How to Run a Value Certification Program For Your CS Team

Tomas Williams is the Customer Experience Insights & Enablement Manager at Procurify and a member of Vitally's Success Network.


“Value certification” is a very official sounding term for a very basic concept: internal education and evaluation sessions designed to help CSMs effectively express the value of product features to customers.

Over time, I’ve come to see this as a vital process. I think a CSM’s primary goal is to be a strategic partner to their clients. But to get there, CSMs need solid feature awareness to be able to marry the features that we build to the outcomes customers expect.

At Procurify, we’ve spent the last year focusing on raising feature awareness within our CS team. It’s helped us identify not only how to tailor our training to make sure our CSMs are getting a well-rounded experience, but it’s also helped us uncover areas for improvement we didn’t know we needed. 

Thanks to the people at Vitally, I’m happy to share my team’s experience with putting together a Customer Success value certification process and the impact that we saw as a result. I’ve also put together a simple, five-step quick start guide that you can use to get your own program up and running. 

Our Process

I found that a more informal environment was the most stress-free way to approach this kind of training. That meant a series of hour-long, one-on-one sessions between our CSMs and our Sales Consultants (whose roles are similar to Technical Account Managers and who are very close to the product).

This process begins with assessing gaps in team members’ feature knowledge and should be approached as identifying areas for improvement, NOT a pass/fail situation. I don’t expect our Procurify CSMs to be “tech-support” level experts, but there’s definitely value in building a deeper understanding of features and functions within the product.

To be able to facilitate this kind of assessment we needed to collaborate with a real expert (yes, even I have to acknowledge I don’t have every feature memorized!). Working with one of our Solutions Consultants on the enablement/sales team, we created a “feature bible” – a deck with every feature, broken into its primary value and suggestions on how to position it for clients.

From here, we were able to create a fairly simple assessment where CSMs were asked to complete two sections:

  • Fill in the blanks: Explain what you know, or explain the perceived value, of a random feature.
  • Scenarios: “If a customer states that they need X, what features of Procurify are going to help?”

Their results were tied to a simple scorecard. Again, this was a gauge of where we needed to focus future training and not a pass/fail! We would then review against the “bible” to see where each CSM needed to focus a bit more. 

The Results

What kind of results did we see? In no particular order, here’s just some of what we found:

  • The conversational nature of the sessions helped us to realize some of the CSMs were relying on explaining the technical nature of a feature, rather than its value.
  • The score didn’t matter. It was the act of doing the assessment that had value. 
  • Most CSMs found the certification program a positive experience — it validated their knowledge and added to it. It was a big confidence booster!
  • It helped me surface three areas of our platform where everyone lacked knowledge. Areas we considered “easy to remember” were not well known amongst the team simply because they came up in conversation with customers less frequently.
  • It gave us a way to create metrics to see if this value certification effort translated into increased adoption of certain areas of our platform (because those feature/value knowledge gaps are being closed within our team). This in turn could inform the structure of future training workshops.
  • It gave us qualitative feedback to share with the product team. If we’re not seeing a feature come up often, it means it may not be resonating with customers. 

Five Steps to Creating Your Own Value Certification Program

Based on a LinkedIn article I put together on the topic, here’s my five-step method you can tailor to your needs to get up and running with value certification fast!

  1. Select a team of two “judges” from your enablement team or senior CSMs. You want folks who already understand the value of your product features from both a strategic and objective perspective.
  2. Build a value cheat sheet. Use this as your reference when grading your team. Expand it as you do the certifications and build it out as a resource the whole team can use afterward. Hot tip: Your Product Marketing team might already have something like this as a “GTM enablement” doc you can repurpose! Here's the simple template we used.
  3. Grade CSMs with an “opportunity to learn” mindset. We used “poor,” “pass,” and “great”. No one’s failing or losing here, it’s all an opportunity to grow!
  4. Schedule time with your judges and each CSM individually, ask them to explain the value of a given feature, give the response some kind of a grade, and provide thoughtful and helpful feedback. It helps if you’re prepared with realistic situations to position your product to help the conversation if need be.
  5. Repeat this activity quarterly until you’ve covered all features. Repeat the ones that demand attention, and get creative to keep things interesting for your team!

We started with our product’s core feature group, and future sessions will focus on the areas where people needed the most work (we’ll have done workshops on them by then). We’ll then move on to features with increased complexity. Remember to keep it light and conversational! These sessions should be fun and engaging for everyone. 

Accountability Is Key

There’s a saying I like to reference: “It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.” 

If we, as leaders, tolerate our teams not feeling fully knowledgeable and confident in talking about our product, why would they? This process was a great way to create that sense of, “We’ve trained on this now, so there’s no excuse for all of us not knowing.” 

Overall, I’ve found the value certification process has been an extremely positive experience for all of us, and we’re going to try and continue to do these quarterly going forward. If you’re considering building a program to help up your CSM team’s knowledge of features and value, I hope this helps! Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn if you have any questions.

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