January 6th, 2016 | by
3 min read

Turning the corner from “account management” to “customer success” is a formidable challenge. Furthermore, how do you do so in a high-growth organization operating at a bullet train’s pace, without sacrificing employee morale, and more importantly, customer satisfaction?

First of all, let me clarify what I mean by transitioning to customer success from account management. Primarily, I mean a mindset shift from “us” to “them.”

Unlike traditional account management, a Customer Success team realizes – first and foremost – that it must EARN the right to grow alongside its Customer (and yes, that’s with a capital “C”).

Value must be added at each touchpoint to become a part of the Customer’s long-term plan.

At DiscoverOrg, we decided to make this shift in 2015, and I was given the opportunity to lead our team through the transition. Like any scaling company, we’ve had some bumps along the way, but a few strategies have proven successful time and time again:

Divide and Conquer

Specialized labor is not a new idea, but it’s still easy to lose sight of its importance when there’s a lot going on in the workplace. We took stock of the various imperatives we faced: adoption, consumption, ROI, retention – and clarified the roles within the team for each. For example, previously our Onboarding team spent only the first 90 days with a new Customer, after which point the account manager owned the entirety of the relationship, including ongoing training. We replaced this with an Education Services team that will own onboarding and training throughout the Customer life cycle.

This allows us to better serve our Customers on both fronts, with user learning falling under the purview of Education, while Customer Success Managers (CSMs) focus their efforts on account management and growth opportunities. Also, this change means less “passing around” from the Customer’s viewpoint. Win-win.

Respect Diversity

An offshoot of high-growth involves the reality that, wow, we have a LOT of Customers to manage. And in the same breath, we recognize that the bigger the company gets, the more diverse our Customer base will become.

After a thoughtful and deliberate segmentation analysis, we further divided our Customer Success Managers into cohorts. We realized that we needed to respect the individual needs of each client – what’s good for our Fortune 5000 accounts with a multi-national presence is vastly different than what’s needed by the boutique, regional firms. Again, it’s all about earning the right to grow with each Customer.

Stand and Deliver

Open lines of communication are an essential part of any strong workplace culture, and personal accountability is a must. To facilitate both, we began the daily practice of a morning “roll call” meeting. Think Hill Street Blues, but without the badges and guns. Each morning, the entire Customer Success Team, whether onsite or remote, joins in a round table discussion. Each team member reports on what they completed yesterday, what they’re working on today, and what resources are needed or what constraints stand in the way.

It’s a great way to stay connected, given that as soon as we leave that meeting, everyone will be running off in various directions all day long. It also injects just enough anxiety into each individual’s deliverables. If I go over my responsibilities in front of everyone, I’m far more likely to own them once I’m out there solo.

Prove Yourself Over and Over

When you truly believe in the brand you represent, it allows you to operate from a foundation of supreme confidence. At DiscoverOrg, we know our platform is second to none, as long as our Customers do their part to optimize its consumption.

As we turn the corner into 2016, our Customer Success team – with the beefed-up Education Services Team – is deeply committed to helping ensure each and every Customer not only clears the company’s internal hurdle rate to justify ongoing investment, but does so with a case so convincing that our champions will be proud to march into the CFO’s office to share it. We plan to accomplish this by operationalizing a before-and-after, metric-driven management report that will be tedious, expensive, and never-ending. But that’s okay, we’re happy and proud to do it – whatever it takes to earn the right to grow with our Customers.

While we still have a long way to go, the transformation of the team is already paying dividends in retention rate and satisfaction metrics. What at first appeared frenetic is now starting to feel rhythmic. What once gave the impression of doubt now looks like swagger and pride. And if we can guide our team’s evolution with focus and precision during the breakneck growth of DiscoverOrg in 2015, so can you.

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About the author

David Sill

David Sill built an inside sales engine for PC Helps Support, Inc. (now known as Vitalyst) that posted 14 consecutive years of high-margin, YoY revenue growth from inside sales, including two private equity-sponsored liquidity events and one dividend recapitalization. After PC Helps, he went solo as a sales coach and consultant, helping both smaller start-ups and established inside sales teams leverage the power of effective storytelling. This led to David's affiliation with Redwood Shores-based Zyme Solutions, who brought him in to launch an inside sales function for the first time in that company's 10+ year history as a leader in the Channel Data Management (CDM) space. He resides in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and four daughters.