In the early days of a startup, there are many competing priorities for which positions should be added and why. There’s the product: you need to build a great product that you can sell and renew. There’s sales: in order to make money and scale growth. There’s marketing: in order to get your brand out and fill the funnel with leads for sales, you need compelling content and a go-to-market strategy. Of course, there’s also HR, finance, administration, and a plethora of other roles that are considered. You need someone to help make hires, pay employees, pay taxes and file paperwork, and the list goes on.
Does this sound all too familiar to your company?
When is the Best Time to Hire Customer Success?
What about your first customer success hire?
Perhaps your startup is going through the process of planning out your hires now, and it’s never easy to determine which roles are most important to the business at any given time.
But we’d like to make a case for why a Customer Success Manager (CSM) should be one of your first early hires.
4 Reason Why a CSM Should be an Early SaaS Startup Hire
1. A CSM Will Help Validate the Product
Customer Success Managers (CSMs) build incredibly strong relationships with customers – especially in the early days when things aren’t always smooth. CSMs build a rapport and trust that surpasses surface level conversation and extends into the nitty gritty of how the customer really feels about the product, what he or she would change, and how it has helped (or not) their business. The CSM is the first call when there’s a big win and they’re also the first call (sometimes in the middle of the night or on the weekend) when things go wrong.
Because of this level of transparency and trust, the CSM is able to ask probing questions that could make the customer uncomfortable if it were to come from another individual in the company. For example, if a developer were to ask the client what he or she thinks about a specific feature, the customer may be hesitant to respond with complete honesty.
2. A CSM Will Ensure Customers Are Successful – And Renew
What’s the good of winning all sorts of new customers only to lose them months later because they weren’t successful, or weren’t given proper attention? The role of the sales team is to win new accounts. While sometimes sales reps are asked to look after existing customer accounts, it’s never their primary focus (and arguably, it shouldn’t be!)
A CSM’s role within a startup is to not only work with the customer to achieve their goals and help to win the renewal, but the CSM is expected to do a lot of blocking and tackling in the early days. The CSM is truly the customer’s advocate and will go to great lengths to ensure the customer’s success in the short term, and in the long term, too. Without the role of the CSM with early customers, who will make sure they’re successful, and also answer questions and get their hands dirty helping the customer solve any problems they may encounter?
3. A CSM Will Ask Questions to Help Define Future Roadmap
How do you know how your product or service should evolve in the future? What is driving the decisions for your product team, user interface, and more? Running surveys or focus groups should only be part of the equation. Your customers are a wealth of knowledge, and most of them want to talk about their experience with your product or service, as well as how they would like to see your offerings evolve in the future. What integrations could they use? How do they use reporting functionality? What processes in your product or service could be eliminated?
Your customers are in your product (hopefully) every day, or are using your service on a regular basis. Your CSM, whom has a trusted and transparent relationship with customers, can guide the conversation and ask for feedback on product strategy and roadmap. Of course it’s helpful to have a member of the product team present in the conversation, the CSM knows the customer in a way that he or she can ask questions differently based on each unique customer experience.
4. A CSM Will Work Cross-Functionally Across All Teams
Perhaps more than any other role across the company, the CSM has to be able to work with every single department, from marketing to sales to product to services to finance and the list goes on. All departments ultimately impact the customer, and the CSM is essentially in the middle. Because of the CSM’s unique position in the company, they are poised to work across all functions in order to make the customer successful, whereas other departments may not have the same cross-functional experience. This ability to work across all departments to get things done and to move the customer forward allows other departments to focus on their own roles, knowing that the CSM will come to them whenever there’s a customer need.
The Power of Customer Success at Early Startup Stage
Dave Duke, VP of Customer Success at Sigstr, shared that, “I think what’s exciting about starting a company from scratch is there’s an opportunity to make customer success really foundational to the culture and business strategy as a whole. For example, if you want to earn the right to grow a customer relationship, you have to cater to that wave of first customers in a pretty special way. Need to realize the importance of treating them well and creating a good experience. Those early learnings will be the difference between success and not being successful, due to the nature of startups in general.”
Is Your Startup Ready to Hire a CSM?
Has your startup begun having conversations about your next hires? What are the goals for your company in the next year, and how do customers play a role in that goal? Hopefully the focus is directed towards making customers successful and finding a great product market fit. If that’s the case, then hiring a CSM early on in your startup’s journey will not only help your product, sales, and marketing teams be successful, but you’ll create lasting relationships with early customers that could define the trajectory of your company for years to come.
Check out our resources below for more customer success best practices and insights for how your organization can approach customer success with the customer at the center:
Learn more about how ClientSuccess can help your company develop a strong Customer Success methodology and strategy with easy-to-use customer success software by requesting a 30-minute demo.