Are You Ready for a CS Tool?

November 24, 2020

Megan Macaluso

Category: Customer Experience, Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Marketing, Customer Success Resources, Customer Success Strategy

Technology can be an invaluable part of your customer engagement strategy. But. Yes, I said but. Without the proper foundational Customer Success elements in place, it becomes nearly impossible to utilize your chosen CS tool to its fullest potential. With the ever-growing number of CS tool providers and platforms, it’s easy to be dazzled by the plethora of features and functionality they provide, even if you’re just not quite there yet.

Don’t get me wrong – we see very few scenarios where a Customer Success organization should not invest in a CS tool (really, you should!). That buying decision should be made alongside understanding your level of Customer Success Maturity and the processes and data you already have (or don’t have) that will feed into that tool.

As much as I wish I could tell you that a CS tool will solve all of the challenges that CS organizations face, the reality is that they don’t. Not on their own. What they can do is make the life of CS leaders and CSMs a whole lot easier in the long run, as long as you’re willing and able to do the work up front to make it so.

Largely, CS leaders understand that their team needs a tool. They need a single source of truth, a place for CSMs to spend their days and manage their time and tasks in, or a central location to access all the reporting you could dream of. That ‘why’ part of the equation is the easy part. The harder parts are the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ – what do you want the tool to do? Be specific!! And how are you going to accomplish that?

CS tools are incredibly robust and customizable, so it’s critical to narrow in on your specific use cases in order to get the value that you (and your executives) expect. There are two major questions you should ask yourself (and your team) before pulling the trigger on a new CS tool.

What do you want to do with the tool? 

I don’t mean what capabilities does the tool have. I mean what are you trying to solve? Do you need to improve efficiency? Create visibility throughout the organization? Measure customer health? Communicate more efficiently?

What do you have and what do you need?

Do you have clean customer data? How about bandwidth and knowledge on your team to build out the functionality you want and need? Do you have buy-in and a time commitment from your IT department to help with data connections? It’s not a deal breaker if you don’t have all of these things today. But you will need to get them in order to accomplish your goals.

Data, data, data

You may have noticed that I’ve already mentioned data several times. This is not a coincidence. Data health and data integrations are the biggest factors in building out a CS tool that does what you want it to do!

Start by looking at your data. And I mean really looking at it. If you can’t access it, this may be a sign you’re not quite ready for a tool. If you can, determine which areas you want to move the needle in the long-term and establish the short-term goals that will get you there.

Next, identify all the contributors who will interact with the tool directly and the components required to make the tool function optimally (e.g., data sources). Your CRM and ticketing systems are common sources, along with your own product (to measure usage), and sometimes even flat files.

Once the people and the process are in line, a tool can take you to the next level and escalate progress towards your desired outcome.

The right tool for you

With the ever-growing number of CS tools on the market, selecting the one that fits your unique business needs is a real challenge. Between the many players in the space and the robust capabilities each one offers, it can be a dizzying process.

Lead with your desired business outcomes as you vet each possible solution, and ask questions to help you understand the requirements of you, your team, and your data, to accomplish those goals within each tool. And don’t forget to outline all of your tool requirements! Check out our blog on Technology Vendor Selection for tips on how to do this in a thoughtful and thorough manner.

One step at a time

Regardless of which CS tool you choose, or what your priorities are within that tool, taking an iterative approach to implementation is almost always the best way to go. You’re going to see everything that you new tool is capable of during the sales process, but recognize that all of that may not be possible right away.

Data connections, user requirements, team bandwidth. All of these factors (and more) will play a role in the speed with which you can customize the tool you’ve envisioned. CS tools are powerful, they’re just not magic. Naturally, the longer your list of requirements and goals, the more time and effort it will take to make that a reality.

Our most successful CS tool implementations are always those that take a phased approach and utilize a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) mindset. Quite literally, I recommend taking it one step at a time. What is your number one priority for your tool? If it’s having all of your customer data in one place that’s easy to view, then focus on getting your data integrations set up first. If you really just need somewhere for your CSMs to ‘live’ every day, perhaps you’ll prioritize tasks and playbooks for them first. Whatever that biggest need is, that should be your first priority.

Fully implementing a new CS tool always takes longer than you expect. No joke – Every. Single. Time. So be realistic when setting a timeline for yourself or when presenting that timeline to your executives. If there’s a specific deadline already in place, map out a V1 or MVP version that you can reasonably implement within that timeframe, and decide which items can wait until a V2. If you’re lucky enough to not have an existing timeline, and your goal is really just to get it right, how can you make incremental progress along the way?