Episode No:40

Customer Success Best Practices ft.

Sarah Beatty

Manager of CS, PostBeyond

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Ep#40: Customer Success Best Practices
ft. Sarah Beatty (Manager of Customer Success, PostBeyond)
Ep#40: Customer Success Best Practices ft. Sarah Beatty (Manager of Customer Success, PostBeyond)
  • Ep#40: Customer Success Best Practices ft. Sarah Beatty (Manager of Customer Success, PostBeyond)

Episode Summary

In this episode, we chat with Sarah Beatty, Manager of Customer Success at Post Beyond, an Influitive company, which is a leading Employee Advocacy, and Social Selling Platform that enables global enterprises and their employees to find and share relevant content with their social networks to reach, engage, and influence — driving measurable business results. Sarah walks us through the challenges faced by the startup initially and how they were able to develop a successful Customer Success strategy. She then also shares how cross-functionality is achieved between teams, the important aspects to consider when choosing a CS platform, and her advice to people wanting to join Customer Success.
Key Takeaways Time
Meet Sarah, Customer Success Leader at Post Beyond 1:01
How Customer Success started at Post Beyond 2:08
Challenges faced by Post Beyond during market penetration 3:53
Ways to improve engagement with customers 7:25
How to achieve cross-functionality between departments 10:21
Importance of a CS platform and pre-requisites of incorporating one 15:37
Sarah’s tips for people interested in joining Customer Success 24:41

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Sarah Beatty 0:00 I think the number one pro-tip that I got is, ask from day one, “What do you need to see to renew?” Ask about that renewal conversation, the first time you talk to the customer. Taylor Kenerson 0:15 Welcome to the Hyperengage Podcast. We are so happy to have you along our journey. Here, we uncover bits of knowledge from some of the greatest minds in tech. We unearth, the hows, whys, and whats that drive the tech of today. Welcome to the movement. Hey, everyone, Taylor here. Welcome to the Hyperengage Podcast, here with my co-host Adil, and our wonderful guest here, Sarah. Sarah, thanks so much for joining us. Sarah Beatty 0:47 Oh, my goodness, it’s such a pleasure! Excited to be here. Taylor Kenerson 0:51 Great. If you can just introduce yourself, what you do, the company that you work at, kind of what the company is about, and we’ll dive in? Sarah Beatty 1:01 Absolutely. So I’m leading a team of Customer Success managers, I work for a company called Post Beyond that is a social media advocacy tool, so it’s all about employee engagement and employee advocacy. So I’ve been in the CS space with Post Beyond for about six and a half years, which is exciting, I feel like quite a veteran in the SaaS space to be there for that long. But we are a, you know, lean mean team, we manage the full cycle with our customers. So from implementation to ongoing adoption to renewal, so really grateful to be able to touch kind of all parts of CS, and that’s in a nutshell, what, what I do. Taylor Kenerson 1:52 Can you dive a little bit into like, your journey at Post Beyond in terms of developing CS? Like, and did you- were you the first one to like introduce this? Like, “Okay, we need to begin thinking of CS and this is what we need to do.” So can you walk us through like, that journey? Sarah Beatty 2:08 Yeah, yeah, I was not the first kind of CS employee, but I did join pretty early days with Post Beyond. So we had, I believe, at the time a team of about four in CS. So there was a little bit of process already in terms of, you know, how we launch customers, renewal processes, that sort of thing. But it was still very much in its infancy, a lot of scaling, we could work on a lot of just refining the process to make it repeatable, and more efficient. So as I guess, you know, employee number four or five to the CS organization, it was exciting just to be able to really learn from our customers. And because we were quite a small team, at that point, we could kind of experiment, try different things, create new processes, see what works, see what wasn’t working and keep iterating on that. So it’s really helped us just to get to a place where we have a more comprehensive process right now, we do have things that are more repeatable, we’re able to better predict renewals, and that sort of thing. So I think it’s been just a journey of continuing to like, learn from our customers, from our mistakes, and just grow from there. Adil Saleh 3:22 Cool stuff. You know, talking about social transformation, we’ve seen and we’ve spoken with a lot of teams that are serving in the space of social listening and all of that. How did you guys came to this, like this pinpoint in order to penetrate in the market in the beginning? Like, the early days, how did you guys navigate this pain and frustration around different companies? I know, it’s, it’s a really big pain, it’s a growing pain in even bigger corporations as well. So what was the initial thought process? Sarah Beatty 3:53 Yeah, yeah. So if I’m understanding the question correctly, it’s