Finding the right person for a Customer Success role

Part of the challenge to finding the right person is seeing in that person, the ability to grow into the role you have available.

For me this had to be someone who could engage easily with people, was keen to learn the technology – in this case Oracle Eloqua Marketing Cloud.

Finding the right person for a Customer Success role

I recently went through the process of recruiting a new team member for our Customer Success team. To date, that “team” was me! For the past 13 months I’ve driven our Customer Success program and at the same time managed our own marketing efforts. I like the mix, because enables me to be a practitioner as well as helping customers with their objectives.

It’s always exciting when the team grows and you have to bring new people on board. In addition, we recently hired a new technical person to support our Eloqua customers.

But Customer Success is something more

In the technology industry, it’s common to have a Pre-Sales team. These guys are usually financially rewarded for their contribution. There’s also the Support team, they provide the technical know how for the platform.

Where does Customer Success blend into this environment?

We’re a small firm, so it’s common that I’m called on to fill a pre-sales role and to a lesser degree, a support role. My criteria around the “support” I offer as the Customer Success Director is limited by my knowledge. My Managing Director often tells me I have to hold off and not “learn” to much – lol. The lines of demarcation between Customer Success and Support need to be as clear as possible?

Why? Well, my time is largely non-billable and the Support team deliver their services for a fee. That’s business, at the end of the day we have to make money so we can be there for our customers.

Finding the right person for our Customer Success role meant finding someone who understood Modern Marketing. We didn’t need someone from the technology industry, we needed a marketer. I was looking for a person who wanted to learn about Marketing Automation and how it can make Modern Marketers shine.

Customer Success should not be rewarded financially

Ok, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be paid – that’s just nuts! What I’m saying is that bonuses should not be pegged to Customer Success. Personally, I believe financial incentives, in some roles, potentially drives the wrong behaviour. A classic example that I’ve seen is when some large consulting firms, who charge time and materials for a project, have bonuses tied to “billable time”, therefore there’s little incentive for the implementation team to complete the project as quickly as possible.

In a previous role, the CEO was adamant that we provide quotes and engage with new customers based on a fixed price contract for the implementation of a SaaS platform. Now of course, the risk of going over the allotted time for the project is real, so that needs to be managed and expectations clearly set. We achieved this with a very robust scoping process, gathering of requirements which were then documented and signed off by the customer for each phase. A secret to success with this model is the idea of a phased implementation of the project.

As you can imagine, we went over the allotted time for the project from time to time. This was usually the case when the customer would  “surprise” us with a “must have” requirement that wasn’t shared during the initial scoping, requirements gathering and implementation phase.

When to engage the Customer Success person?

In my experience there’s merit to have the Customer Success team involved in pre-sales. A good Customer Success person should be able to fill this role easily. My personal style is to be a little self effacing with comments like “I’m not a salesperson, let me explain how this works…” or “the sales team might suggest X, I’d encourage you to do…”.

It’s the blending of the practitioner and the sales person in me that allows me to get away with this. It’s also essential to be genuine, there’s no point trying to be something I’m not.

Finding the right person for a Customer Success role

A typical initial engagement agenda:

Once the contracts are signed and the technical team has completed the implementation, that’s when the Customer Success team step in. If we look at the first three months following “go live” or the “launch date”, the following activities typically take place:

Finding the right person for a Customer Success role
  1. Road Map Planning: what’s on the agenda for the text three to six months?
  2. Development of Specific Campaigns: We take what they’ve learnt in the initial end-user training and then build a campaign based on their knowledge and their business objectives.
  3. Coaching. When customers begin with a Marketing Automation platform like Oracle Eloqua Marketing Cloud, I find it critical to ensure they’re not just continuing to do what they’ve always done. A classic example is creating a list of contacts, building one email and hitting send! They can use Outlook to do that.
  4. Feedback: The feedback process is crucial to the Customer Success role. Feedback needs to be given in the context of a best practice approach. It’s about pushing the customer beyond their frames of references and helping them exploit Eloqua. It comes back to them realising the benefits of why they chose Eloqua in the first place.
  5. Help Them Push the Boundaries of Their Thinking: This is really an extension of points 3 and 4, but it can be more than that. For example, I try to connect with customers on LinkedIn, it provides an avenue outside of the formal customer relationship. Through LinkedIn I can share best practice I’ve seen elsewhere. I can share insight on articles from thought leaders and others. This blog post is one example.

In Summary

Thank you for reading this far into my post. It’s been a little long long winded, but I felt each of the points were valid. It essentially morphed into two themes:

  • Recruiting the right person for a Customer Success role and
  • The Customer Success role itself.

I’m in a really lucky position because I love what I do. I work with some amazing people in organisations of all sizes, small two person operations right through to multi-nationals. I hope you found these thoughts helpful in the context of finding the right person to fill a Customer Success Manager position.