In the world of Investor Relations and technology, the learning curve for Customer Success Managers (CSM) is between three and six months, so the initial few weeks are crucial to setting the groundwork of the role and getting to know the company and our products. Now that the team is 20+, we’ve worked on processes that enable a more structured onboarding and reduce that learning curve. When hiring, we look for candidates who first and foremost have experience going above and beyond for customers. The second thing we look for is experience with web. An ideal candidate should have both of these things, and would have also built their own website, worked with a content management system, managed projects and, best case scenario, loves to coordinate events, and is highly organized.
When we first started to build out the Q4 Customer Success team, I would onboard and train new hires by scheduling meetings across the company. New CSMs would spend 30 minutes to an hour in their first few weeks with key members of the team who I knew would become their point of contact for information for specific questions/issues. They met with the most knowledgeable members of our Implementations team, our Product Managers, and shadowed our Web Support Analysts to see how tickets and calls from customers were handled. We still use this method to introduce new hires to different departments in Q4, but our HR team now does a full day orientation where an overview of all departments and roles is provided by the management of each team.
When the team was smaller, it was easy to work as a group to train and onboard new hires. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team to train a new CSM. I still maintain this is the best way to integrate new CSMs. Encouraging them to raise issues and solve them collaboratively with the people around them allows them to learn quickly, and it cements learnings or processes for the rest of the team as well. Our team is divided into groups of five or six, with a Senior team member at each ‘pod’, so that team members always have access to a senior member they can go to in a crisis.
Now that the team is growing, those Senior CSMs are onboarding the new hires. When it is determined that we need to expand the team, we establish which Senior CSM will be onboarding that new hire. That Senior interviews all candidates and makes recommendations on who would be a good fit. Once an ideal candidate is selected, the Senior CSM is responsible for all onboarding procedures around that new hire. Making sure the new hire has the equipment they need, along with training resources available to them is a big part of this role. The new CSM spends their first week watching onboarding videos about Google Analytics, logging into a demo version of our product and making basic changes, shadowing the Support team’s tickets with customers to see how problems are resolved, and listening in on calls and training that the rest of the team has with their customers. After two weeks, when the new CSM feels comfortable with the information they’ve learned, we give them their first customer. The Senior CSM responsible for them is also equally responsible for the new hires’ customers, sitting in on onboarding meetings with and about the customer, to answer any questions the new hire is unable to answer.
To ensure a smooth onboarding of team members, I suggest having a one week check in, and explain the process for reviewing performance going forward. We also do a one month check in, and then a three month more formal probation end review. At both check ins, I outline the new hire’s accomplishments to date, and any ‘focus areas’ they can work on or gain more knowledge on. For most, these are the same topics, more focus on our industry etc. and for some its an opportunity to provide constructive feedback. We give full performance reviews once a year, and all team members have a bi-weekly meeting with a Senior CSM or me, after their one month check in. In the bi-weekly, we go over the team members’ customer list, take the time to review any issues, and discuss goals and objectives.
Some more tips for ironing out an onboarding process for new hires:
Make them feel welcomed: Have their desk setup, hardware delivered on time, and a welcome email ready to go to the team/company to introduce them to their new colleagues. Make their first experience of your company warm and friendly.
“I was reminded on a daily basis that each team member was here, and willing to help at any point. To chat about both the big, and smaller pictures. It was a very welcoming feeling :)”
- Megan Boyd, Client Success Manager at Q4 Inc.
Have materials for them to read and tools to get stuck into during their first week. If your team is lean and busy you probably can’t dedicate hours to training. CSMs need to take some initiative for their own learning.
“I think it's really beneficial that our onboarding process encourages new CSMs to take charge of their learning and be proactive in seeking out specific knowledge. It fits well with our company culture, allows for individuality, and even affords us the opportunity to identify potential gaps in processes.“
- Dianna Hill, Senior Client Success Manager at Q4 Inc.
Have them shadow your Support team; make sure they read tickets, and get them to watch how Support handles issues. You won’t regret it in the long run. The new hires will build relationships with the Support team and be more conscientious about sending in tickets and working with them, resulting in a happier workplace and better results for clients.
- Have a buddy system. Having a buddy means the new hire can ask a peer anything they might feel silly or uncomfortable asking their manager. The buddy system has helped to integrate new people into the team faster, and gets them exposed to a larger breadth of information learning from someone else who’s been in the role for a while. This can be as involved or casual as you like, but having a go-to person really improves the experience for members of my team.
“The buddy system helps the team develop strong bonds and fosters a culture of teamwork where everyone looks out for each other.”
- Peter Bonetta, Client Success Manager
About the Author
Karin is the Manager of Client Success at Q4 Inc, a SaaS leader in communications and intelligence solutions to the Investor Relations market. Client Success at Q4 means a strategic focus on customer retention and a growing team in a fast-paced environment. Karin comes from the UK and having lived in France, the US and now Canada, can say Toronto is her favourite of all the places she's lived so far.Follow on Twitter More Content by Karin Ronde