As your company begins to take off and gain momentum, it’s very tempting to think about scaling the technical side of the business. That is, you’ll quickly find yourself eager to develop your product and work on new features. Or, you may find yourself in a constant state of break-fix— forever solving problems and focusing on immediate pain points.
Operating from this position means you’ll likely end up prioritizing the hire of additional technical staff (engineers, programmers, etc.) to handle problems as they arise. But once you have all the technical staff you need, where do you turn next?
The Connective Tissue of a Company
The first non-technical hire you make needs to be in Customer Success. Customer Success is the bridge between what your company does and what your customers need you to do. By nurturing your Customer Success department early, you set your company up to grow and adapt to the needs of your customers.
A strong Customer Success team optimizes your company for listening, learning, and empathizing with your customers. This team will be the key to receiving useful feedback, discovering product flaws, and understanding the gap between vision and market need. They offer a look into the minds of your customers and can shape the direction of your entire firm.
What to Look for in a Customer Success Manager
Hiring your first customer success manager is not like hiring a PHP expert or WordPress developer. CSMs at an early stage startup need to be generalists, not specialists. These Renaissance Men and Women need to act as more than just support staff for your new customers, they also have to act as therapists, salespeople, product marketers, customer advocates, and more. In many cases, your CSMs (especially in the early days) will be responsible for onboarding and training new customers, too.
When looking for your company’s first CSM, look for some with strong empathic skills and an ability to listen. You’re looking for someone with a wide range of personal skills and talents. After all, it’s an important role and needs to be handled by someone capable of wearing many hats.
What They’re There For
Feedback is a vital ingredient in your product’s lifecycle. Without it, you’re working blind, hoping the features you add are in line with a customer’s needs. To ensure your engineering resources are solving problems that actually matter, your CSMs need to be dedicated to scaling the feedback loop.
This could mean deploying automated email campaigns (such as customer retention emails), rapidly sharing feedback with the right teams, or building best practices around soliciting feedback from customers.
But when it’s all said and done, your CSMs are really there to learn how and why customers interact with your product. Ensure they’re both nurturing relationships with customers and sharing the results with your product development teams.
Equipping Your New Team Members
With your new CSMs on board, it’s important they have the tools to bring their strategies to life. They may opt to use in-app messages to walk customers through your product, send lifecycle emails through apps like Mailchimp, or share product feedback with the team through Slack. Either way, ensure your team is well equipped and able to act on their ideas.
Creating a Culture of Customer Success
At the end of the day, the success of your company will come down to customer acquisition and retention. As soon as your firm has all the technical staff they need, your very first non-technical hire should be in Customer Success. This is the only role that provides a meaningful link between your engineers and your customer. It’s also the best way to discover insights behind customer behavior and influence the direction of your company.
Over time, the insights gleaned from this department will spill over into the rest of the company— helping your entire team provide an outstanding experience for your customers.