The world of customer success has dramatically evolved in the last decade or so from a reactive function (typically “customer service”) to a proactive and strategic function that has become one of the most important roles in startups.
So how are they different? Let’s use a sporting analogy..
Think of the customer service team as the referee that is in charge of explaining the mechanics, rules and guidelines of the game.
Whereas the customer success team is the coach that teaches you how to think and manage the game strategy, helping you find opportunities and craft tactics to win.
The focus isn’t necessarily just on playing by the rules; it’s on the understanding of the nuances of the game, interactions with others and creating long-term winning game plans. Deep.
It’s also by all accounts a relatively non-competitive route into startups vs. some of the traditional buzzwordy strategy type roles:
Recurring thematic ideas across each of our conversations:
Customer success is the heartbeat of any startup and thus it makes you an integral part of the business.
The role is a dynamic and multi-functional, often needing to collaborate with various stakeholders and teams across the organisation in order to deliver value for the customer.
It is a really useful place to work out what other aspects of startups you like (and equally dislike) and subsequently use that as a platform to break into.
Anwesha, who has held customer success positions at healthtech startups HealthMatch and now, Eucalyptus shares what her day-to-day looks like:
“Depending on the size and stage of the company, customer success can be a very diverse role. For me, it has included operations (which included creating ops processes), customer support (and finding ways to make this scalable) and managing social media to assist growth."
She also shared some insights into how it’s helped her think about future roles:
“The really valuable part of CS, is that it’s the touchpoint of all different functions of a business (be it product management, marketing/growth, engineering). It is a great opportunity to work with a range of people, especially if you’re trying to figure out what you’re interested in. Understanding what it takes to build a successful product that customers love is an invaluable skill to build. I hope to use this to dive deeper into product management and marketing”
Next we spoke toJason, who recently jumped into product after a year in customer success at fintech Earnd, sharing some of his key learnings in customer success:
“You get to be the voice of the customer and feed back insights that no one in sales, marketing, product or tech have access to. Customer success done right involves adding value to the whole ecosystem, helping to inform the product roadmap from feedback and research, providing marketing with new use cases, capturing testimonials for sales, and of course resolving technical issues with engineering to provide users with the best possible product in the most frictionless way.”
He then touched on opportunities that can arise after working in customer success:
“Besides for the many learnings one can gain in customer success, it sets you up to become a key and sought after employee within the organisation. It was exactly these activities that allowed me to add value to our product and build cases for features focused on solving real user problems that spur an incredible user experience.”
Lastly we chatted to Maddy and got an insight into what customer success looks like at an early stage startup:
A day in customer success would consist of meetings with multiple customers, learning about what they need or want from our platform, and putting together a plan of attack regarding how we could get there. By hearing where these relevant use cases were, I'd interact with many different teams (product, engineering, design) to understand what could already be achieved, what was on our roadmap for the near future, and what was wishful thinking. So for these new customers, I'd be trying to put together a plan for how our product can fulfil a goal (with the help of seniors). In addition, we'd also interact with customers who typically love the product, or aren't finding as much use in it. For the former, we'd try to find ways to expand their use; by getting new users within their organisation, or finding new use cases for the product. For the latter type of customer, we'd try to help find a stronger and better use case for your product, so that we could continue serving them.
She also shared some thoughts around the benefits of joining customer success, which ended up being the launchpad into strategy & ops:
“Experience with customer success: when new employees join a startup, they're typically told to 'know the product inside out.' Customer success is the perfect way to achieve this quintessential goal. Not only are you learning about your product in a hands-on environment, but you're learning about what your customers want and need out of the product. This is essentially what keeps a business afloat; as soon as customers have no need for your product, or you can't fulfil their needs, they will stop using it. By understanding what features are desired or required by customers, you have a pretty solid foundation for forming the future strategy for your business. In addition, you develop a better understanding of what is operationally needed to reach those goals within the business.”
Did you know some of the most popular products and companies we know, including Slack, Twitter, Craigslist, Gmail and Trello, originally started as a side hustle. Before we dive in, just want to ensure we are aligned on lingo, side hustles come in many forms but are typically projects started outside of normal work hours. Okay, so most of you understand a side hustle. This is why the time is ripe now!
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