Retention and revenue from your customers are critical components for a SaaS company. To achieve these, they need to learn how to employ a strategy that works well in relationships effectively. And this is where Customer Success comes in. In this episode of SaaS Story in the Making, host and SaaS Coach Matt Wolach sits with Firaas Rashid, founder, and CEO of Hook. Rashid shared his expertise, experiences, and advice on how startups can build their CS teams. And how it can be leveraged to drive long-term benefits.
Podcast: SaaS-Story in the Making
Episode: Episode No. 207, “How to Build Your Customer Success Team that Drives Long Term Growth”
Host: Matt Wolach, a B2B SaaS sales coach, Entrepreneur, and Investor
Guest: Firaas Rashid, Founder and CEO of Hook
TOP TIPS FROM THIS EPISODE
Hire Your First CS Person as Early as You Can
Customer success is a relatively new concept with still an undefined structure. But the goal is clear– your customers’ success leads to your success. When it comes to SaaS companies, customer retention, engagement, and success are essential to achieving their revenue goals–the areas that CS can help with. But if it focuses on building relationships, should you hire a team for it as a startup?
The answer is yes. Rashid said, “you should get in as soon as you start thinking about going to market.” Because the idea is to learn how you would keep your customers before having them and learning to hold them this way increases your chances of retention and success. Eventually, the CS team would shift responsibilities. But by that time, you have created an exemplary process that only needs to keep going.
Choose Industry Experience Over CS Experience
The pandemic has “driven massive digital transformation that accelerated SaaS.” More and more companies are investing in the industry, and it has become more accessible for people to jump into new platforms. The good thing is that this calls for higher demand for CS managers. However, the industry has been in a talent shortage for some time now. Despite that, businesses are still looking to build a good team. And this calls for repositioning how founders view CS managers.
Rashid reminded SaaS companies that they are selling a “platform to deliver business value.” To find the right people to hire, step away from looking at their customer success, expertise, or experience. Instead, “find people that have experience in the industry that you’re selling to.” CS experience indeed helps a lot in knowing the intricacies of the job. But since it is centered around building relationships, they should be able to understand the industry and its market.
Rashid gave recommendations on finding the right CS managers to onboard and build your team. First, “look inside the companies that you’re selling to. And look at those types of people trying to do those jobs, and figure out how you can get some of those people.” Get to know your market and learn how you can pull them. And another is to provide your team with the right tools and data to do their job well. Having The right people equipped with the right tools makes them efficient. CS managers should not be only seen as a product when they want to retain customers. Instead, they should be part of the entire process of building it.
Develop a Process Around Their Training
Ideally, when you have a CS team built without experience, training them can be tricky. You might think their expertise is in the industry and not the process, which will need you to train them on an existing process that you started.
However, Rashid believes the contrary. He advised that, instead of focusing on the process of CS, these people should spend more time interacting with customers. Because in starting to build these relationships, they will “naturally start to figure out the bottlenecks that become a problem within customers.” And from there, you can start building a process. This way, you’re more confident that it would work since it was built along with their experiences. And also provide you with good process training in the long run.
Focus on Two Metrics
Success metrics are important quantifiable measurements to see whether or not your strategies are working well. And it varies depending on your company’s nature, needs, and goals. To find the right metrics, Rashid defined CS first, “customer success is about the gap between the purchase order and buying a product and the value that a customer gets out of it.” And to efficiently work along the lines of this purpose, he suggests finding one or two metrics that can serve as your leading indicators. When it works well, take ownership of it. And it leads your CS team to be credible.
Customer Success Teams Sell Too
The CS team should learn about building relationships and all the aspects that come along in the process. To do this effectively, they should have adequate training in the technical and emotional factors.
Rashid eyes at several aspects that businesses lack when it comes to CS training. First, product training. Knowing much about the industry is great to see the market and a good foundation for building relationships. But they should also learn the technicalities and value of the product they are talking about. This way, they can empathize with their customers more and build their credibility.
Along with this is learning how to write effective emails. They should be able to attract and negotiate with customers effectively. And delivering a well-constructed email–that they will indeed read– is a tricky yet essential factor.
Another aspect is the separation of CS from the sales team when it comes to emotional and soft training. He emphasized that, in practice, CS teams sell too– “we have to sell the value of our product, we have to sell what the company is doing for them, we have to sell our stakeholders internally into them.” And to strengthen this, CS teams should also be provided with a training path leaned to the emotional side. This way, they can be prepared to deal with demanding customers and be more effective in getting them on board.
The CS team needs to have sales training. They may not be selling, but the process of building relationships and credibility requires these emotional and soft skills offered in sales.
Founders are susceptible to mistakes in running their business. But aside from looking at the negative things where they learned lessons. They also have made a lot of good moves that get them to where they are now. And Rashid shared their best actions to help founders get ahead of the game.
First, focus on the product vision. The goal was to create a CS platform that did all the work in their case. And so, they built it that way which meant they ingested every data there was to allow the product to work for itself. Because that is also what their market is looking at, it became successful.
Another is considering customer feedback. When your product is out, users often have questions on how some things work, or they might find it hard to navigate. Founders should always listen to these inputs to help develop the product itself. Not only would it make your customers understand how it works. But allow you to improve your product the best it can and according to their liking.
And lastly, invest in branding. As Rashid describes what they did, “we need to look like a company that people want to work for.” Your branding shows the company’s character and a glimpse of your culture. Curate your website, polish your image, and make people see you as someone they can trust. You will never have to worry about recruitment and driving prospects to your inbox.
[05:40] “So the most important thing to think about is not so much on people with customer success experience. But how do you go and find people that have experience in the industry that you’re selling to.”
[08:12] “It’s more important for the successful customer success person to spend time with their customers than it is for them to follow a specific process in the early days.”
[09:41] “One of the key things that you want to do as a customer success manager is to turn around difficult accounts to attract new users; to build relationships with new champions.”
[12:20] “Customer success is about the gap between the purchase order and buying a product and the value that a customer gets out of it.”
[10:16] “The CS team never really gets that same training [as sales], even though they absolutely need those capabilities. They absolutely need all of that, because in some senses, CS teams sell and, and they’re trying to not only renew but upsell in many companies.”
[16:12] “You’ve got to be able to hold on to your customers. If you’re not thinking about how to hold on to them, before you even have them, then you’ve got problems.”
[20:26] “When you have a great employee who’s looking at a few different options, you want to make sure that they feel like they can believe in the product; they can believe in the team; they can believe in the brand and something they’ll be proud of being a part of.”
To learn more about Firaas Rashid and Hook, visit: https://hook.co/
You can also find Firaas Rashid on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/firaasrashid/
For more about how host Matt Wolach helps software companies achieve maximum growth, visit https://mattwolach.com/.