Interview: Growth Conference Panelist Mike Connolly on Customer Success

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Image source: Field Service Digital, Servicemax

Mike Connolly, VP of Sales and Dealer Relations at CarGurus, will be participating on the “Establishing the Gold Standard for Customer Success” panel at the 2018 MassTLC Growth Conference. We had the opportunity to talk with Mike about what customer success (CS) means, how it should fit within an organization, and which three things are critical in building a CS team.
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How do you define Customer Success, and how is it different from Customer Support?
Customer Support is reactive—solving specific, known problems/cases that a
customer has. Customer Success is proactive, ensuring that every customer is
maximizing the value of their investment and helping your company maximize
revenue growth and account retention.

What are the critical elements in building a CS team and process?
The most important elements are understanding how your customer defines success, and how you’re able to measure the customer’s performance against that criteria. If you can align your process and internal KPIs to what matters to your customer, you’ll be set up for success. It’s also important that the CS team is able to create a feedback loop with the customer base and share insights across the organization to drive improvement. This also ensures consistent engagement with every customer at a cadence that makes sense for them and delivers value at every touchpoint.

How does CS differ in an online business like CarGurus versus a brick-and-mortar enterprise?
Conceptually it’s the same—ensuring every customer has a great experience.
Online businesses don’t have as much opportunity to use flashiness (think Apple
stores) or face-to-face interactions to their advantage, so it’s critical that they use
data to understand customer performance/risk and dictate engagement.

How does the Sales organization factor in to CS?
Sales and CS need to be closely aligned through the entire customer lifecycle.
Acquisition sales sets the initial customer expectations, Customer Success helps meet and exceed those expectations, and Expansion sales leverages the results to further grow revenue and maximize customer retention.

Does having a CS team change the skills needed in the Sales team?
I don’t believe so. But there is certainly an opportunity to expand the performance
of both teams by sharing expertise. If you have a sales team that has empathy,
proactivity, and focus on long-term results, and if you have a CS team that is in tune with the revenue impacts of their performance, the entire organization will benefit.

Does CS play a role in defining product features? How?
Absolutely. In engaging with customers, CS will learn what the customer base is
really looking for. When done well, CS will build meaningful relationships with
customers—and will often get more transparent feedback, because they may be
more candid when not engaging with sales. That honest feedback is critical for
defining the product roadmap.

What are 3 tips you would give to an organization looking to build a CS team?
1. Have a clear mission for the CS team with defined, measurable goals.

2. Build very clear rule-of-engagement guidelines so every person in the
organization fully understands their role in driving results.

3. Ensure the CS team is able to effectively collaborate with Sales, Account
Management, Marketing, Customer Support, and all other internal departments—everyone is on the same team in driving customer success.