How to Make (and Keep) Your Customers Happy with Brianna Salinas
Brianna Salinas knows a thing or two about customer success. As a former Senior Director of Customer Success and Operations at LeadGenius, she created a success process that grew relationships with Google, Box, Zenefits and over 100 other clients, helping the company to scale revenue through two funding rounds.
Brianna was kind enough to come onboard for SalesCollider’s Revenue Roadmap Workshop held last month in Singapore. She offered our founders some valuable onboarding and retention strategies for their customers.
“So, customers give you money,” Brianna began her presentation, asking, “Now what do you do? What happens next?”
Closing the deal, after all, is only half the battle. In order for your company to truly thrive, you need to keep your customers happy and engaged. Achieve those, and you’re on the right path to renewed contracts, client referrals and, ultimately, growth.
Exceeding Customer Expectations
A strong Customer Success operation will have practices in place that begin on day one of a contract. Engaging the customer by reaffirming their choice to work with your company will help to build rapport as onboarding begins.
“A welcome email is a very minimal thing that you can automate and get sent out as soon as they’ve paid,” Brianna says.
She also advises that, because customers will be excited to start using the product asap, it’s helpful to provide them with some direction on how to begin on their own. A welcome call or an email is usually sent from a Customer Success person within 24 hours. Onboarding sessions are frequently scheduled a few days after a contract has been signed. Why wait more than a day to give your customers immediate engagement from your team?
“That’s a long time when they’ve just paid you and want to start learning,” she says, suggesting that founders “Direct them toward videos, blog posts, and other things that they can look at to get positive affirmation back, to feel that signing up with this company was a good idea.”
She adds that a welcome email and some technical direction, however, are the bare minimum of what you should deliver to your new customers. You may want to raise the bar a bit by sending a thank you note to the buyer or a welcome gift to the team. Additionally, having the buyer’s counterparts from your team connect and welcome them can be very powerful. For example, if your buyer/influencer/decision maker is the VP of Marketing, your own Head of Marketing would reach out to be a resource.
“Little things mean a lot, and connecting with more than one person is valuable, especially when you’re working with growing companies, with an enterprise or anyone giving you a lot of money or trust,” she says.
Involve the Whole Team
Many startups don’t have a customer success team, particularly in the early stages of business. Usually, the founders, salespeople and other members of the initial team will be the ones checking in with customers. Start laying the foundation for your first customer success hire early by building relationships, tracking engagement, and creating a regular feedback loop from your customers to all team members.
Even if you do have a Customer Success team, you don’t want your salespeople to simply hand their clients off and move on as soon as the contract has been signed. It’s important that the sales team stays involved with the customer to ensure success.
Why? Because the buyer already trusts them.
“The salesperson has built up a relationship with the customer over a period of time, often weeks or months,” she says, “It takes time for them to feel comfortable with a new point of contact, and continued touch points with someone that they’ve already built a strong relationship with is one of the best ways to ease the transition.”
Brianna suggests that the seller who closed the deal checks in with the client at least once per quarter without the Customer Success Manager present.
“Oftentimes, they’ll tell the salesperson something that they haven’t told the CSM yet,” she explains, “They’ll say, ‘Oh this is going great except I thought that x would happen and it hasn’t happened yet.”
She also recommends that engineers be present in client meetings from time to time. We know, it’s tough to drag ‘em away from their computers, but when a customer is really excited (or upset) about a product or feature they’ve been working on, it’s helpful for them to hear it directly.
“It’s valuable for them to see what people are saying and how their work affects your customers,” Brianna says, “They don’t have to talk, they don’t have to do anything, just be there and hear what the customer is saying.”
Often, engineers will have questions for the customers and will also use the feedback in their own discussions around product improvement.
Segment Customers by Engagement
As your client roster grows, you’ll find that your customer base engages with the product in different ways. Some customers will think that your product is the most exciting thing to ever hit the market, using it on a daily basis, and eagerly giving feedback to anyone on your team that will listen. Others might be discouraged by the set-up process and leave your product mostly untouched despite your repeated engagement emails and calls.
Each of these customers can teach you something about your product, your buyer and your sales and success process. Unfortunately, though, they all require a different type of attention.
Your “power users”, as Brianna refers to them, are the people you can’t get off the phone. They’re avid users of your product and frequently send unsolicited feedback. They may ask a lot of questions and require a lot of support, but you can count on them sticking around and being a part of each beta release you have.
Although power users are a great asset, Brianna warns against exclusively catering your business toward them. They may, for example, want you to add features that they need but might not be applicable to your wider client base. “It’s really easy to get sucked into their excitement and want to build for them,” she says, “But make sure to prioritize features based on your client base and market, and not on who talks the loudest.”
At the same time, it’s likely that you’ll also have customers that never call you.
These customers fall into two categories: average users (who use the product but don’t actively reach out or engage) and reluctant users (who either don’t like it or have bumped you down on their list of priorities).
It’s the average user group that Brianna says founders should really be concerned with. “A common mistake that people make with this group is assuming that they’re happy,” she says, “They’re not writing into support all of the time, not asking for a lot of things…so they must be happy.”
What often happens, however, is that companies find their average users leaving come renewal time. It’s important to stay engaged with them by figuring out their priorities and aligning with them while also interacting with them in the way that they prefer. “You don’t want to fall into the trap of not knowing, thinking everything is great and then having unexpected churn.”
Track Your Feedback and Measure Your Success
How do you know if your Customer Success team is doing well? It’s important to keep metrics on CS, the same way you track Sales metrics. Your expansion rate (how much your accounts are growing), renewal rate and churn rate (both how many clients are leaving and how much money they’re taking with them) are minimum metrics that need to be tracked.
Once you’re measuring those metrics regularly, you can track cohort reviews (what groups of customers do when they join and how that changes with new groups), churn and expansion by segments of your customer base as well as customer engagement across your team.
Additionally, Brianna encourages founders to track Net Promoter Scores (NPS). She advises the audience to “send out a survey once per quarter and ask, ‘On a scale of one-through-ten, how likely are you to recommend my product or service to a friend or colleague?”
It’s a simple way to get a baseline for feedback and it’s a metric that’s easy for everyone on your team to understand. “Sending it out regularly will allow you to collect information over time,” she says, “It’s one way to track whether you’re moving in a positive direction. Until you have a baseline to compare it to, you can’t gauge if the changes you’re making are having an effect or not.”
Ultimately, Customer Success is all about making sure that you and your client are on the right path--that they’re engaging with the product in a meaningful way, that you’re using their feedback to build a product they love and that you’re supporting them as they strive to hit their goals and objectives. By building strong relationships, encouraging direct feedback and consistently providing value, you’ll establish a reputation for being a company that clients love to work with.