Customer Success software: The simple 3-step CS platform readiness checklist - Glide Consulting
Glide Consulting
Share the love...

Customer Success software: The simple 3-step CS platform readiness checklist

I spoke on this topic at the Customer Success Con in Berkeley, California. In this article, I will expand on the 3 things you should do before spending a cent on Customer Success software:

  1. Establish your People, Purpose and Process
  2. Shine a light on your bad data
  3. Build the business case for justifying the investment

Ask yourself: how much research would you do before spending $10,000? I’m sure you wouldn’t just jump in without doing some investigation.

Download your FREE Customer Success platform readiness worksheet and receive a BONUS article: ‘How to avoid a failed Customer Success platform implementation.’ Click here to download now.

Establish your People, Purpose and Process first

Everyone’s needs are different and, whilst amusing, telling you about the exact situations my clients have found themselves in, isn’t that helpful. As a consultant, I find the best approach to helping clients is to give them a proven framework and enable them to figure out the right solution for themselves. At Glide Consulting, we use the 4 Ps framework – People, Purpose, Process and Platform – to build high performance CS teams. The 4 Ps are approached in that order. That is, before you dive into solving the fourth P, Platform, you need to put a clear definition around each of the first three Ps: People, Purpose and Process.

customer success 1

“Find out the strengths of the people on your team”

People are usually aware of their strengths. If not, there are career personality and aptitude tests that can help to figure it out. I frequently use a tool called Clifton’s StrengthFinder® to make people aware of their talents and assign projects that give them the greatest chance to develop their potential.

Once, as VP, I was in charge of customer research questionnaires. After 10 hours of interviews, we had tons of data and I didn’t know the first place to start the analysis. I stalled. My thoughts were “I should know how to do this because it is all part of the game”. Eventually, I talked to my team and identified someone with a “Strategic” trait, whose was infinitely excited about the possibility of finding clarity within the complex dataset. She played to her strength, and I played to mine, using my “Maximizer” trait to support and develop her strategic aptitude through the project.

“There is more than one way to reach a solution and everyone must know which route they are taking”

customer success 2

The second P is one of my favorites because it stirs a lot of discussion. How do you feel about this next statement?


Let me clarify. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have both revenue and customer satisfaction, it just means that you can’t drive both.

The biggest problem in Customer Success is the lack of clarity around what the purpose of your organisation is. Is it to drive revenue, or customer satisfaction, for example? Imagine an onboarding team, whose sole purpose is to drive revenue. Now imagine that same group who are driven solely by satisfaction. What happens when you deliver exceptional user experience, regardless of how much time, effort and energy it takes? Revenue increases, as a by-product. The outcome may be the same, but the route taken will be different.

“Every level within the organization must align on Purpose”

customer success 3

For Customer Success to work, there needs to be alignment on Purpose at every level within the organisation: at the individual CSM level, the CS leadership level and the executive level. Everything hinges on Purpose. The people you hire need to be passionate about achieving it and your processes will be designed to support and fulfill it: look for energy, expertise and, more importantly, empathy towards the customers you serve.

The simple test is, for every Process, ask yourself “does that support and fulfill my purpose?” It’s a simple yes or no. Many times, my clients believe they have clarity on Purpose, but when we look at each Process, it just doesn’t line up. Test this theory out on a couple of your basic processes – how do your onboarding and NPS processes fare?

By putting clear definitions around the first 3 Ps, we have set ourselves up to take full advantage of the decisions concerning Platform. Don’t take shortcuts to get to this point. Believe me when I speak from experience: the estimate of investment required for your platform is not just the dollars spent. It is also the investment of your time and energy, that of your team, and of the rest of your organisation. If your People aren’t clear and committed on their Purpose and Process, then the Platform is not going to help. The platform is there to support, track and fulfill processes.

Shine light on your bad data – use a trial licence to test your use cases

No data is ever perfect but, because computers operate by logical processes, they will process unintended, even nonsensical, input data and generate undesired, often nonsensical, output. Garbage in, garbage out. Migrating existing data to new Customer Success software is typically just a case of taking data from one place and putting it into another. This simple process really shows up the flaws in your data.

“Interrogate your data with use cases”

customer success 4

Earlier on in my career, I was part of a CS team and we thought we were doing a pretty good job of generating reports and keeping data up-to-date. We decided to invest in Customer Success software and worked with a vendor who helped us configure reports and bring our data in. The results were horrific. The data made no sense and the vendor was not going to fix it: why should they? Ultimately, we had to restart our relationship with that vendor, six months down the line, once we had established control of our data.

To save time and protect relationships, map out how you are going to use the platform before you get into discussions with the vendor. Identify 5-10 use cases and go through each one. I highly recommend that you assign somebody on the team who is slightly more analytics focused and enjoys process, to run the project. Get them to think about the data they need for each use case and the desired outcome. Run the reports using your own data and see if the outcomes make sense.

For example, you may want an email to go to the CSM for an account, ninety days before the account’s renewal date. The email needs to be triggered from a date calculation and contain information about the account for the CSM to take action. You can run this case through a platform and instantly see any failure points. It could fall over because some accounts don’t have the renewal dates filled in, or the dates haven’t been updated from one year to the next. Going through each use case in advance will shine light on the bad data that needs fixing before you get close to the platform.

Questions are life, pitches are deathBuild the business case to justify the investment

You will run into difficulties if you try to justify an investment with a product pitch or talking about what you want. Put yourselves in the shoes of the people who will make the purchase decision and understand that different people value things in different ways. Learn from salespeople who solution sell and be a great Customer Success Manager by putting the needs of other people before yourself.

“Getting investment is not about you. Put yourself in the shoes of the decision makers”

customer success 5

Start by identifying each person involved in the purchase decision and ask them questions, ideally before you approach the vendor. Find out what is important to each person and what influences their decision:

  • Is it the effect the Customer Success software will have on retention rate (CEO)?
  • … or is it how much time and effort the integration will need (VP of Sales)?
  • … or what the return on investment is (CFO)?
  • Does one person hold more weight than the other?
  • Are there numerous stages to the decision process?
  • Does someone have ultimate veto?

Remember that building a business case is about the people holding the purse strings, not you. Ask open ended questions, such as:

  • What is important to you?
  • What would you like to see in 6-12 months?
  • What would it take for you to feel comfortable with this decision?

Knowing the answers to these questions before you approach a vendor will help channel the process towards an outcome that is more likely to have financial backing and result in a positive outcome for everyone involved.

Download your FREE Customer Success platform readiness worksheet and receive a BONUS article: ‘How to avoid a failed Customer Success platform implementation.’ Click here to download now.

Share This