Inside Customer Success: LinkedIn

March 2, 2016 Matthew McLaren

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Founded in 2003, LinkedIn connects the world's professionals to make them more productive and successful. With more than 414 million members worldwide, LinkedIn is the world's largest professional network on the Internet. The company has a diversified business model with revenue coming from talent solutions, marketing solutions, and premium subscription products. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, LinkedIn has offices across the globe.

We sat down with Perry Monaco, Manager of Customer Success - The Americas, to discuss how Customer Success has evolved at LinkedIn over the last 5 years.

 

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How did you get started in Customer Success?

When I first started at LinkedIn, the concept of Customer Success existed but the label did not. We’ve always wanted our customers to feel successful, see a return on their investment, and have a very positive relationship with our organization.

Customer Success has evolved over time at LinkedIn but the ultimate goal has always remained consistent. When I first started, I was primarily an educator, in terms of working with our customers and showing them how to recruit passive candidates and how to engage with our tools. We’ve evolved significantly since then.

I got involved in Customer Success because I had a particular skill set that our customers needed at that point in time. Since then, we have been able to leverage a lot of other people and get to the point where we have a more sophisticated Customer Success team.

 

"Customer Success has evolved over time at LinkedIn but the ultimate goal has always remained consistent."

 

When did you realize that your role was "Customer Success" (even before your title changed)?

It’s funny, I didn’t really realize the role was Customer Success until the title started being talked about here internally. The Customer Success genre is relatively new and we didn't use that type of language.

When I heard the term Customer Success, I didn’t even need a definition of what customer success was but I was like, “Yeah, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing!”. In the moment, I realized I was trying to get my customers to be successful but I really didn’t fully appreciate the fact that it was a real live function within an organization.

We have experimented and the role has evolved over time to try and understand what it is that we need to do. Our role has expanded to ensure that we can achieve that laser-focus but we have a mission that is very clear and we have a plan to ensure that we get there. We haven’t had the degree of detail that we do now and it’s really an exciting place to be.

 

"We haven’t had the degree of detail that we do now and it’s really an exciting place to be."

 

How are your Customer Success Team’s structured?

Our teams are structured to mirror the way the sales team interacts with our customer base. We segment our customer base into the different sizes that our customers would represent and the different industries requiring unique partnerships.

We have Customer Success Teams that work with Non-Profits, teams that work with our Search and Staffing Clients, and we have Search and Staffing teams that work with our largest customers all the way down to our small and medium business customers.

Here in Canada, our team consists of six Customer Success Managers and they all work with the different segments. They work with a particular segment that is clearly defined and based on the type of customer that would appear in that segment. This allows them to be really targeted in delivering their Customer Success plans. Ultimately, our success plans are going to vary based on the relative complexity of an organization.

 

Inside Customer Success: LinkedIn

 

What is the biggest advantage of your team’s structure?

One of the biggest advantages that we have right now is the ability to scale. We have recognized the importance of scale and being able to leverage some of the investments that we have made as an organization over the last number of years, including Lynda.com, something that’s really exciting for us.

When you’re focused on a particular segment, it allows you to be that - focused and to really understand the needs of your customers, in more than just a general sense. Every interaction with our customers can be a quality one because you don't have to change gears to get into the mindset of what that customer is like.

Generally speaking, a small to medium-sized business customer is going to need one thing that isn’t going to work in a large organization and vice-versa. That’s not a bad thing but it can be difficult in your day-to-day when you’re constantly having to shift gears like that.

 

"One of the biggest advantages that we have right now is the ability to scale."

 

Have you seen any disadvantages of your team's structure? How do you address it?

Internal communication is really important because if you’re so focused on a particular segment, sometimes you lose the ability to learn best practices that other individuals in other segments are gaining. One of my key roles, as a manager here, is to make sure that all of the different individual’s on my team, regardless of segment, are communicating best practices amongst one another. That allows us to get better overall as an organization.

Ultimately, my team is trying to eliminate as much churn as possible and identify as many growth opportunities as possible, while ensuring that our customers feel successful. We can only do that when we truly work together as a team. If we’re too siloed then we lose sight of some of the things that we could be doing better.

As much as customers can be different, depending on their size, a lot of times customers are very similar in terms of what they need. This gives us an opportunity to share that and realize that regardless of what segments you’re working on, there is still an opportunity for us to provide a consistent message to our customer base.

 

Inside Customer Success: LinkedIn

 

What does the culture of Customer Success look like right now and how have you seen it evolve over the last five years?

