Believe it or not, there’s quite a lot in common between customer success and product management. Both have the ability to work wonders for your SaaS product.

And the pair can also work in harmony—properly complementing one and other to provide the maximum value to your users.

So! Right now, we’re going to explain how they make up your SaaS dream team for 2021. 👇

The difference between customer success and product management

Here’s a look at what stands these two roles apart:

  • Customer success manager: A CSM takes a structured approach to making sure your users get the most value out of your product. It’s a revenue generating role looking to increase customer loyalty, better online reviews, and to influence changes to the way your software works.
  • Product manager: A PM holds responsibility for delivering on a product and its features. It’s a decision-making role, which often determines the how, when, and why of your software. A product manager makes sure their decisions are influenced by the market they’re in, especially thinking about your customer’s needs. So they spend their time owning the strategy of a product, as well as managing tech requirements and the launch of new features.  

The big question! What’s more valuable—customer success or product management? Well, they offer a massive amount towards achieving the goals of your business.

But they do vary in what they deliver. Here’s a helpful explainer on the differences from OpenView Venture Partners.

The great divide between customer success and product management.

There’s the proof inter-team harmony is pretty essential. And getting everyone working together in key areas can improve company-wide knowledge and growth.

It also makes clear product management handles the tech side of your software. While customer success makes sure users are happy with your product and keep on subscribing.

Do they have anything in common? Of course! The roles require:

  • Empathy—this is what keeps users happy.
  • Strong leadership skills and problem solving.
  • Flexibility! The roles are constantly evolving and need new skill sets all the time.

They also have extra clout behind them when they work together. Here’s how you can do just that to reap the benefits. 👍

How does customer success help product management?

It helps product managers make sure the onboarding process is based on what your users want and need to achieve.

In other words, customer success streamlines customer outcomes.

Although you may have your separate CS and PM teams with their specific goals and strategies, there’s overlap in how they work together.

Ultimately, customer happiness doesn’t just come from inside your product! Users interact with your business in all sorts of ways—marketing materials, for example, through an email.

So, this means you need a level of customer success and product management coordination to maximize your opportunities.

With CS and PM working in harmony, you create clear communication and can quickly identify how projects will affect your customers.

For example, if you’re launching a new set of features on your site.

With the knowledge the customer success manager has, they can feed information to the product manager to make sure the updates launch without a hitch.

Pretty nifty, right? It’s one of the glorious ways in which SaaS teams can work together to deliver an important end result.

How does product management help customer success?

On the flip side, PMs can help your CSM by reducing the time-to-value of your customers.

And they can do this through product-driven ideas. Such as:

  • Ensuring the software is as fast as possible with an intuitive UI.
  • Offering flexibility and convenience in the way the product works.
  • Including value-added benefits in the software to help your teams exceed customer expectations.
  • Ensuring the software is reliable and consistent.

All of the above can help a CSM dramatically, as it takes away a lot of faff and hassle a user may have. If a customer is complaining about the technical side, then they’re busy not being happy. 😩

By keeping them happy, this can all reduce the time-to-value… or even avoid a dreaded increase in churn rates!

The importance of research for your product

What we’re getting at here is a CSM and PM can work together to make human-centered software that provides real value and ease of use.

And a big part of why these two roles can become a dream team is down to research feeding into design decisions.

Thanks to the customer-facing nature of the role, the CSM can learn all about:

  • Customer pain points.
  • Customer thought processes.
  • Overall usage.
  • The most popular features.
  • Different customer segments.
  • Why customers churn.

Now, that’s a lot of data to take advantage of. It puts a CSM in a near perfect position to dig a little deeper and get granular user insights.

And from that, they can inform the product management team about important updates to make.

This means there’s no flapping about wildly in the dark. 🤗

You can make educated changes to your product, all backed up with a data and information-driven process. For example, your customer success team may find out one of the following:

  • Users are unhappy there’s a bug in the software.
  • There’s an ongoing request for a specific new feature.
  • Users are frustrated with the way one feature works.
  • The UI could do with a tweak your competitors are using.

Based off any of the above, your CSM can be in touch with your PM for a conversation about the best route to take.

Research-driven change for your product to help you grow. Not bad, eh?

What’s more, the customer success team can feed back to the product manager about how users are finding new updates.

It’s a two-way working relationship with each team relying on the other for news on upcoming updates, as well as feedback on how users find the software.

Balancing out the input between customer success and product management

Work for the right balance with feedback into your product’s development. Its usability depends on this.

The decisions your staff make can go a long way to making customers satisfied, or missing your targets.

It’s down to your business how you manage this situation. Whether a CSM or PM gets the final say, or more input, is up to you. Just be aware how it affects your product roadmap.

How to make the dream team improve your customer journey

The solution for your business is to synchronize your departments for a properly harmonic customer success and product experience.

It makes a great deal of sense, seeing as both teams are joined by pretty similar end goals.  

Easier said than done, though! To get the ball rolling, you should:

  • Incentivize your customers to use your new features.
  • Help your users with getting the value they want.

This all means you need to get processes in place to align your departments. You can’t just wing it (unfortunately!).

You need a framework and a way to monitor your growth. You might want to pick:

  • Net revenue retention (NRR).
  • Gross revenue retention (GRR).

It’s also a good idea to align your teams with the same KPI. This may be increasing product adoption or reducing your churn rates.

You can develop your strategy considering both departments and what they can achieve. If it’s to increase product adoption, for example, it’ll go like this:

  • CSM: Will work out the adoption for each customer segment.
  • PM: Will take in the percentage of adoption across all of your users.

As an operation, you need good planning and understanding between departments. Otherwise your dream team will be confused and won’t be as effective.

Communication is super important here! 🗣

As is having the right process. To help you align your CSM and PM, you can follow the below step-by-step structure:

  1. Product takes control of activations and introductions using techniques to drive awareness. This can be through emails, webinars, or using in-software notifications.
  2. Product can setup in-software guides to target each customer segment and work out where they fit in the user adoption journey.
  3. Customer success can take control of product adoption. This’ll include creating custom training plans, educational materials, and other assets to support users with the product.
  4. Customer success can then use in-person and in-product touchpoints to act as a guide, helping customers from the onboarding phase to account activation.
  5. From here, the teams can work out what sections of the customer journey they’ll manage.
  6. The teams can also decide what systems and data sets to use.

Consider this lot a six-step framework you can adapt as you see fit. It’s flexible and offers great scalability to add more points and responsibilities to each team.

As you develop your dream team, you should keep track of what growth metrics you need to track. Plus, what sort of KPIs you need to keep an eye on. 👀

Of course, you’re doing this all for a reason and not just for something to do.

It’s become an essential requirement for any SaaS product worth its salt. 🧂

And not only does it help your customers, it’ll give your business a helping hand along the way.

What are the business benefits of making your SaaS dream team?

Along with your departments working together better than ever, you can expect some pretty epic advantages. Check them out:

  • Your teams will have the right tools in place at the right time to capture customer data.
  • Aligned teams have clear targets and long-term goals to make them more productive.
  • Communication will improve between departments—good for workplace morale!
  • Shared metrics will also increase inter-team productivity.

It’s a win-win situation whichever way you look at it. Your business benefits. Your teams benefit. And your customers get better service. Good? Yes. 👍

No need to pinch yourself. Make your customer success and product management dream team a reality!

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