basically, you know, employee advocacy was very new when I joined. And so, you know, we weren’t necessarily a ‘need-to-have software’, so there was a lot of educating we were doing not only with our prospects, but with our customers. So what we really worked on is just getting clear on our use cases, and getting clear on our ideal customers. So, you know, our marketing team- it was really a whole company effort, so our marketing team was working really hard on creating content to educate our audience on you know, what is employee advocacy? Why is it important? Why is this the right call for your marketing team? So they were doing a lot of that, which was just helping to kind of pre-educate the prospects and the customers. But when it did come to those kinds of sales conversations, those post-sale conversations with CS, there was still a lot of educating we were doing. We would have customers that would come in and they love the idea and they’re sold on, you know, they want to try something new, they want to engage their employees as their advocates, but they didn’t really have a strategy around it, which was okay, because it was, you know, such early days. So a lot of what we and CS started to work on was just helping them to develop a strategy to understand what they’re trying to accomplish, what they want to get out of this and making sure that we had that alignment, even earlier in that journey with them. So this took years to, to perfect, it was a long time of looking at, you know, why did some customers churn? Were they not a good fit? Why are some customers successful? And learning from those kind of two sets of customers and understanding first of all, who is our ideal customer? Why do they use us? Feeding that back to the sales team so that they can go out, find those right people the marketing team can market in the correct way. And for CS, that we can help set those expectations earlier with customers, like at our kickoff. We talk about our three use cases, how we measure success, what you should be looking for, why this is useful, and how you can relay that- the results and the value of the program back to your executive team. So it took a lot of learning to kind of get to that point. But we’ve tried so hard to make sure that that’s one of the first conversations we have with customers, so that there’s alignment and, frankly, accountability on both sides of the house. So their account renewal, they’re not- which is an issue we had, you know, they come to us and say, “You know, we didn’t really get what we wanted as a platform,” which is hard when they didn’t really come with a clear vision for what they wanted. So we’ve worked really hard to make sure that that vision is clear from the start. And so far, it’s really been successful. Taylor Kenerson 6:38 I’m so glad you brought that up. Because you know, you could you see so many companies going into, you know, they have these ideas and these insights on how they want to go to market. And then when they start engaging, you’re seeing that there is exactly what you said – this misalignment. And sometimes it’s not- it’s a, it’s not a fault to anyone, you know, it’s just oh, you know, you- we have to actually be prepared before we integrate different tools like this. So let’s take a deep dive a little bit into the CS operations, what are like, some of your processes look like? How you engage with the customer? Like what are some of the key things that maybe you drive when you have that kickoff call, and then start to see them adopt and move on along in their journey? Sarah Beatty 7:25 Absolutely. So in kickoff, we really just try to use that as an opportunity to set the stage for basically why are we working together. So we ask a lot of those questions around, you know, what are you currently doing? What are your pain points? What are you trying to accomplish? What does success look like 12 months from now? And just really trying to unpack that kind of future vision and their ‘why’ so that we can build everything out from there. We’ve been so lucky that we’ve, we’ve really worked hand in hand with the sales team, which I would recommend for any- like CS and sales leader to be best buds. But we’ve worked really hard to make sure that the sales team is also asking those sorts of questions so that it’s more kind of a debrief with the CSM and the CS team versus kind of the first time they’re having these conversations about value and what they’re trying to accomplish. So that’s really what we spend a fair bit of time on the kickoff doing. We’ll also outline what it takes to launch with us, a timeline, and kind of what is expected, we have a little checklist for what our customers have to do, which I’m sure is probably standard practice with most CS organizations. But I think the number one pro-tip that I got from my future – or my previous director, I should say, that I will continue to pass along and use in all my future endeavors – is ask from day one, “What do you need to see to renew?” Ask about that renewal conversation the first time you talk to the customer because I think it’s important to understand like, what does success truly look like when it comes down to giving us