if you don’t help the customer demonstrate that value within their company, the accomplishments could be meaningless and could put you at risk at renewal time. Therefore the third level of customer success is all about selling the value to multiple stakeholders of your customer. The tactic that Demandbase uses to achieve this is brilliant.
Customer Success Needs to be Proactive, Not Reactive
At Demandbase, Dave has directed the customer success team to achieve these levels in a number of ways. The overarching goal was to focus the team on being proactive rather than reactive.
Here are some of the tactics that they use to achieve this:
- Document the Customer Lifecycle. Dave pulled all of the customer facing teams together and created a standard process so that sales, customer success, services and all other customer facing teams were following a specific process. The goals was to create the best customer experience possible as well as help their customers achieve value quickly and ensure customers used Demandbase for the long term.
- Stop the “Bad Deals”. At Demandbase, Customer success managers are assigned to accounts before deals close so the CSM can work with the sales rep and the customer to build a customer success plan that will help customer achieve the goals that they have put forward. This ensured that no bad deals get tossed over to the customer success team and that they are brought in early enough to build a strong relationship with the customer and plan out a path to success.
- Establish relationships at all levels. Customer success Managers are tasked with establishing at least three different contacts at three different levels within their customer’s organization. Dave used the phrase “getting a cell phone relationship with the executive” which I loved. If you can do that, you’re on the right path.
- Measure the right metrics. CSMs were measured on items such as time to value to ensure that customers were getting up and running quickly and achieving results. The CS team also has a weekly “red flag” meeting to highlight any accounts that may be in trouble.
- Quarterly Business Reviews. Demandbase conducts regular business reviews with its customers to extract the successes that a customer is achieving and the value stories.
The end result was a CSM team that was no longer just chasing renewals but being perceived as a true peer in the boardroom. Demandbase then takes it up a notch.
Showing Value is Great, Selling the Value That was Achieved is Better
In my opinion, what separates Demandbase from other companies is how they attempt to sell the value within their customer organizations. As many of us know, when we lose the customer champion (this could be the person that brought your company into the account, the power user or the customer executive sponsor), your chance of renewal and establishing a long-term customer relationship goes down considerably.
To combat this, Demandbase’s CSMs were tasked with establishing relationships within their customer base at multiple levels. In addition (and here’s the awesomeness), they create an email campaign where they take the main value points from the quarterly business reviews and email it to the customer contacts that they have established. As an example, while the CFO of their client may have no idea what exactly Demandbase is, when they see that it’s generating opportunities and contributing to closed deals, their ears perk up and Demandbase gets on their radar.
All of these concepts may not scale that well but you need to strike a balance between what will ensure you create customers for life and the impact on resources.
I know Demandbase is still working through this but establishing this next level of customer success is something we should all try and achieve.