Customer Success and Product

Some liken their relationship to a marriage.  And, like any good dance or marriage, when they are working in harmony, communicating effectively, and growing together, it can be a match made in heaven. But when that doesn’t happen and the relationship breaks down, the consequences can be disastrous—both for the company and the client (the real victim when the Customer Success / Product marriage falls apart).

To that end, this blog post focuses on some key tips to strengthen the relationship between Customer Success and Product Teams, and all the groups in an organization who support them.

Overcommunicate Internally

For your Customer Success and Product Teams to succeed it’s critical not only that they communicate, but overcommunicate.

Ensuring that Product (and the teams that represent the voice of Product) communicates with Customer Success (and vice versa) consistently and effectively is imperative to a successful relationship. This communication ensures that clients receive the most accurate, up-to-date and credible information.  Just as importantly, it drives efficiency. It can also help prevent those situations we all dread, for example, being blindsided by an unexpected product release or wasting time chasing a Product Owner to decipher why a feature isn’t working as expected. 

Fortunately, there some ways to ensure that Customer Success and Product Teams are communicating properly:

  • Create one central location where Customer Success can gain visibility into:
    • Features being released
    • Dates of release
    • Status of feature (is it in Beta? Can clients test it?)
    • Pre-requisites
    • Links to supporting documentation
    • The proper internal contact for any questions 
    • How to enable clients for features
    • Pricing
    • Legal / Contractual implications (if any)
  • Assign Product Owners 
    • Ensure Customer Success team members understand who to contact when they have questions about a piece of functionality
    • Assign SMEs in Customer Success that are responsible for working closely with Product Owners on specific areas of the platform
  • Use Slack / Skype / Teams Channels
    • When carefully managed and curated, a communication channel dedicated to the new product release can be a great way to quickly gather feedback, ask questions and share knowledge. At the same time, be careful not to create a dumping ground of comments if using this approach.
  • Regular Release Meetings
    • Dependent upon your company’s solution, product releases will happen at different times. Regardless of timing, a regular and consistently formatted Release Meeting ensures that other teams are aware of what is coming, and when
    • Be clear on the value proposition for each feature and where it is applicable for clients, ask the question of why this feature will impact clients positively

Overcommunicate Externally

The need to overcommunicate is not just limited to Internal team members—it applies externally as well.  Customers always want to know “what’s coming next.” They want to understand that their solution of choice is innovating, staying ahead of their competitors and ultimately working to increase the customer’s ROI in the product. While it is imperative that teams internally are in constant communication, it is equally important that our clients themselves are communicated with effectively.  Below are a few thoughts on how to do so. 

  • Create a Client Community for your Product
    • Build a robust client Community platform where Product Release updates can be posted centrally
    • Provide clients with a method where they are automatically alerted when new Product Updates are available
    • Allow clients to post questions, provide feedback, and discuss Product features directly within one platform
  • Educate
    • Ensure training and educational materials are available to support the use of new Product Features before the features are released
  • Regular Calls / Webinars
    • Invite clients to regular Product Update Calls and Webinars
  • Create a consistent Roadmap
    • Create a product roadmap that is regularly updated and adjusted as features are released and developed
    • Be honest with dates and manage timeline expectations carefully
  • I repeat: Be honest
    • Release dates will slip, bugs will happen. Overcommunicate on those gaps so clients are aware and can adequately prepare.

Listen to your Clients

Now that you’ve overcommunicated with your clients, the next step is actually listening to and implementing the feedback you’ve received.  You can do so in the following ways.

  • Create a Customer Product Advisory Board
    • Create an Advisory Board for clients to provide Product Feedback and help shape the Roadmap. Here is a great post from Gainsight about creating a successful Product Advisory Board.
  • Gather Feedback from end-users
    • Ensure that you gather Product feedback, not just from your main contacts, but also from the end-users themselves (if applicable). Some methods include interviews, NPS surveys, and direct calls.
  • Leverage your Client Community Platform
    • Create an easy way for clients to provide Product Feedback 
    • Monitor that feedback carefully and quickly address any issues that arise.

According to Gainsight, 72.8% of Customer Success Managers work in the Software and IT industry. In general, Software and IT products innovate constantly to stay competitive. New product features are being developed around the clock, clients are asking for more and the pace at which it is done, is getting faster. To that end, we need to ensure that the relationship and strength between Customer Success and Product teams is a priority for any organization.

Laura Arnault is a writer for the Chicago Customer Success Podcast. She is currently a Customer Success Director at Seismic Software.


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