additional dollars next year. Because they might say, “I want to accomplish X,” but then when you actually ask them like, “What do you need to see to renew?” it’s actually a different situation altogether, because they have to prove the value. And so sometimes what they want isn’t the same as the value they have to prove. So we really try to just dig deeper with them and do that discovery to get to the root of like, what value do you need to see, to give us more money next year? Which like, sounds like I’m oversimplifying it, but it’s just been the most helpful question that I think we’ve been asking to our customers. Taylor Kenerson 9:46 I love that. I mean, communication is key and transparent communication so that we’re all aligned on that same goal is like critical because, you know, what the customer might perceive and then what actually needs to happen in order for, you know, an outcome to be made, it can differ like you just said. That’s, that’s, that’s great. So you also discussed, you know, being best buds with your sales team, so can you go into just like, how you have that cross functionality amongst, you know, the different vari- the different teams that, you know, are within your company? Sarah Beatty 10:21 Absolutely. So, I mean, every, every company is different. I’m really lucky that we’ve, we’ve got a, you know, a team of just like, everyone wants to help, there, there’s a lot of transparency across our organization, which makes it a lot easier to do this. But I would say the things that have helped me is, first and foremost, set up just regular check-ins with the sales leader. So the sales leader and I meet, you know, monthly just to kind of sync up on any feedback from our teams or any areas in our process that we could improve. So making sure there’s a regular touch point has been really helpful. It’s also good just to like, build that rapport, you know, we’ll spend the first like 10 minutes of that call just chatting about life and, you know, strengthening that personal relationship, which is really nice. The second thing, I think, is just making sure that we understand what each other does. I’m a huge advocate for just like educate, educate, educate. So what I do with kind of all new sales team members and the sales team in general, is I always walk them through what do we do on the CS side. So that they understand what is our process, what do we do? What are we trying to accomplish? What are our best practices? Where do customers fall? Where do customers succeed? And just helping them have all that information when they get started, it’s great onboarding for them. Because those, you know, pieces of information, help them in that sales process, and vice versa. So having the sales team then teach the CSMs, you know, what do we do in sales? What are we asking, how does this work, and just making sure that there’s really good understanding of what both teams do. We also have our account executive sit in on that initial kickoff call. So not only do they kind of do the handoff, but they sit in on it, which is just helpful for them to learn more about what we’re doing, how it works, and I find that that’s helpful. I know that’s a luxury that isn’t always possible, just, given kind of the the scale of different CS organizations. But I’ve found that’s been really helpful just for knowledge transfer, and helping just to build a little bit more of a relationship between the CS team and the sales team. So those are kind of two processes that I really lean on to get as close as we can to sales. Adil Saleh 12:43 Thank you very much for putting this all together. In a very simplified way. I love that, that part when sales executive after handing it over to the CSM also listens, listens to the conversation that also helps the team- the success team to ensure that you know, you’re- as a product, as a technology, growing with the customer goals, like evolving with the customer goals over the course of time. That’s cool. So when it, when it comes about adoption, I’m sure you must have incorporated a lot of technology to measure data, patterns, behaviors, and all of that. Besides all of that, what kind of processes that are standardized? Like, of course, you are a team of around 20 odd people- how big is your team, by the way? Like the CS team? Sarah Beatty 13:27 Yeah. About five right now. Adil Saleh 13:31 Five people. So who identifies, you know, to basically distribute or allocate accounts to these five CSMs? And on what basis like- what standardized operations have you guys set up? And then when it comes to operational processes that were like, CSM to CSM differently based on the customer segment, is that from mid-market or smaller enterprise? How does that change? And how data serves it? Like what kind of data and information have you incorporated? Sarah Beatty 14:01 Yeah, that is, that is a great question. So I would say that the, the process is quite simple as it stands right now. So I’m the one who allocates those accounts. We are- just because the software is actually like really user friendly, so at this point, there, there isn’t a ton of segmentation that we’ve currently done, but it is actually a project that I’m working on