Dear Growth Molecules: How Do I Drive Revenue Retention With Fewer Resources?
By: Sabina Pons
Leaders across customer-facing departments like customer success, customer support, professional services, customer enablement, and account management, are continually looking to leverage strategies to achieve great revenue retention performance. However, when global economic conditions become shaky, and teams are expected to do more with less, how is it possible to provide a customer experience that results in a 90 percent or more gross dollar renewal rate? Keep reading to learn ways that people, processes, and systems can be refined to enable maximized revenue retention with fewer resources.
The Right Team
As you may be challenged with a hiring freeze, or perhaps you have to select employees for a reduction in force activity, try to see the silver lining: it gives you a chance to ensure that you have the right players, in the right posts, primed with the skills and outputs for optimal productivity. Making decisions that impact your team’s well-being is uncomfortable and emotionally taxing, however that comes with the territory of managing teams. Take the circumstances at hand to ensure that you have the right team. Leverage a competency or skill/will model to guide you. If you need to make adjustments, have the courage to do so – it will benefit your customers, your team, and the individual employee who can potentially thrive in another environment.
Once you have the best suited Customer Success Managers (CSMs), Support Representatives, Account Managers etc., take the time for a calibration exercise. Ensure that they are all aligned on the crucial mission: to protect and grow revenue. Once they are clear on the business strategy, then ensure that your team is empowered with the right tools for accuracy, customer segmentation for scale, and processes for efficiency.
The Right Processes
Functional and repeatable processes are crucial to scaling customer success. Doing so helps a company keep its operations running smoothly and can also help minimize manual work and increase efficiency. Similarly to the aforementioned personnel audit, do the same with your processes: Gather inputs from a cross-section of the roles on your team to document the current state process flows. This exercise should encompass key aspects of the department’s day-to-day responsibilities for both the internal standard operating procedures (e.g. new account assignments) as well as external procedures related to customer interactions (e.g. customer kickoff calls).
Once you have the inputs from your team, the opportunities for enhancements will become evident. Another interesting byproduct of this process assessment is that it will illuminate gaps in understanding from the various vantage points of the team. For example, CSM tenure or a CSM’s employee onboarding experience may impact their understanding of the steps that they are to take to initiate a quarterly business review (in fact, the CSM may not even be aware that they are supposed to do quarterly reviews with their customers!). Therefore, leverage this new information to document the new processes with scale, efficiency, and customer centricity in mind. An ideal format is a customer success playbook that is stored in a centralized location for ongoing iteration. This playbook should also be operationalized in a customer success automation platform.
The Right Technology
There are a variety of tools and technologies that can help you scale your customer success organization. However, having too many tools, and some that provide little to no impact, can be worse than operating only out of spreadsheets (no offense for you who are still in this normal rite-of-passage stage). From my own experience, CS teams have anywhere between five and 15 unique software products that they are running in their day-to-day operations. Admittedly, that seems few compared to the enterprise companies that have over 200 applications in their technology stack. However, even five applications feels too heavy for the role of a CSM.
As technological developments have become more swift, and robust, innovation abounds. It reminds me of Apple, Inc. 2010 trademarked catchphrase “There’s an app for that.” There are apps for onboarding, sending client surveys; tools exist to automate contract renewals and send client gifts. Most leaders fail to realize that these tools for “efficiency” are often resulting in administrative bloat that ultimately prevents a CSM from spending more time with customers. For example, at a previous company, my CSMs were using over eleven disparate systems to perform their jobs. Tool consolidation not only streamlined team efficiency, but it also drove cost savings.
We are all striving to be efficient in our quest for productivity and profitability. I recommend creating space to pause and reflect on your people, processes, and systems. It is a worthwhile step to maximizing outputs, while also nurturing your team’s growth.