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A Customer Success Manager's Daily Checklist
Let me start by setting the record straight. There are no typical days, each one unlike another, for customer success managers (CSMs).  The only constant is that a CSM’s day revolves around customers, and most daily activities get prioritized depending on customer needs and their impact on the business.  As a CSM, each day, you are expected to manage multiple customers, spearhead back-to-back meetings, be the single escalation point of contact, and more. It goes without saying that your productivity as a CSM is directly correlated to your ability to plan your day and prepare tasks in advance. Here are a few areas to focus on to help you get started and succeed at your job in customer success.  A Daily Checklist for Customer Success Managers (CSMs) ✅ Communication Emails, Messages, Voicemails, Social Media, Community feeds…….The number of communication channels has grown immensely over the years.  As a CSM, you receive a ton of communication on any given day. Plus, you’re expected to be able to prioritize with the Customer being front and center of it all.  Exhausting, right?  You can call it an occupational hazard, but it is very easy to get into a reactive fire-fighting mode if you begin responding to customer emails and escalations the first thing in the morning.  Instead, I advise a quick screen on all incoming communication followed by grouping and prioritization with a very specific call to action wherever you can. Believe me. If the sky is indeed falling on one of your clients, that notification will find its way to you before you can make that first cup of coffee. There is, however, an advantage of tackling your inbox or other comms channels first thing in the morning. The office may be quiet early on in the day (depending on your timezone), so use this time to schedule ad-hoc meetings with internal team members where collaboration is required, or assign specific, timely tasks to team members in response to escalations later in the day.  (But make sure you do respond back to customer emails within 24 hours -- even if just an acknowledgment email -- that way, your customers know they’re still top of mind). ✅ Calendaring While rewarding, the customer success profession can definitely be overwhelming. The majority of the volatility and stress comes from the fact that your day and priorities can change at any moment, owing to changing customer needs and other business KPIs and goals governing your Customer Success practice.  To improve the quality of your day, start by blocking out time - e.g., 30 min chunks - for all your recurring tasks and activities on your calendar on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. These can include:  Customer Engagements Pre-Meeting Prep Time ( Before scheduled meetings ) Customer follow-up activities Internal Team meetings Marketing and Networking Activities Product Enablement General administration - CRM, HR, IT, etc Lunch/Coffee Breaks Following the above not only helps you become more organized and focused, but it also focuses on covering all aspects of your job in the right proportions. At the same time, you can incorporate flexibility into your schedule with the motivation to reschedule your tasks accordingly and eliminate any potential forgetfulness.  ✅ Coordination Intra and Inter-Departmental Coordination One of the most important and probably under-valued duties of a CSM is Coordination. As you catch up with your daily tasks and emails, plan and schedule ahead for all coordination and collaboration activities.  Coordination activities can range from following up with customers on specific requests, to resolving or escalating support tickets, to connecting with Product Management on roadmaps, or to collaborating with Marketing to publish customer success stories.  A CSM has a lot of accountability driving many inter-departmental tasks. (Which is great! This helps set up CSM’s to be future leaders 😃 )  Keeping all lines of communication unclogged and flowing between customers and the various departments of the company falls to the CSM.   While the job requirements of a CSM varies from company to company, the role typically involves:  Onboarding customers Enablement and Training of customers Demonstrating Value of your Software or Service Creating Growth for the customer and your company Being the single point of contact for Support There are also goals and KPIs attached, such as renewal metrics, upsell, and other customer engagement metrics. (But we won’t go into the details of those here - they deserve a whole post of their own.)  As a CSM, there will be times when you feel like you are carrying the entire weight of the future of your company... and that having 24 hours in a day is just not enough. But the right attitude - one goal and one customer at a time - will take you and your company far and beyond.  To see how Outline helps customer success managers like Akanksha improve their daily workflows with her Product team, other internal stakeholders, and customers, check out or sign up for a quick tour and demo of the product here.