right now just to better understand if there are kind of different customer journeys we might want to have for enterprise or SMB. So as it stands right now, our CSMs have a mixture of enterprise and SMB accounts, which is great just for their own exposure and learning and career development. But future state, I’m always trying to think about how we can kind of scale things. I am investigating just different ways we could kind of slice and dice our customers, and, you know, the different CSMs that might manage the different types of accounts in the future. Adil Saleh 15:04 I also was thinking about the data, like what kind of technologies are you using for the product’s usage data for the product teams? Like Segment, Amplitude, Mixpanel. And what is the CRM that, you know, gets all the data like, source of truth for sales team, and then it gets translated to CS team, could you tell us a bit about your tech stack. Sarah Beatty 15:25 Um, what I would say is that, like, I think every CS organization since the dawn of time, we of course, rely heavily on Salesforce as just a central source of truth. We do also have a CS software that has been really helpful in just giving us a bit of a health score and understanding kind of when, when things are going off the rails with the customer journey, tracking, adoption, those sorts of things. So that’s been really helpful for us. But it’s very much still a work in progress, as I’m sure all health calculators are, you’ll have to keep kind of refining what those metrics should be that you’re measuring against, and trying to look for those kind of like leading and lagging indicators and understanding how to kind of keep tinkering with those. So it’s very much a work in progress. But I would say a CS software is really helpful, just because my focus is really on like efficient, repeatable, successful customer interactions. And I think that a CS software has really helped to do that just making kind of something that’s standardized, that people can follow. It’s easy for kind of CS onboarding, they know exactly what they have to do, they understand their priorities, and it just takes a lot of the guesswork out. So I think having that data within the CS software to help inform those decisions around which accounts they need to focus more time on, which account’s adoption is dropping on that we need more support on. I think that’s helpful because relying on say, like, a quarterly review alone, that’s three whole months where things can change very quickly and might not know and, you know, humans are also not necessarily always accurate, that, you know, you might talk to one of your customer stakeholders one day, and they’re like yeah, everything’s great. And then the next day, things have just changed so drastically and maybe there were other signs or indicators that you could have known before that just didn’t come up in conversation, and you didn’t predict kind of asking about. Adil Saleh 17:37 Thinking of CS platforms, like a lot of success teams came up and shared like bigger, bigger teams as well and smaller teams as well. So the only goal, like a few goals that they, they’ve achieved for them, one is forecasting and navigating the risks and opportunities, like growth opportunities, expansion opportunities. Secondly, centralizing everything in a single place. So just like for marketing teams people have HubSpot, sales team people have Salesforce, so it is meant to be a source of truth for success teams. So they don’t have to go and commit, go back to the CRM or sales, any CRM like Salesforce, and take all the data points and you know, communicate, insights. Your Salesforce instead, they have everything inside one platform where all the data gets populated, that you know, it is translatable and that drives action. That- these are the three goals of a CS platform. Is that, you know, your platform that you’re in, you have incorporated, is that, is that platform serving all these three goals? Sarah Beatty 18:36 I would say right now, for sure. Admittedly, it’s still early days of using the software, so we’re still kind of, you know, reiterating and developing more process around it. But I would absolutely agree that those are, those are the main goals. I think those are the goals of CS in general. Adil Saleh 18:50 Yes, absolutely. Because also, there’s another element of the job that’s for more interested- it becomes more interested for self-funded businesses, like bootstrap businesses, a lot of them they came up, they are so- also so focused on optimizing the cost, making sure with the limited team of handful of, you know, dedicated, skilled Customer Success resources, they can, you know, they can serve as many accounts as possible. So they can cut up resources as well, and also the efficiency on all these goals- achieving all these goals, revenue goals as well. So that is why, you know, thinking of measuring data from early days is important, everybody does it. But is it translatable? Is it driving action, action for the customer-facing teams like support, technical support, success and sales? That’s the biggest question. So that’s why now this is pretty much become a new norm that even startups sitting at