CS Technology Vendor Selection: Gathering Tool Requirements

May 19, 2020

Megan Macaluso

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

Utilizing a Customer Success tool can be an invaluable part of your customer engagement strategy, but with the ever-growing number of providers and platforms, it’s difficult to know which solution is the right fit for your business. A tool won’t magically fix the challenges you face or fill in any gaps you may have in your CS organization, but with the right foundation and the right partner in a technology vendor, it can improve CS team efficiency through automation and streamlined processes, and enable additional visibility (and therefore predictability) into your customers’ behavior.

Because of the huge impact a CS tool can have on your business, it’s critical to take the shopping process seriously. Take the time to be thoughtful and thorough – document your requirements, and then investigate how each potential vendor will meet those needs. I typically recommend categorizing CS tool requirements into four categories:

1. Customer Success delivery requirements

2. Data connectivity requirements

3. Digital communication requirements

4. The vendor’s role

Keep reading for the items that will most commonly fall into each requirements category.

Customer Success delivery requirements

It’s easy to get distracted by shiny features in any new technology, but when it comes to CS tool requirements, try to keep the focus on the daily workflows of your CSMs and the needs of your clients (the ‘what’ and ‘why’) over technology features and functionality (the ‘how’). Here are some questions worth asking yourself:

  1. What is the team required to accomplish on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc., basis?
  2. What are CSMs measured on?
  3. What customer data points are being (or need to be) captured?
  4. How are you measuring customer experience?
  5. What are your KPIs today, and what do you want them to be?
  6. What reports are you using and would like to use?
  7. What are the key areas of efficiency that you’d like to improve for your team?
  8. What view do you need as a leader into your CS team and customer base?

Data connectivity requirements

Dig deep on this to understand the real level of effort it will take to get your data connected. Understand your data’s health (accuracy, timeliness, completeness etc.), your data’s structure (unique identifiers, etc.), your company’s infosec requirements, and where you can expect a need for workarounds (like a CSV file transfer and what that will entail). There are a lot of details that can be overlooked here, so don’t forget to take these factors into consideration:

  1. All current and future data sources (both required and optional)
  2. Customer data points to be captured
  3. Health score requirements and how data influences that calculation
  4. Plans for future changes in data structure, sources, availability, etc.
  5. What data challenges do you face? (Be sure to probe potential vendors on how challenges could impact deployment of the tool and its abilities)
  6. Have a data SME involved to validate the ‘how’ with potential vendor (How will they do what they’re committing to?)

Digital communication requirements

If you plan to utilize your new tool to enable automated communication, via email or in-app notification, think about both your short- and long-term strategies and goals in this area. Digital is a critical part of CS within all segments (yes, not just for your tail of SMB clients!), so it’s important to validate assumptions on what the tool is capable of. Key questions to ask here include:

  1. How can automating emails from CSMs improve your team’s efficiency and increase their capacity? How can it improve Customer Experience?
  2. What in-app communications would you like to see?
  3. If you’re already utilizing marketing tools, how do those integrate with this CS tool?
  4. What does it take to set up digital campaigns within the tool?
  5. How are emails created? (Is HTML required or possible? Can formatting be customized?)
  6. What security issues has the vendor run into with automated emails?
  7. What survey capabilities are you looking for? Which are possible in the tool?

The vendor’s role

I can’t overemphasize how critical the vendor’s role in supporting implementation and ongoing Customer Success and support is to your success with any new technology. How the vendor properly organizes, listens, guides, supports, and responds will be the difference between success and failure, especially with a complex tool. Understanding the vendor’s role will also enable you to determine the internal resources required to implement and administer the tool. This is an area that’s commonly overlooked when diving into CS tool requirements, so be sure to ask potential vendors lots of questions about this, including:

  1. What is the implementation process and methodology?
  2. What is a realistic implementation timeline, based on all the requirements? (Do your best to get this answer from a project point of view, vs. a sales person’s opinion)
  3. How does training work?
  4. Where do the vendor responsibilities end, and where should my team expect to step in?
  5. What is the role of my CSM? Who else on your team will support my account?
  6. What SLAs are in place for the support team?
  7. What tool customization can be done without incurring additional fees? What can be done for a fee?
  8. What resources are available to help me build best practices into the tool?

Continue the conversation

Selecting the right CS tool is not a simple task, we know! It’s a big step for any CS organization, and requires some serious investigation and vetting. Want to dig deeper into our recommended tool evaluation process? Reach out!

And I’ll leave you with one final tip: don’t forget to gather customer references from potential vendors! Be sure to address your most critical needs in your conversations with them.