Akanksha Gulati, January 12th, 2021
Customer Onboarding: Preparing for Your 2021 Kick-Off Meetings
It's been quite a year, and we all need a moment to reset. Good news? The new year usually brings an influx of new customers. So, let's lay out a plan to deliver the best experience for your new customers so they can be sure that they made the right choice – we don't want them to start 2021 with buyer's remorse. First thing's first – what is a customer onboarding strategy, and why is it important? What is Customer Onboarding? Customer onboarding is how you bring your new customers into your portfolio. It's how you not only roll out the red carpet but also roll up your sleeves. Your initial interactions will help form how your customers think of you, your product, and your company. While this might sound a bit daunting, we've put together a customer onboarding checklist for how to ensure those first impressions are nothing short of stellar. How to Prepare For Your Customer Onboarding Meetings To successfully prepare for and conduct your first customer onboarding meetings in 2021, here are some steps that can help. 1. Set up the customer onboarding call and introduce yourself The earlier in the year, the better. Early January is an excellent target for an initial call, but make sure to allow time to prepare for the call properly. While introducing yourself, make sure to give them a sense of who you are, so they already feel a connection. Follow them on LinkedIn and maybe wish them a Happy Holidays. 2. Sync with your sales team Talk with sales about each new customer. Why did they purchase the product? What are their biggest pain points, and how are they expecting your product to solve for those? Are they expecting any future changes that might impact how they use your product? As we talked about in How to Build Stronger Customer Relationships Remotely, ensure the customer knows that you are fully aligned between all your different teams internally, especially the Sales Team, after the hand-off. 3. Know the product roadmap Know what product releases are upcoming that will get your new customers excited based on their initial unmet needs. This will help you keep them engaged after the kick-off meeting and show that you're already thinking about the future and prioritizing their success. 4. Prepare and share an agenda Share an agenda with your customer about two weeks before the call. Ensure the agenda allows for a bit of flexibility, so they feel some ownership. Keep it human and customized, tailoring the message and agenda to them. 5. Send a quick "looking forward to it" note A few days before your meeting, send a quick note letting the customer know you're looking forward to the call and preparing for a productive chat. Make it personal with a "hope all is well in XYC City" closing. This can also be used as a gentle reminder to the customer to review the agenda before the meeting. 6. Take a break and breathe This might seem silly, but it is critical. We all need a break after a crazy year of ups and downs. Once you've properly prepped for the meeting, take a moment to rest your brain. You'll thank yourself for taking time when you have to jump back into the madness in January. 7. Start the customer onboarding meeting with clear expectations Make sure you set the expectations at the start of the call, so everyone is aligned. Since you sent them the agenda ahead of time, this is just a review and an open invitation to see if there's anything else they'd like to discuss on the call. If they've reached out about something else since the initial agenda, make sure to have that added to the agenda prior. 8. Document the meeting Document, document, document. Take notes throughout the customer onboarding meeting, especially around their current and future challenges. Ask questions and note which of your internal teams can help achieve your new customer's desired outcomes. If you're one of our Outline customers, Templates and Collections are a great way to stay organized, all while ensuring the most relevant customer context makes it to the appropriate internal teammates. 9. Immediately follow-up with the customer The most important thing to do is summarize what was discussed in the meeting at a high level and call out any next steps. This is an opportunity to ensure you both left the meeting with a shared understanding and have a game plan. If you have relevant resources, you can quickly send them (onboarding documents, job aids, help resources, etc.) and include them in the email. Establish the best way to collaborate with them in the future (e.g., sharing documents via Google Docs or a project plan via Asana). 10. Follow up internally No doubt some items came up in your meeting that requires collaboration with your teammates. Reach out to the product team, the sales team, etc., and ensure that key items discussed are brought to their attention. Do they have other resources that could be helpful for the customer? If there is a need to pull someone from the Product or another internal team onto future customer syncs, work with that person to block off a few potential time slots to propose to the customer. A super-efficient way to collaborate internally for our Outline customers is to invite your internal teammates to your customer's workspace. Easily assign action items post-meeting and collaborate together by adding customer feedback into shared Collections. 11. Follow up with your customer more extensively Depending on what your action items were following the meeting, this communication's timing may vary; needless to say, the sooner, the better. A best practice is not letting this more thorough follow-up be beyond a week from the initial meeting. Provide an update on all of the action items established in the meeting. Be sure to ask them for updates on any action items that are assigned to them. Were there resources that you wanted to send them, but you didn't have them ready previously? Were there product questions they had that you needed to collaborate with the Product Team on? Whatever you promised to work on, show some progress on all items, no matter how minimal. While these are all pretty logical steps, the key to successful customer onboarding is consistent with this process for all of your new customers. What better way to kick-off 2021 than to have your customers feel attended to and considered, all while gathering the data you need to provide them with a stellar experience throughout the year?! If you're a CSM and looking for help with optimizing this process with meeting intelligence, internal collaboration, and streamlined follow-ups, check out how Outline can help here. Our platform ensures all teams at your organization understand exactly what your customer wants, what they must-have for success, and when they need it. After all, a successful relationship in 2021 means a more likely renewal for 2022. 🙂 We've made it through the madness of 2020. Let's take a moment to reset and prepare ourselves for 2021. The team at Outline wishes you a relaxing holiday season and an exciting and successful 2021! To see how Outline can help put your customers at the center of your business, request a demo here.