early stage like series A B, they’re thinking of incorporating dedicated CS tools and they’re building processes around it just like yourself and making it a whole better experience and saving costs, saving time and, you know, unlocking growth from the existing customers. So that’s, that’s the goal. Great. So could you also touch us a little bit about what kind of processes that your software needed? We know a lot of them like- we’re always, you know, open to share that, but that’s okay. What kind of processes that you think, for any success team, starting off as small as yours, would need to set in place to be able to incorporate a dedicated customer success platform? Sarah Beatty 20:32 Yeah, I think that first of all, you have to have a good understanding of your customer journey. I really feel like the customer journey is my Northstar. It’s what I always come back to when I look at, you know, ways that I want to scale our organization, my general strategy for the department. So I think having a really good sense of like, what is your journey, understanding kind of what are the value points along that journey that you have to hit, making sure that you have a plan in place for like, what to hit, what those metrics should look like. So I would say your journey should be the priority. And then you also want to do a little bit of analysis around how your customers are winning and how they’re failing. So that’s a really good way to understand kind of how you need to adjust things- and maybe not necessarily adjust, but I think it helps you to develop those like, warning signs that you can then input into the software. So whether you use it for health calculation or those sorts of things, I think understanding what are the trends when customers are failing – so is adoption falling? Is whatever kind of the metrics for your platform are, for- how they’re winning? I think that’s also important. So customer journey, kind of the, the metrics behind or the, the kind of warning signs to look for when things aren’t going well. And I think, also understanding how your CSMs- like what information they need to be successful. So how they work, what data they need to see, you know, what would be an easy way for them to kind of track their action items, because CSMs are the busiest people I’ve ever met in my entire life, they are juggling so many things at once. So I think that you also really want to understand like your team, when we were looking for a software, we really did you know, ask the team about like, what do you feel you need? What’s important? What are features you wish you had? And I think that was really helpful because ultimately a CS software is only as useful as the people using it. So if your CSMs aren’t going to use it, it’s a waste of money. So understanding, you know, what do they need to do their job more efficiently, to work smarter, not harder, what do they need just to like prioritize their day, note-taking, all that jazz. So I would say those are the three things that you’d want to have in place before getting started. Also, just having gone through an implementation myself, I think making sure that you have a clear understanding of the technical side of your software, so that you have a partner in engineering, who can help with that stuff. Just because there are more technical components, usually, that need to be connected. And maybe just having support from whoever manages, say, your CRM or your Salesforce because there’s just a lot of data integration, and you want to make sure that it makes sense based on your current processes and your current kind of database structures. So those are the four things I’d recommend you, you have started before you get yourself into a CS software. Adil Saleh 23:49 Those are, those are a lot of- very powerful. Taylor Kenerson 23:54 Yeah, I was gonna say like, it’s really important too, what you just mentioned, is like, so many people believe, okay, you know, just let’s do, let’s integrate a software, like it’ll make everything better. But it’s about like, making sure do you have the right foundation setup? And like, have you tested the foundation and implemented these certain metrics and the journey to actually see if it’s working or not? Before you start jumping into, you know, integrating different technologies and stuff, you know? So many people just are like, “Oh, the tech will accelerate me,” but like, do you have the proper runway in order to be you know, accelerated? That’s another huge thing. So just before we wrap, can you just touch on any advice you would maybe give to someone that is looking to join a CS team or maybe be a CSM in the future? If you can, please. Sarah Beatty 24:41 Oh, absolutely. Yes. So I think the beautiful thing about CS is that it’s a relatively new career path. It’s definitely something that has like, grown a lot and continues to grow a lot, but it’s not necessarily like, you go to school for this right? So, I think that it can be intimidating when you see these roles. But I think it’s important and maybe you know, you’ve never heard of this, and customer success manager sounds like such an impressive name, which it is, I love CS, I love CSMs. But I can know- I