The wisdom you’ll find in this article is all thanks to Linnea Olson, Ian Pierson, and Zack Joswiak. They’re three Operations-obsessed leaders who care deeply about both the customer and CSM experience. Today, they streamline Customer Success processes at Apollo, Unibuddy, and Vitally respectively.
B2B Operations leaders, we see you.
You make sure your company’s tech stack plays nicely together.
You sequence workflows and automate tedious processes.
You navigate customer segmentation and scale communication strategies.
You create clear, accurate reporting and give visibility to the right people.
You figure out where unnecessary, time-wasting work is happening.
You implement smart solutions and optimize old ones.
TL;DR — You do a lot. More than most people probably realize. One task that falls squarely into this “a lot” bucket is choosing a worthwhile, future-proof Customer Success Platform (CSP).
Rightfully so, Operations pros play a big part in selecting Customer Success Software because they’re responsible for its successful implementation, adoption, and ongoing management. But it’s hard to know what operational criteria to use when vetting CS software for your team.
Our goal here is to give you some things to think about, and honestly, a leg up, if you’re considering adding a CSP to your stack or switching to a new one.
How Do Customer Success Platforms Help Operations Teams?
The overall role of an Ops leader, especially a Customer Success Operations leader, at a B2B company boils down to these three words: Make things work.
Zack Joswiak, a Manager of Solution Architects here at Vitally, confirms this: “An Ops person is excellent at their job when things just run smoothly, when processes are in place and easy to follow, when leadership sees what they need to see, and when teammates can each manage what they need to manage.”
CSP software is attractive to CSMs and Ops leaders alike because they’re sick of trying to make CS processes work in tools that just weren’t built for CS teams. Too many orgs try to shoehorn their customer relationship management (CRM) platform into something that can be a CSP, but honestly, CRMs are generally more hassle than help to a CSM. Salesforce and HubSpot were built for salespeople.
Naturally, good Ops leaders want to replace that terrible “this isn’t working” feeling with a solution. It’s a massive sigh of relief for CSMs when all of their customer data, automation, messaging, projects, tasks, team docs, wiki pages, and customer collaboration spaces live in one place. The Ops experts have spoken — and that one place should be a CSP.
Here’s What Ops Teams Need to Look for in a CSP
Not all CSPs are created equal. These are the four non-negotiable qualities that Operations pros need to look for while shopping around.
1. Easy Implementation
It’s unrealistic to expect there to be zero implementation lift when you’re configuring a solution as comprehensive as a CSP. But it is realistic to expect it to be straightforward.
For instance, here at Vitally, as long as a new customer comes in with strong data hygiene and consistent external IDs associated with each account across their systems, implementation is fairly simple. Like, takes less than two weeks, simple.
Once the data is in, our customers are off to the races. They’ll typically start laying the groundwork for a productive (and pleasant) CSP experience, complete with account-specific hubs, notes, automation, projects, and reporting. Depending on how many customers our customers are supporting, this entire process takes no more than a month or two. From there, the Ops team or CS leaders add CSMs and customers to the platform and make the switch.
The bottom line? Look for a vendor that has their implementation act together. If you’ll have to pull in constant dev support, your Salesforce Admin, or your data warehousing team for all of the heavy lifting, your time-to-value after purchase will suffer. Don’t settle for a solution with development or fully vendor-managed implementation — you need solid self-service capabilities.
Plus, a clunky implementation process is a pretty good indicator that the ongoing maintenance will require intense Ops attention, too.
2. Tons of Built-in, Native Integrations
This second quality goes hand-in-hand with the first. The CS teams you’re supporting will likely want every sliver of information about their accounts at their fingertips, along with full transparency about what’s happening in one clean dashboard view.
This means finding a CSP that will integrate with dozens of tools — like your CRM of choice, Stripe, Slack, Outlook, Zapier, Intercom, Zendesk, Mixpanel, Snowflake, you name it — is essential. The best CS software will empower you to sync your data all in a low-to-no-code way.
Consider this example: Linnea Olson, a CS Ops Manager at Apollo, noticed some misalignment between her company's sales and CS teams; sales would identify a churn risk or likely loss of an upsell or cross-sell in their conversations with customers, but CS wouldn’t be in the loop.
So, Linnea and her team built a Slack workflow that populates a custom object into Vitally to solve that. Put simply: All sales has to do now is fill out a form in Slack (which is their preferred communication channel) with the risk they’ve identified. Once they hit “submit,” a risk indicator is automatically created in Vitally and escalated to the right CSM. Communication issue solved, thanks to native integrations.
3. Data Consolidation and Reporting
People really do want to make data-backed decisions — but when customer data lives disparately across 20+ tools, it’s not possible to take everything into account, identify trends, and make strategic choices.
Good news though: Certain CSPs are particularly good at pulling in data from all over the place and telling a clear story that makes renewing and expanding customers easier. Find a tool that won’t add to your data chaos, but instead takes all of your existing data, analyzes each customer’s journey, and gives you accurate health scores and reports for real-time business insight.
To really do your CSMs a favor, find a tool that syncs data both ways in real time. They shouldn’t have to record keep or update things in multiple places; they should only have to focus on building stronger relationships. As an Ops professional, you have the power to make this a reality for them and to more accurately answer the big questions management asks you like:
- How many calls are we actually booking?
- What’s our actual predicted churn this quarter?
- Do we need to add any CS headcount?
When there’s a consolidated, up-to-date place to go for all data, these questions are a lot easier to answer.
4. Excellent Process Standardization and Automation
Last but not least, CS software should make processes clearer (and automated at times) for the benefit of both CSMs and customers. There’s definitely some stigma around using automated communications to nurture relationships; but in a world where “do more with less” reigns supreme and not every account is a high-touch account, it’s a really strategic way to scale.
Ian Pierson, a Senior CS Operations Manager at Unibuddy, is keenly aware that his top two jobs are 1) to help CS professionals thrive, and 2) to scale the business with technology. That might sound buzzwordy, but really, his job is to build automation and processes that are so good, that everyone wins — customers, CSMs, and the business as a whole.
Ian’s team has a unique Intercom <> Vitally integration that streamlines what once was a really time-consuming, ambiguous process. Ian touched on that during his appearance in our recent Opps for Ops: Harnessing the Full Potential of Your Customer Success Tech Stack webinar, which you can watch here:
A Word of Encouragement for Those Starting Small
If you’ve made it this far, something in this post is resonating — but you may be thinking to yourself, “We don’t have the budget for a CSP right now,” or “Where would I even start if I’m creating a CS motion from nothing?”
Our advice: Start small and prove your need for CS software.
Zack from Vitally recommends incorporating automation into the tools you do have to start standardizing your repeated processes. Think using Zapier integrations to trigger onboarding communication, welcome messages, monthly check-ins, calendar invites, and the like.
Ops + A Customer Success Platform = A Dynamic Duo
Customer retention and NRR growth are critical to your bottom line. So critical that in the coming years, Customer Success software won’t be a nice-to-have, but a must-have tool for business leaders who want stronger customer relationships and longevity.
As on Ops pro, it’s up to you to know your criteria for a CSP, advocate for what makes the most sense, and choose a platform that’ll boost your CS team’s productivity, visibility, and collaboration with customers.
Want to start a conversation with Vitally and see if we’re a good fit for you? Book your personalized demo today.
One last thing: If you have any ideas for Operations resources that would make you and your team more productive and efficient, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to make something helpful for you.