Liz Ferguson, December 8th, 2020
How to Build Stronger Customer Relationships Remotely
We've entered a remote-first world, and we find it exciting! We have more time to spend with family, be outside, read our favorite book, and spend less time than ever commuting. Overnight, our daily processes changed. A remote world can be challenging for Customer Success Managers trying to grow customer relationships. Without the ability to take our clients to coffee or swing by for a quick in-office visit, how are we supposed to build the human connection and relationship that guarantees success? We need to find ways to replicate the same in-person experience remotely. Our team pulled together our playbook for helping Customer Success Managers navigate this new world and new process. Use these tips to stay on your A-game, keep customers happy, and ensure organizational success. 1. Over-communicate both internally and externally Check-in on your customers regularly. Share small snippets of exciting product updates like a small feature you chatted about a few months back. Maybe your company has a blog or webinar – take a quick look at content that your customers might find interesting. Nothing is better than a customer feeling like you've prioritized them. Good communication internally is key with distributed teammates. Since we're missing out on the casual water-cooler chatter, the in-between meeting syncs, and the commute catch-ups, we need to actively spend time to build those moments of connection with our teammates. Over document, overshare, and over-communicate every important customer interaction with your team – the good, the bad, your biggest wins. When your team has the latest on customers, customers are always provided with enhanced support, regardless of which teammate they interact with. 💡 Pro-tip: review your organization's product road map to see if there's anything new that might be of interest based on your customers' needs. Keep this in mind and find things you can share to help the customer feel like an insider. 2. Promote internal collaboration Newsflash – your customer's success doesn't rely solely on you. Okay, you knew that already, but it's a point worth stressing. Proactively wrangle in the right teammates at the right time to ensure success across the board. Consider adding a teammate from the product team on a customer call to discuss a forthcoming product release or a new way the client could use an existing function to be more efficient. Give your customers the VIP treatment. And make sure that your teammates are helping to roll out the red carpet. 💡 Pro-tip: make sure to connect with any teammate before a customer call. Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than explaining twice when your team should be aligned. Make it clear to your customers that they are working with a well-oiled collaboration machine. 3. Personalize your customer (and internal) relationships More than ever, kids, dogs, significant others are streaming through the background of the calls. There's no benefit to pretending that we're working in a vacuum removed from all that life is throwing at us right now. Use these remote work environments as a way to build a personal relationship with your customer. 💡 Pro-tip: take a glance at the week's news for the city where your customer is located. Avoid negativity, of course, but if there's a big snowstorm, check in on them. Show you're aware of their environment, even when you're not talking with them. All of this goes back to what we at Outline are passionate about – keeping our customers happy by putting them in the center of our work. Where we physically sit may have changed, but our work remains just as important. This is an excellent opportunity to get creative in how you're engaging with your customers. Send snail mail if you can (I mean, who would ever expect that in this digital age?). Make sure to have some time in your calls set aside to make those connections through the casual talk you would typically have in-person walking from the front desk to a conference room. And if you know they're struggling with something, offer your help as you can. At Outline, we help you track all customer interactions, so you don't miss a beat. But on top of that, we help you ensure that everyone at your organization has the data needed to keep your customers the focus and priority. Let's put customers at the center of everything. Have other tips? Share with us @heyoutline on Twitter.