In a lot of cases, Customer Success right now is still an idea or a philosophy that we want to get to. We have an idea of what Customer Success in an ideal state looks like but it takes time to build the infrastructure, the process, and the scalability to get to that particular point in time.

Unfortunately, it’s just not possible for us to put our business on hold and completely reset the way in which we would like to do something, so we have to continually be evolving and helping our customers evolve as well.

A huge thing for us right now is to make sure that our teams, our customers, and our partners experience the value that our Customer Success Teams can bring to them. It’s an evolution and we’re very much still at the beginning of that evolution.

 

Inside Customer Success: LinkedIn

 

Over the last five years, how has your Customer Success Team grown with the culture and grown with you?

When I started back in 2011, we weren’t called Customer Success Managers. We were essentially an organization of 20 and had one leader globally. Fast forward 5 years and we are now an organization of over 400.

We’ve grown significantly and we’ve matured as an organization. We have a clearly defined mission.

I was the first person hired in Canada and since then we now have a team of six Customer Success Managers in Canada. I also lead teams in Brazil, United States, and soon in Mexico.

As the business continues to grow not only do the number of people here grow but also the scope of our roles grow. It really is about ensuring that we can take advantage of scale, as much as possible, while also making sure that our customers feel successful every day.

 

"We’ve grown significantly and we’ve matured as an organization. We have a clearly defined mission."

 

How long were you the only person managing Customer Success?

I think I was the only person here for about a year and a half. It was challenging but it was also a really nice state to be in because essentially every single customer in Canada was my partner. I’ve worked with all different types of customers and learned a whole bunch of new skill sets.

Certainly covering an entire country, which is a significant size, within LinkedIn, was tough.

The great thing is that it provided an opportunity for a ton of growth professionally for me and the rest of our team. The second person who came to work here in Canada has since relocated to San Francisco and the third person has since been promoted. We’ve hired a number of new people last year whose roles have evolved significantly.

It’s provided a lot of growth opportunities but certainly being the first one in was a pretty cool.

 

"The great thing is that it provided an opportunity for a ton of growth professionally for me and the rest of our team."

 

What does a typical day look like for your team?

First of all, I would say that a good day here for a Customer Success Manager is when you own your own calendar and when you have the opportunity to really set out objectives for the day.

Right now, what we’re anchoring on is speaking to as many customers as possible and truly finding out what it is that they would like to see happen when they invest in Talent Solutions at LinkedIn over the course of the next year.

We then develop a plan for them they can follow to help them achieve their goals. That’s really the primary role of my team right now, ensuring that every single one of our customers has a clearly defined goal and a roadmap to get there. The detail of that varies based on segment but that’s typically what my team is doing.

A significant portion of their day is also learning about some of the new products and developments that are happening right now. We’re undergoing significant product enhancements, to the level that we’ve never seen before. It takes a lot of time to make sure that we’re fully up to speed.

We’re building a product that is much more self-sufficient for our customers to use. Making sure we fully understand how that works is something right now is a big part of our day.

 

Inside Customer Success: LinkedIn

 

How have you seen your customer’s ultimate goal change over the last few years?

Our customers have become more sophisticated. What I was doing five years ago, is nowhere near what my team is doing now, frankly, because our customers can do a lot of those activities themselves. They can actually do a lot of the activities that I was doing day-to-day back then because they have been able to grow with us, which is great!

Our customers are challenging us to get them to a better state. Their expectations and their own goals are getting more complex and much bigger in a lot of cases. It challenges us to get better at what it is that we do and continue to evolve and make a game changing product. It also challenges us to get better at what we’re doing for them and with them. So I like that idea.

We have big successes with our customers. They come to us and say we’ve achieved this now let’s take it to the next step and that’s really an awesome partnership to have with our customers. It’s been a fun ride to see a customer really grow with us and then turn from a customer who maybe didn’t fully understand why they even invested in us to a customer that challenges us to do more with them.

 

"Our customers are challenging us to get them to a better state."

 

Do the Customer Success Teams handle feature requests?

We have a close relationship with product because we deal with so many customers on a daily basis. Understanding where it is that our customers want to go with us is obviously super valuable information for our product team.

We do have that direct line to our product team to be able to make suggestions, be the voice of customers and work closely with them to help improve the products.

 

What do you think is the most powerful part of your Customer Success process?

Here at LinkedIn, relationships matter. Relationships are key to our success both internally and externally.

One of the reasons why we have been successful and continue to be successful is that we take the time to truly develop those relationships with our customers, outside of the sales transaction. That happens at all levels, not just in customer success but with our relationship management team, with our account executives, and our solutions team.

