Customer Success and Product organizations should work together as symbiotic teams within your company to drive customer experience and growth. This partnership provides a customer voice back to the internal builders and the response of incorporating that feedback drives additional stickiness.
In order to partner most effectively, Customer Success professionals should understand what the Product team cares about. By understanding and aligning on goals, the two teams can create processes to support mutual success.
So, if you are a member of the Product team, what do you typically care about?
- Developing, testing, launching products: Running the process from research and ideation of new features and functionality through launch.
- Gathering customer feedback: Hearing directly from end users to gain context and get insight into market trends and wants.
- Partnering with engineering to scope work and timing: Translating themes or specific requests into tangible projects.
- Growing revenue from new products: Tracking metrics against beta or launched features to evaluate success (adoption, stickiness, ease of use, revenue).
Given these many focuses, sometimes how the product launch process impacts other teams is not fully flushed out. Especially in a small company, where everyone knows every customer, there’s less need for formal structure. But in order to scale, setting up a framework is important.
In order to collaborate effectively for the ideal customer journey, think about both general communications as well as specific efforts around new functionality.
1. Customer Feedback Tracking
There should be a single repository (tool or spreadsheet) of customer requests, representing feedback from any customer facing team member. Within this list, CS should include revenue or risk impact and direct customer quotes or descriptions.
2. Recurring meetings
While a tracking system is helpful for asynchronous work, there needs to be a live connection to provide for conversation, context and questions. The Engineering team’s work cadence, such as working in two week sprints, will help drive how often this meeting is held. (See below for a proposed agenda.)
New Functionality Communication
Once feedback is absorbed and acted upon and a new product or key feature is being launched, having Product spend time to prepare internal teams will create a better customer experience.
1. Beta identification
For larger functionality launches, Product will often be interested in getting user feedback along the way. Customer Success can identify interested contacts as well as ‘pre-screening’ then to ensure they will provide the expected level of feedback.
If this isn’t done, you run the risk of turning on access for users that don’t actually engage with the new functionality or do not provide helpful feedback that allows the team to move to the next stage.
2. Launch communication
If a customer has requested functionality that is getting released, it is important to close the loop and let them know. In a high touch environment, this is often done by the CSM. In a low touch environment, this may be through a targeted email outreach or in-app guide.
If this isn’t done, you run the risk of a customer finding out on their own (and potentially losing trust with you for not showcasing it to them). Without strong launch communication, you could also have a customer not realize this functionality is available, providing the impression that you didn’t implement their request.
3. Support training
The Support team needs to understand the new functionality and how it interacts within the existing platform. Given that customers will come to them with issues once they start using the new feature, the Support team needs to be able to debug quickly.
If this isn’t done, you run the risk of the Support team getting questions they aren’t prepared to handle – which may lead to providing incorrect information or slower response times.
4. CS training
While there is often sales training on new products, training specifically targeted at CS is often forgotten. There are many similarities to these trainings, but the CS training needs to take into account how to position with a customer who is already using some or all of your other functionality. This talk track is slightly different from a completely new sale, as a customer would expect the context of their existing workflows and tools to be considered when discussing additional functionality.
If this isn’t done, you run the risk of turning CS into people pitching, rather than strategic advisors, which could limit the customers receptiveness to the new feature.
5. Demo training
Depending on your organization’s design, you may have Sales, Sales Engineering or Customer Success show this functionality to prospects and customers. A training or a demo environment should be created to ensure consistent (and accurate) messaging.
If this isn’t done, you run the risk of different people presenting what they remember from the internal training, which may not be how the Product team wants the functionality showcased.
6. Feedback and Metrics
Once launched, Product tracks various success indicator metrics. CS can add color by providing customer quotes or feedback around impact.
If this isn’t done, you run the risk of not knowing if the feature launched actually solves the gap that was identified. If the team has missed the mark, seeing via metrics and anecdotal feedback will help point out areas for additional evolution.
Knowing that this partnership between Customer Success and Product is critical, how should you start? Here’s a proposed agenda for your recurring meetings. This is often a meeting that gets a lot of engagement, so time boxing each section is suggested.
- Questions: Oftentimes, there are questions that are most effectively resolved by a conversation. Opening up with any outstanding questions allows for people to feel heard and get the answers they need. I’d advise sharing these questions ahead of the meeting in order to ensure each team is ready to respond.
- Recent releases: What has launched that the team needs to be aware of. While Product could do a quick demo, actual trading should be held outside this meeting.
- Upcoming roadmap work: This should highlight the work planned for in the next sprint / next quarter.
- Customer meetings: Product should provide insight into accounts where they want to shadow users or talk to for feedback. If they don’t have specific customers outlined, they should provide focus areas or goals, and get CS suggestions for the right contacts. Once the shadowing or feedback session has happened (if CS wasn’t on the call), Product should share any insight or trends in this section. From the Customer Success side, CSMs should provide insight into key upcoming meetings, such as QBRs, where Product may be asked to present the roadmap.
- Prioritized request list: Without organization, Product hears a lot of feature requests, but each is treated as a one-off ask. CS is responsible for consolidating customer requests and putting prioritization around them to streamline the view for Product. Prioritization may be due to revenue impact, risk potential, count of customers asking for it, etc.
Does this sound like a lot? It is. When I first started this type of meeting, we consistently ran out of time. What we’ve evolved to is switching off who “leads” the meeting. The first meeting of the month is led by Product, where they share updates in each category (mostly focused on the first three bulleted items). The second meeting of the month is led by CS, which focuses more on general questions and the last two bullets. This gives each team a voice and equal partnership in sharing the ongoing meeting.