Liz Ferguson, November 17th, 2020
Entering the Collaborative Workflow Era
Sit back, relax, and hop in the way back machine - let's look at how Customer Success is evolving. Over the past decade, we've primarily focused on individual CS workflows to manage our customers on a case-by-case, or rather, customer-by-customer basis. For the most part, we focused on productivity. Don't get me wrong - productivity is absolutely necessary. However, the most innovative and successful teams are now adding cross-functional alignment and communication to the Customer Success list. Start with our attention to customer-specific needs, add in distributed teams (even before Covid), and voila! You've got the need for crystal-clear communication and laser-focused alignment across departments in your organization. So, where is all that data kept? Now, let's travel to the past again for a moment. Sales had one relationship with the customer but handed them off once signing the contract. CS had an ongoing relationship with the customer, but the product team also had various interactions with the customer, as did the marketing team. Each interaction is a valuable piece of data. More often than not, Sales tracked customer conversations in one place. CS might have used the same platform to some degree, but probably also had notes in Evernote, scratched on a piece of paper, or even in email drafts(!). The notes from a Help Desk ticket or a product request? That was almost definitely in a third or fourth system. Locking up customer data across teams (maybe even between individuals) creates multiple moments for repeated internal processes, missed customer expectations, and increased churn risk.  Companies end up chasing one-off product decisions to appease users on a customer-by-customer basis. That process is not scalable, nor does it lend itself to creating a cohesive product/value story over time. And that makes your job 10x harder. Welcome to the Collaborative Workflow Era for Customer Success Good news! We're building the next generation of CS software that focuses on cross-team collaboration and alignment to make you, your customers, and your company more successful.  We're creating a collaborative, workflow-oriented platform that enables you to scale your customers alongside your business. We're bringing the customer to the center of your organization to make every company truly customer-centric.  Outline enables you to manage customers, align cross-functionally on user needs and feedback, and deliver unified success - all from one place. Let's create a customer movement internally - let's make you more efficient, your workflow smoother, and your customers happier! You can join the movement 👉 here.
Liz Ferguson, October 27th, 2020
Selling Value, Not Features
Customer acquisition as we know it is changing. You've seen the playbook before — grab all the logos you can. More logos = more success, right? More logos does mean more success. Initial success. As we've discovered, the key to long-term success is keeping those customers around. Retention is Queen 👑, and the SaaS world has taken notice. And we're not talking about signing a renewal and calling it a day; we're talking about leveraging your customers as a source of growth and expansion throughout the entire customer journey — product expansion, brand awareness, customer referrals. It all starts by selling more than just your feature set. Let's talk about value. Customers often focus on your latest feature releases. But that means that defining value gets a little murky along the way. In the past, we've defined value as offering more and more shiny objects. (And of course, as your customers' needs shift, your offerings should adjust.) Having clear, value-driven conversations should start with prospects, getting more specific throughout the sales process, with customer success continuing to define value in partnership with your customers. By having a shared understanding of what value means to your customer, you'll help them understand which shiny object will support their vision. ✨ Define, Evolve, Expand We're entering a new SaaS era, where customer success now goes beyond just keeping the customer happy and getting the renewal. We must define, evolve, and expand value every step of the customer journey. We're breaking it down with your {fictitious} customer, The City of Outline, below.  1. Define What is the core problem your customer is trying to solve (focusing on value)? Do they want to save time? Money? The City of Outline is moving to remote work like many other companies. To do that, they need to shift their employee training from in-person to an online platform, and they've chosen your SaaS solution. While they understand there will be an initial time investment, efficiency is critical, as is alignment with overall City values. And, just like everyone else, they're trying to save money while doing it.  2. Evolve Experience the solution alongside your customers and measure how it changes their workflow. What has changed since they initially purchased your solution? Your contact at the City of Outline has questions about your product's employee training workflow. You could easily leave it at that, but to help them evolve, you work with them to identify a handful of other features they had not previously considered using. By revealing this workflow in a new light, your contact can reduce administrative burden and allow for a more enjoyable employee experience (double score!). It also allows employees to take more ownership over their training, supporting two of the City's core employee competencies - "ownership" and "growth". 