My name's Michelle Wideman. Guess what? I think I have the best job in the world! That’s because I’m the Chief Customer Officer at Onna. Why’s it the best job in the world? Well, because I’m responsible for ensuring our customers are successful from the time of purchase right through their customer journey.

In this article, I’m going to share with you some of the unique and new initiatives I developed to ensure better alignment with customer success.  To make it real easy-to-follow, I’m gonna break it down into a few key talking points. 👇

Key talking points

  • Effective alignment: let’s get everyone on board
  • Getting CS in early
  • Ensuring a smooth transition
  • Finding that balance between cross-functional teams
  • Some practical tips

Effective alignment: let’s get everyone on board

It's super important for customer success to get involved early on in the sales cycle. Now, you can't do this for everyone, especially when you're trying to scale your organization. But, for larger accounts, we want to engage our customer success directors early on in the sales cycle.

For our smaller account, we have content created that the Account Executives (AEs) use when they first touch base with a customer.

I've had customers tell me they went with us over a different vendor because they truly felt like we were going to partner with someone throughout their entire journey. This means that, in the case of our competitor, the customer felt like they’d lost interest in them once they’d made the sale.

This is unacceptable.

First impressions are everything! And starting up with new software can be really overwhelming. That’s why, in our space, it’s more crucial than ever for customer success to be there as a guide to a new potential customer.

Getting customer success in early

The key here is really in the content. We have to create content that any AE can use at any point in time to say confidently to a new customer: this is what success is. Here's why we want to become your trusted advisor. That sounds great, right? But it’s important that a customer doesn’t just feel like you're using fluffy language to lull them in.

You have to get to know the customer’s potential pain points and be able to effectively address them. What is it that your product is offering? How will it benefit them?

Now, there’s a bit more of a challenge in ensuring a smooth handoff from the pre-sales to the post-sales process. At Onna, we have different triggers set in our systems as to when the customer success person will get involved in the presale cycle.

Right before a deal closes, the CS person is actually responsible for scheduling an internal onboarding call to ensure that all the data t is shared with the CS person.

The benefit of bringing in customer success early

You’ll be amazed at how much of a game-changer bringing CS in early can be! 🤯 It helps to build that trust with the customer throughout the customer lifecycle. In some cases, your customer is taking a big leap of faith. They want to know that there’s someone on the end to catch them if they stumble.

Ensuring a smooth transition

Change can be scary, but also really exciting! For our AEs, sometimes this can be super easy to handle with customers. It’s a little bit harder to ensure we’re setting up an internal handoff call for onboarding. Just because you’ve closed that deal doesn’t mean it’s all plain sailing from there! At Onna, we'll set up an internal onboarding call.

That's to ensure that all of the information that we have collected in the pre-sales process is shared with the success team. We want to make sure we've got an alignment on why a customer is originally purchasing, and what their ultimate goals are.

Nothing's gonna look worse for a customer! Imagine a bunch of people from different departments coming in and asking questions as if they haven’t been sharing information with each other. Pretty soon you can end up in a situation where the CS person had a great chat with the customer initially, but they’ve lost their potential prospect!

The customer needs to feel like we've listened to them, and that we know where they want to go. Also, going back to first impressions,

Finding that balance between cross-functional teams

it's so important to have those swim lanes between different departments! Think of them like swimmers: separate but synchronized. Everyone in the team knows that their colleagues are going to deal with the information you’ve handed them without you having to bug them too much!

And, more importantly, know where to go. At Onna, we spend a lot of time working on our onboarding content. When a customer joins, we can say: Okay, here’s your:

  • Customer success team
  • Your org chart
  • Here's your AE
  • Here's your renewal person, with their roles and responsibilities
  • Your tech support

Like the cross-functional work between your teams, the onboarding process moves like a well-oiled machine. And here you’ve handed them an instruction manual on how it all works!  That really helps alleviate any confusion externally.

Practical tips

Firstly, you need to find folks that want to play well in the sandbox. But they also need to be people that can handle a lot of pressure! It might sound like a frilly title, but, make no mistake, customer success is a hard job!

Secondly, we need to build out our empathy! If you can’t authentically empathize with a potential customer’s pain points, customers are going to pick up on that! They’re going to go elsewhere.

Finally, hire people that have grit, but also, hire people that can get along with anyone. You’re gonna meet customers that are difficult, and it’s important to coach your team to be able to deal with that.

Coach your team to find that common bond with everyone. Sometimes it’s those more demanding accounts that separate good CS from great CS. And with a great team behind you, you get to enjoy a shared sense of success with your team. Don’t just try to be a hero of the story, empower those that you work with!

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