Sales and marketing are a major focus in the early stages, but in the push for new customers, it can be all too easy to neglect the people keeping everything up: customer success engineers.
Article Source: Fast Company
Getting a new tech company off the ground is a difficult feat and inevitably involves a bit of building the plane as you fly. Sales and marketing are a major focus in the early stages, but in the push for new customers, it can be all too easy to neglect the people keeping everything up: customer success engineers.
Customer success engineers are responsible for implementing and deploying a product as well as serving as a coach during the implementation of technical solutions. Once a sale is made, it’s their role to engineer the customer experience.
With leadership teams laser focused on sales and revenue, customer success teams often take a backseat despite their foundational support to the rest of the business. Many companies have teams of skilled solutions engineers and CSEs but fail to provide the resources they need to do their job effectively.
Today’s customers have more vendor choices than ever before. In my opinion, any company that delivers a product or solution for an end user simply will not succeed without a well-trained team that properly understands and implements it, especially in tech.
There are three key pieces of an outstanding customer success team that are easy to overlook, but they can set your company miles apart from the competition in the long run.
In my experience, issues on the customer success team rarely originate there and are an indicator of issues elsewhere in the company. Lack of role clarity is a common pitfall for customer success engineers, who typically end up facing the consequences when misalignment in other business functions reaches the customer during implementation. As such, visibility and collaboration with product, sales, and marketing teams are crucial for cross-functional alignment.
Before you ask that your customer success engineers are aligned with the goals, vision, and long-term strategy, ask yourself if the business has them straight. Staying on the same page as the rest of the company from the beginning can help the team craft clearly defined customer success goals that support the company’s bottom line, but only with the rest of the pieces in place.
Customer success engineers should have a deep understanding of how the product works and is operationalized. In tech, where the product often requires an advanced skill set to understand, proper education is a make-or-break factor. Take the time and resources to ensure customer success engineers have the necessary skills, certifications, and training to know the solution inside and out.
On top of the technical background, customer success engineers should understand the value proposition and unique capabilities of the product. Without truly understanding how the product makes a difference for the customer compared to the competition, teams may struggle through the entire customer life cycle.
3. INTERNAL COMMUNICATION
When a customer is dissatisfied, the first person they’ll likely tell is their customer success manager, who will work with the solutions engineers and customer success engineers to address the problem. All too often, the flow of information stops there and issues on one customer team don’t make it to the others, depriving other departments of valuable feedback on the product.
In the same way, customer success teams should have visibility into the rest of the business, and the boots-on-the-ground insight from the customer teams should be disseminated to other departments. Make sure your customer teams have the proper channels, and more importantly, the emotional safety to share the good and the bad feedback without judgment. This is especially crucial in subscription-based solutions, where companies must continuously iterate to make sure customers renew annually. The customer success team should serve as a barometer for how useful a customer will find a new product or update and provide strategic input throughout development.
Despite the crucial role they play, I believe companies continue to underinvest in these necessary internal resources because they fail to recognize the role of customer success engineers as a growth function. A well-equipped customer success team can underpin the success of the entire business. With it, companies can reduce churn, expand contracts, improve development, and drive revenue. Without it, they may be in for a rough landing.
Kannan Kothandaraman is CEO and co-founder of Selector, the AIOps platform for operational intelligence.