know it can sometimes be a little intimidating. So what I would say is like, look for the transferable skills. So if you have skills around just customer management in any way, shape, or form, perhaps you’ve worked in like, a sales capacity, or you’ve worked in just like customer service in some way, shape, or form, I think just having experience interacting with people is important. I also think, I always like to hire based on like, values. And I think because you know, you can train pretty much everything else, like people, people can be taught, people can be coached. So I really look for people who just have a love of helping, because at the end of the day, to get into CS, you have to love to help because that’s what we do day in and day out, we are helping our customers, we are helping each other, we are helping our other departments understand our customers. So I think you have to love to help, you have to be a pretty empathetic person. Because unfortunately, or fortunately, you end up kind of being the face of the company to your customers. So that’s fantastic. When you have great news, you get to hear that directly, you get that praise. But sometimes you don’t always get the positive feedback from customers. So I think you know, just having, having empathy and having patience is important, because it’s, it- you know, whenever you interact with people, there’s always good and bad. And so I think those are the things that I would say are most important. So experience with just customer-facing roles, patience, and a love of helping. I would also say if you have some experience in sales, I actually think that’s really, really valuable. I coach and train all of my CSMs on just Sandler sales methodology. So really that consultative sales approach, which I think is so important, because even though Customer Success is not sales, I see us as constantly selling the value, we’re constantly selling the value to customers, we are who they will interact with the most between signing that initial contract and continuing that partnership, whenever that contract is up. So we have to constantly be selling the value. So I think if you have a sales background, that will be very, very useful in customer success. And I would also say if you have a little bit of data analysis, or if you enjoy kind of identifying trends or making presentations, or those sorts of things about data, I think especially as CS is evolving and becoming a lot more data-driven, I think those are skills that will definitely help. But you know, a lot of my team and a lot of others that I’ve interacted with in CS, have come from all different, you know, walks of life, they’ve come from maybe a nonprofit, or they’ve come from a hard sales background. So I think you don’t necessarily have to have that CS background in order to be successful, I think you just need a lot of those transferable skills. And the best way to learn is really by doing the job, finding a good mentor, making sure that you select a job where your manager is really open to that coaching. And hopefully, that’s a good way that you can kind of get your foot in the door and get into CS a bit more. Taylor Kenerson 28:46 I love that you mentioned the transferable skills, you know, as you know, being a part of a CS team, you have to wear so many hats and you do have to wear a sales hat you have to wear your, you know, your customer support hat, you have to wear your customer success hat, drive that value, you have to even put on your CEO/business owner hat sometimes because you are taking that critical feedback and how do you, you know, drive that feedback to the other teams that are within the organization. It’s all you know, it all comes together and it’s so connected. And I really love that you also touched on the values of the person, it’s less- the skills are important sure, but you can teach, you know, anyone or anything that’s interested in something, you know, anything. So it’s more so, I like to say, you know, we might not be like-minded but we are similar souled. And you know, we have those- we’re driven by those values, you know. We come in with these different perspectives, these different experiences, but the core of who we are is similar and you can make anything work when that happens so, that’s so beautiful. Sarah, so so appreciate you. Thank you so much for hopping on, and this was beautiful. Adil Saleh 29:52 Thank you for taking the time, Sarah. Sarah Beatty 29:55 Thank you so much for having me! Taylor Kenerson 29:57 Our pleasure! We’ll be in touch, okay. Adil Saleh 29:59 Have a good rest of your day. Thank you so very much for staying with us on the episode please share your feedback at adil@hyperengage.io, we definitely need it. We will see you next time and another guest on the stage with some concrete tips on how to operate better as a Customer Success leader and how you can empower engagements with some, building some meaningful relationships. We qualify people for the episode just to make sure we bring the value to the listeners. Do reach us out if you want to refer any CS leader. Until next time, goodbye and have a good rest of your day.

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