CS and product working better together

  • 4 November 2022
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Hey there,

Hoping the 7000+ community members we have in Product Makers 😄 might be able to share some best practices with me re: how customer success and product teams can work better together. We’ve had some similar posts before about this topic from @Hasso and @Sophie Lalonde plus I did a related webinar back in May :-) 

I don’t want to bore anyone with stats but some research I got from our team suggests that nearly 70% of product teams say that the products and features they release are not consistently well-received by customers. Ouch!

I’m trying to be a better advisor to my customers and advise them on some best practices that they could try out to improve that type of stat. Of course there are many things that go into building great products but one thing for sure is a deep understanding by product teams about their customers and CS teams (& other GTM teams) can really help with that if they become like best friends with product.

 

What type of practices do you see at your company that contribute to product and CS working better together?
How do you align interests for these two teams? 

How do you foster the voice of customer?

How have you encouraged transparency and empathy towards each other & their teams work?


Thanks for reading and I look forward to the conversation :-)

Daniel @productboard ​​​​​​​


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I don’t want to bore anyone with stats but some research I got from our team suggests that nearly 70% of product teams say that the products and features they release are not consistently well-received by customers. Ouch!

 

I guess I’ll start with this statistic. 
There are a lot of factors that lead to this type of result: from misguided strategies that stem from sales-led/people-led organizations to not spending enough time working through a hypothesis and (subsequently) discovery. But this leads us to the main topic of the post: the relationship between product and customer success

There are some organizations that tie these two teams into one, with mixed results. However, the point remains is that they’re essentially two peas in a pod. Customer Success empowers the customer through product features and acts as the advocate for our customers. Product, as we all know, is the team that’s meant to align product strategy while being the voice of the user at the discussion table. There are some overlapping “expectations” from both teams, so they should be working together consistently. Now about the questions… 

What type of practices do you see at your company that contribute to product and CS working better together?

I’ve been a rather strong advocate for a transparent and frequent path of communication between product and CS. When I started at my current organization, they were under the same umbrella (as mentioned before). There were other organizational struggles that caused this “single team” approach to collapse; but, all-in-all, it’s a difficult balance to keep. Since then, we’ve positioned a stronger approach to Customer Success (which was, at one point, lumped into Customer Services and Support). There are weekly discussions with CS and Product - whether it’s a discussion to explain what’s being released in the next deployment or to go through feedback/suggestions from customers. 

We also lean heavily on tying Product and CS together for specific webinars and product demonstrations. This means we will sit down before a quarterly business review we have scheduled with a customer, go through their existing utilization of the product, locate means of improving their experience (whether through new enhancements or simply optimizing their current use). It often helps to have another group of people documenting where they think the customer’s experience can be improved, especially when paired with intrinsic product knowledge.

How do you align interests for these two teams? 

A lot of it boils down to communication and prioritization. Customer Success provides additional weight in the prioritization process. While we may have feedback and insights from customers, having that CS voice in the room helps express how much of a “win” a low-hanging fruit could possibly be if we get it done above others. 

Frankly, product and CS are aligned anyways - the user is always the priority and both want to ensure the success of the user through the product. 

How do you foster the voice of customer?

By now, you may have caught onto how intertwined the product and CS teams are (and how I often encourage/foster it to remain that way). By being on meetings with one another (and the user/customers), we can magnify the “voice of the customer/user” through persona-building and pin-pointing pain points. 

How have you encouraged transparency and empathy towards each other & their teams work?

My policy is to take time to understand how each team approaches the same goal. There are numerous approaches and methodologies between both teams. CS, like all departments, need to know what other priorities are standing against their urgent request(s) - along with what’s driving those items. On the same side, the product team needs to understand how the CS team is eager to ensure the satisfaction of the customer. It’s a balance, as you said, of transparency and empathy. It takes time to curate and cater that communication in a way that’s beneficial for all. 

 

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Thanks so much David for your insightful reply. You’ve giving me lots to think about.

I found your point about CS & Product sitting down together before a QBR very interesting. In my experience, we would regularly prepare with product for a QBR type call, however; the discussion is usually focused around ‘how best can we tell a story around our roadmap for the next few quarters’. You seem to be suggesting that this collaboration could be even tighter

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I think the best way I’ve been able to build the relationship with CS (and Sales, for that matter) is joining them on their toughest customer (or prospect) calls. They dread those calls and the fact that anyone would volunteer to be there is huge.

Once CS realizes that Product actually empathizes with them and their customers, they start pulling us into more conversations and talking through their day-to-day issues with us.

We regularly meet with the team (not just CS leadership) and just chat about their world.

  • How are things going?
  • What’s ruining your days right now?
  • What’s going really well?
  • How’s that new hire working out?

Sometimes you find customer insights to dig into.
Other times process issues surface that Product Development can solve. 

Fix a few problems for your CS compatriots and you’ll be surprised how the relationship improves.

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Thanks. I can definitely vouch for the benefit of having product join tough calls and hearing out the customer

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