3. Expand This is where the drive to upsell used to take place blindly. Having had alignment conversations early on to identify success measurements, you're able to demonstrate where you've added value. Leverage your customer's happiness for product expansion, brand awareness, and referrals. By showing the City of Outline the value your platform brings to their team, you've helped them create an online training solution that's managed effortlessly and with fantastic results. They refer you to a handful of other local municipalities looking to transition to remote employee training. Data shows companies that focus primarily on acquisition are seeing less growth year over year. Companies that spend more time with a balanced approach, getting to know their customers continue to see stable and solid growth.* "Tell your friends" is not just a meme. We know that by going beyond shiny new features and partnering with your customers to sell them value, a company is more likely to renew. Also, they're likely to tell their friends. To reliably grow your business, you need to sell value, and let your customers help with your selling. *Patrick Campbell, Co-Founder & CEO ProfitWell (formerly Price Intelligently), Lessons Learned from 3000 SaaS Companies
Liz Ferguson, October 7th, 2020
Putting your customers at the center of everything
Riddle me this – what is a company without customers? Nothing. Zilch. Zip. Nada. Customer Success = Company Success In successful companies, customers drive everything, regardless of their size, industry, or location. Customers are always at the center of those company’s decisions. Customers drive new growth through referrals and brand awareness. After all, your current customers make up 80% of your company's overall ARR. In short, your customers are the most valuable asset that your company has. Now, let’s talk about Customer Success. You’re the ones who work with customers on a day-to-day basis. You're the first to hear their feedback and what they need. You know exactly what needs to be done to make them successful. Keeping an eye on what's needed both strategically and tactically and aligning your internal teammates can be tough to manage. You are essential to your customer's success.  You are the peanut butter to their jelly. Your work is critical to driving your company's product and business decisions and, ultimately, its success. To coordinate with Product, you might submit a ticket using a form, track that ticket in another system, and alert them to the urgency through a third process. To take notes on your client interactions, you might use one system, but need to capture their health in another. You probably use another system or two to communicate directly with your clients and your Sales teams. Your most important work is happening everywhere. There should be a more streamlined, intuitive, and actionable system that supports the core of your work, all from one place. That's why we're building Outline.  We believe in putting you at the core of everything, so your customers can be at the center of every decision. We want to help you drive product-led growth through scalable customer growth and happy users. Imagine using a single platform to share your customers’ product needs and upsell opportunities with your internal teammates, to track your meeting notes and next steps, and even to close the loop with the customers themselves. We're supercharging your workflows so you can focus more on what really matters - your customer relationships. With the extra time you get from a more efficient system, you'll be able to create even stronger relationships at scale. The most successful companies out there are realizing the importance of the Customer Success role. Let's make your job easier, more efficient, and, ultimately, more impactful for your business and your customers. With Outline, you're putting your customers at the center of it all. ⚡
Liz Ferguson, September 2nd, 2020
Introducing Outline
Put your customers at the center of everything. We believe that your customers define your success story. Your company's growth is determined by your customers' success — it's no coincidence that the most iconic companies have the happiest customers. The art of developing meaningful relationships, driving adoption, and ensuring engagement throughout the customer journey requires both strategic alignment and coordination. Customer Success emerged nearly a decade ago for this exact reason. A lot has changed since then. But the software hasn't. Customer Success teams are operating in completely new ways. There's a larger focus on the overall customer experience as workflows have become more collaborative, needs have become more dynamic, and the stakes have become higher. The majority of tools today are passive and reactive dashboards that require you to do the core of your work elsewhere. We're setting out to change that. Meet Outline. We're on a mission to make Customer Success the central operating system of your organization. Outline makes it simple to manage customers, align cross-functional teammates on user needs and feedback, and deliver unified success at scale — all from one platform (finally!). We're supercharging your workflow so you can spend more time focusing on what matters, your customers. Our team has spent years designing and building software on high-growth teams. We've experienced firsthand the impact of aligning everyone around the voice of the customer. This is where magic happens, and we're enabling every team, and every company, to experience that. We can’t wait to show you what’s next. Outline is currently in private beta with select customers, but you can sign up for our waitlist here. We want to thank our early investors — South Park Commons, Parker Thompson and Matt Tillman of TnT Ventures, Mat Johnson, among other incredible angels — our early advisors, Sunil Joseph, and our early customers for not only sharing our vision but also laying the foundation to make it possible. We cannot wait to build Outline alongside you all.
Outline Team, August 19th, 2020

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