No one in a SaaS company has more interaction with the existing customer base than Customer Success Managers (CSMs). CSMs have the best understanding of how the product is used, and have the greatest insight into customers’ needs and desires.
It’s essential that Customer Success (CS) and Product Management communicate effectively, and that input from CS is included in roadmap discussions. Even though Customer Success and Product Management know that they need to communicate, they often don’t have a common language.
Customer Success Managers vs. Product Managers
Customer Success Managers exist in a relationship-driven world, which includes a lot of qualitative interactions with customers. They hear frustrated voices over the phone, and see first-hand how individuals are making the most out of their product.
Product Managers (PMs), on the other hand, live in a quantitative world — they are trained to think with data. PMs have to justify tough decisions about where to dedicate very limited engineering resources in order to maximize revenue. They are busy dealing with big accounts, working on long term positioning and trying to think as strategically as possible.
As a result, PMs often view CSM feedback as anecdotal — CSMs are simply regurgitating what the last customer said. This doesn't rise to the priority level where PMs feel compelled to dedicate resources or disrupt their upcoming pipeline. CSMs often have a sense that certain issues go beyond that frustrating call this morning, but without an analytics solution they lack data to showcase the issue.
In order to convince PM that a requirement is broader than a few customers, CSMs need to get data-driven themselves. CSMs need to turn subjective experiences into reports based on customer data.
Holistic Customer Data
Although PMs have access to product usage data, a full picture of customer concerns usually goes beyond that. To prove a problem, you often need to integrate information from a support ticketing or a CRM with product usage data.
That’s where new tools for Customer Success can help. Customer Success software like Natero combine usage behavior with all of your customer touch points, allowing you to explore your data by all of these aspects, from ticketing data to customer attributes like industry, size, stage and more.
This allows you to analyze a comprehensive picture of customer behavior, and provides you with the data you need to convince PM. For example, imagine a scenario where a certain feature isn’t considered very valuable by PM, and making changes to that feature is a low priority. As a CSM, you may be experiencing complaints from a few small customers.
How do you convince product management that this is worth the resource investment to fix it?
You can explore which other accounts use that feature, as well as how often, and show that a group of strategic accounts consistently use the feature in question.
Since business from these accounts has a larger effect on the company’s bottom line, and the accounts have significant strategic value, you can use this data to persuade PM to focus on enhancing this feature.
Now, Customer Success and Product Management have a common language they can communicate with. Customer Success can show Product Management the impact of a new release to the onboarding process. Or that a feature update resulted in less usage of that feature and more tickets against it.
This new found, data-driven communication helps everyone focus on improving the product, the customer experience, and ultimately the bottom line.