Relationships are really what is the most important thing in our company.

We’ve been able to be successful because we take the time to understand our customers, understand motivations, and understand what they deem to be success.

We help them get to that point and really care about their both professional and personal success. We want to celebrate those promotions and we want to celebrate those bonuses that they receive. Certainly they get there on their own volition and it’s their hard work but if we can assist in any way to help someone become personally successful then we want to be able to do that. A really rewarding part of the job is the relationships that we have with our customers.

 

Inside Customer Success: LinkedIn

 

Speaking of celebrating success, can you tell me a little more about #Cake?

#Cake has evolved into #SuccessDelivered and it’s a simple idea. We want to be able to celebrate someone’s personal success as well as professional success.

The idea is that you are my customer and I am your partner. We set out on this journey together and we achieved this goal. I want to acknowledge that because that’s important for the relationship. It’s a nice, human thing to do.

We talk about celebrating our customer’s success with cake and we have sent cakes as a way of congratulations to some of our customers who’ve been able to achieve their goals. It’s been fun and certainly creates an interesting social aspect to that as well because they feel great about it, we feel great about it and in the end, it gets people excited to work with our team.

 

"We want to be able to celebrate someone’s personal success as well as professional success."


 

How do you think your customer success process different than other social media sites?

It’s hard to compare because we have a SaaS business model and we’re also a subscription based company. It’s a very different business model in Talent Solutions then purchasing ads on LinkedIn because, a lot of the time, they have an end date.

The goal of my organization is to make sure that there is no end date. We want to make sure that a customer feels successful so they want to continue to do more and achieve bigger goals over the course of their relationship with us.

I’m not saying that the other organizations aren’t focused on this, but we’re definitely focused on long-term relationships with our customers and not as focused on the immediate. That’s because a lot of the plans that we implement require a long runway to get accomplished.

 

Inside Customer Success: LinkedIn

 

What role does Customer Success play in overall business strategy?

I think it’s a huge component of the business strategy. One of the simplest rules in business is that it’s much easier to retain a customer than it is to find a new customer.

We want to make sure that we’re doing the best that we can to not just retain customers but retain customers in a way that they are in a place of success.

We want our customers to engage with our team and be blown away not only by the level of partnership but also by the results that they get.

 

"One of the simplest rules in business is that it’s much easier to retain a customer than it is to find a new customer."

 

What metrics are important to your team?

The two most important metrics for us would be Retention Rate and NPS.

NPS is really valuable for us to make sure that our customers have that ability to say “Yes, I would recommend this solution and this organization to someone else”. Certainly, Retention Rate is a no brainer because we want to make sure that we are retaining and growing as many of our customers as possible. Those would be the two most important metrics and everything else flows into those two.

 

How important do you think Customer Success is to the success of LinkedIn as a platform?

Customer Success, across all of our lines of business, is what’s going to really ensure that LinkedIn continues to be a game-changing organization and continues to enable our customers to achieve the goals they want to achieve.

We want to continue to evolve.

We are always in a place where we want to get better and that we want to improve what we do while at the same time nailing customer success today with our customers.

 

How do you deal with LinkedIn haters?

The great thing about working at an organization like LinkedIn is that people are very passionate about the technology and the platform. Everyone that has an opinion has the right to voice it and should be heard. Certainly, suggesting ways in which we can get better is super important and super valuable for us as an organization (when it’s done in a constructive way).

I think that having people who love us or hate us is actually really healthy for us as an organization because it shows that people are passionate about the platform and that is ultimately what’s really important.

 

Inside Customer Success: LinkedIn

 

What does success look like for you in your everyday life?

As a manager, my role is to clear the way for my team to do their job, so if I can do that effectively and clear out the mess and the noise in the way of them accomplishing their goals, then I feel really good about my day.

My team is the horsepower behind Customer Success in Canada. They’re the one’s who do all the great things. I just try and enable them as much as possible, and that’s what makes me feel successful.

 

What advice do you have for Customer Success Professionals looking to scale their team?

As I’ve had the opportunity to grow my teams here at LinkedIn, I first identify the gaps someone new could fill and start my recruitment there. I tend to be pretty hands on with recruitment as I have a background in the industry so it’s all about moving quickly on the absolute best candidate while also hiring based on what we need both now and in the future.

About the Author

Matthew McLaren

Matthew McLaren works as a Digital Marketing Manager at Amity. His passion for creative design has motivated him to explore the many uses of technology.

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