Best Practices

CS to PS: Turning Customer Success Into Product Success

Being a product manager can sometimes feel lonely, especially if you’re at a small company or don’t have a dedicated team. The burden of product responsibility can weigh especially heavily on PMs as they try to align the rest of the company around the product offering. The good news is, we’re less lone wolf, and more of a pack. As PMs we work with customer success, marketing, engineering, and sales – so we’re not alone.

Harnessing the expertise of the greater team can be a powerful step towards achieving product success. What does success look like? To me, it is about consistently meeting, and then surpassing, the customer’s expectations of the product.

As the sole PM at Voxpopme achieving product success alone was not an option, and so I joined forces with the CS team. When your product team is small (or large!), doing that strengthen both the product and the support team. Customers don’t stick around for a sub-par product, and likewise, a great product won’t be successful without customers. Product and customer success need to work hand-in-hand.

I now think of our customer success team as the product success team. Here’s how you can work with your team to make CS into PS:  

Step 1: Define Success

Your customers have a particular goal to achieve, a certain need to be met, whether it’s personal or professional. Through their buying decision, they have seen value in the feature set of your product to meet that end objective.

Do you and your customer success team know what that objective is? Defining up front what your client wants to achieve allows your customer success team to guide their onboarding experience in a purpose-driven way. From in-platform walkthroughs, to relevant knowledge base articles, or explicit demos for certain features; ensure your client has everything they need to achieve their goal using your technology.

Step 2: Measure Success in Real Time

In the time between your client purchasing your product and when they ultimately use it, your users will have minimal knowledge of your product’s capabilities. This, combined with the fact that a number of stakeholders may have been involved in the purchase decision (especially in the B2B environment), can complicate your onboarding process. You may end up guiding an entirely different set of users, which creates gaps in understanding the key features they can utilise to help them achieve their business goals. If you followed step 1, you know why they are using your product, and what features will help them experience maximum benefit.

Step 2 is all about moving from theory to practice. By utilising user behaviour tracking in an unobtrusive way, you can understand whether your clients are getting value from your platform. You definitely want to use an in-platform tracking tool to monitor volume and length of visits. More importantly, though, I’d say you should focus on interaction with pages and features at a granular, per-visitor basis. For us, feature usage has been the most influential measure. Are the features we value the most even being used by our clients?

The key here is to share knowledge. Don’t keep this information hidden in your product team. Train up every person in your organisation that is in a client-facing role on how to view the behaviour of a particular user or account. Using the appropriate collateral and training resources, your customer success team becomes your product success team.

Step 3: Retrospectives

What is your client thinking? This question should not keep you up at night, because you should be actively working to understand customers.

In step 2, you collected data. In step 3, you can analyze it, on your own time and without any direct interaction with customers. But that’s not all. At Voxpopme, completing retrospective user feedback with our clients once they’ve used our platform is incredibly powerful. We always strive to understand the ‘Why’ behind the stats. Quantitative and qualitative research should not be siloed when it comes to understanding your customers.

In a B2B environment, I am fortunate to be able to organise phone calls with our clients, understanding their likes, pain points, and feature suggestions. User testing, surveys, and in-platform feedback are also tried-and-tested methods that have proven incredibly valuable for understanding our customers, shaping our roadmap, and improving our product. Using the CS team to help me close the feedback loop with customers, and then looping their feedback back into the product, ensures that we’re constantly improving and delivering what our customers most need.

Bringing It All Together

Aligning your business functions allows you to bring product success. This isn’t something achieved overnight, but a great starting point is to reach out to each team within your organisation and have an open conversation about product success. I’ve always found each conversation with another member of another team to reap rewards.

In my experience, it was the CS team that made me a better PM and helped our product grow and evolve. But gaining a different perspective on value from anyone in your organization will help to shape how you view your product, and put your most important stakeholders at the front of each product decisions. Ultimately, the success of your product comes from your customers achieving value – if others can help you get there, make them part of your PS team.

About the Author

Niamh is a product manager at Voxpopme, a video insight platform and one of the UK's most successful startups. In the last five years, Niamh has worked internationally at Voxpopme to grow the company, processes, and platform. Most recently, she's worked to leverage IBM Watson to bring automated sentiment analysis to video data, facilitating instantaneously available and scalable understanding of qualitative research.