With over 130,000 customers, Freshworks has seen phenomenal growth since its launch in 2010. As Freshworks continues to add clients at a blistering pace, it's also focused on driving long-term value through customer satisfaction and retention.
We sat down with Vipin Thomas, Manager, Customer Success at Freshservice, to learn more.
How did you start in Customer Success?
I've always been in customer-facing roles throughout my career.
I started off with support, pre-sales, implementation, and key account management. In some form or fashion, I was always doing Customer Success in an unstructured manner.
In the early days, it was mostly reactive. We didn't have a defined structure, tools or framework for proactive Customer Success that we have today.
My first Customer Success Manager role was in 2011 with MangoApps, a pioneer of the Enterprise Social Network. It was a new kind of technology at the time, and the benefits weren't inherently obvious to users right away. Many customers would onboard on their own, play around with the tool, but wouldn't fully adopt it.
That's when we realized the importance of a dedicated role to continuously educate customers on how to derive value from the tool — what we call Customer Success today.
What are some of the traits and characteristics of a great CSM?
Customer Success Management is a multifaceted role.
An ideal CSM has the relationship instincts of a salesperson, the product knowledge of a product manager, the operational skills of a support analyst, the creativity of a marketer, and the mindset of a consultant digging into customer needs and coming up with value-added solutions.
In short, a great CSM is someone who helps guide customers toward successful outcomes that they might not otherwise have reached on their own.
How do you manage such a large customer base?
We segment our customers based on lifecycle stage and demographics (MRR, employee size, health score, products, geography, etc.). Broadly, they fall into the following segments:
High-Touch — These are high-value customers both in terms of MRR and employee size. The CSMs are expected to build strong relationships with this group.
Mid-Touch — These are major contributors to the business; keep them satisfied.
Tech-Touch — These customers are usually very low in MRR & employee size. They are typically self-serve, and need to be provided with the required self-serve resources at the right time.
Furthermore, each of the above categories are segmented into lifecycle stages:
Each of these segments/stages have different playbooks that enable CSMs to be proactive and achieve the right outcomes for the customer.
Why is employee size important?
Large accounts often start as a small team of users. The overall MRR may not be significant at first, but the potential for growth may be huge. In these cases, we know that by investing CSM resources there's a good chance we can bring other teams from that organization onboard.
So, we don't want to miss out on the potential for expansion. But we also want to identify prominent brands early, because these can also be valuable to sales and marketing from a reference and advocacy standpoint.
How do you manage Customer Success operations?
One of the ways we've made life simpler for our CSMs is by bringing together customer data from all of our different apps and internal systems. These include our financial portal, support ticketing, CRM, product usage, NPS, and so on. We've integrated all of this customer data with Natero so that our CSMs have a single place to find the information they need about their accounts.
We've also mapped out our engagement framework, which defines what CSMs should be doing at various stages of our customer lifecycle. All of these touchpoints are part of workflows in Natero, which helps us track and measure our efforts.
For our tech-touch accounts, we utilize a lot of automation to target the right customer at the right time. Some of the triggers that we have in Natero are very proactive. For example, we automatically trigger emails from our CSMs if their accounts have reached a particular milestone, have a drop in MRR, usage, or activity.
We have also created custom dashboards using Natero's APIs that display the current status of metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) of the team. This keeps the leadership team up-to-date and enables the Customer Success teams to get real-time visibility into performance so they can plan accordingly.
Looking ahead, where do you plan to focus on in the future?
Our world-class customer experience is a high priority for all of our products, and it's something we'll continue to focus even more in 2018.
The top 3 areas of focus would be:
- Scale retention, growth & advocacy — Scale based on better user intelligence data, smarter process & technologies rather than increasing headcount.
- Optimize customer lifecycle — Have multiple personalized and value-added touch points throughout the customer journey.
- Cross-department alignment — Customer Success is a relatively new function. Lot of the things we do overlap with many different teams, like sales, product, and marketing teams. So, it's important that we evangelize Customer Success within the organization to make sure we have the right alignment with other teams.
Vipin Thomas is a Customer Success professional with over 12 years of experience in B2B SaaS. Vipin is the Manager, Customer Success for Freshservice, part of the Freshworks family of cloud-based business software, including: Freshdesk, Freshservice, Freshsales, Freshcaller, Freshteam, Freshchat and Freshmarketer.