7 Questions to Ask Before Implementing a Customer Success Platform

July 12, 2018 Elakkiya Sivakumaran

When you’re in a store, the process from browsing to buying is pretty unremarkable. It’s a simple transaction with the swipe of your credit card. But, in B2B, purchasing new software involves higher management and interrupts a team’s regular workflow. It takes significant long-term investment and commitment. Doesn’t sound very simple, does it? 

In the customer success industry this can be especially hard because CS is still a new and developing area in the SaaS world. As a CS professional, you may be doing work that hasn’t been done before. You’re learning as you go, and you have the responsibility of also teaching the rest of your organization about customer success. 

Getting customer success software to help you and your team manage your daily workflow may sound like the right solution to your problem, but sometimes investing can create more problems than it solves. 

Luckily, John Kennedy of Amity has a 7-point checklist you can use if you’re considering investing in customer success software. Use this to help you make the most informed decision!

1. Is it the right time to invest in CS software?

Timing is everything when you’re trying to implement a whole new process or platform that will change the routine of your team. You have to make sure your organization and customer success team can handle this change. 

Despite the best intentions, it may be too soon for your company to invest in customer success software.
Despite the best intentions, it may be too soon for your company to invest in customer success software. 

How do you know? Talk to your CS team and your management team about priorities. What goals are you trying to achieve right now and can you support the bandwidth of implementing a new system? 

Another factor to consider is company and team size. If your company is still small and doesn’t have a large customer base, then you may not need a CS platform just yet. You won’t be getting the value from the system that you hope to when there aren’t enough people to use it.

“We often find that companies that struggle during our pilot, are smaller and because of that, their priorities are shifting quickly,” says John. “The customer success leader in these companies are often being pulled in many different directions. And despite good intentions, they simply can't make time to work with us to implement their system.”

Not having the right resources is also a good reason not to implement a CS system just yet. Perhaps your CS team has a lot on their plate right now and can’t spare the time and energy it takes to implement a new system. You’ll need help from your engineering team, as well, to implement a new system. Their bandwidth is another thing to consider before making the decision to implement a new system.

2. Are your goals for the CS software clear and realistic?

Before implementing a new system, you need to know what problem you’re trying to solve and understand whether the solutions you have in mind are realistic or not. The sales process is a good time to see if the service you’re considering can support you in the right way. If the platforms you’re looking at can’t offer you the value you’re expecting, you may have to re-think your solution; or perhaps, even the initial problem. 

Investing in customer success software, as with any software, shouldn’t be a last ditch effort to solve underlying company-wide issues. It should be to solve the right kind of problems and challenges that your customer success team is facing.

John points out, “In some cases, things just are changing too much in the business that by the time you've implemented the system, some other processes are fully different.” 

If your company is going through a stage of big changes, especially regarding processes, bringing in a new element could be like throwing a wrench into the machine. It’ll disrupt your company’s workflow instead if improving it.

3. Do you have the buy-in for CS software?

An important step before implementing a new software is having executive support and buy-in. Remember, B2B purchases are not nearly as simple as B2C. You’ll need the right buy-in to successfully go through the sales process. Show your management the value props of CS software before booking any meetings with software providers. How will this software save the company time and money in the long-run?

You need your technology leader onboard for a successful implementation. They should be a active advisor in the evaluation process as you will need access to systems and development resources that they manage. “When the CTO is left out of the loop, you risk a death by CTO,” says John.

One person in the C-Suite can change the entire direction of your implementation process.

There are two situations in which John has seen “death by CTO”. The first happens when the implementation progressed without consultation from IT leadership. Occasionally CTO identifies a concern about the integration between the new platform and existing business systems. Unfortunately, sometimes the issue cannot be resolved quickly and the implementation may lack  a key integration; or worse, the entire project gets postponed.

The second way involves the “not invented here” (NIH) syndrome. The NIH syndrome occurs  when your engineering team insists that the technology you need can be built in-house, though promising solutions exist outside your company.

In reality, your company will not have time to create a new customer success software. Not when they need to focus on developing your core product, which isn’t customer success software, effectively killing your implementation process.

To avoid these kinds of issues, it’s imperative you have ongoing discussions between customer success and IT. Everyone should understand each other’s concerns and be on the same page to make software implementation successful.

4. Do you know where your customer data is?

7 Questions to Ask before Implementing CS PlatformData storage is usually a new area for customer success professionals, but it’s vital to have a grasp of it when implementing a CS platform. 

"One of the benefits of Amity is that we can provide a comprehensive, 360 degree profile of your customer accounts and end-users," says John. In order to build this profile, Amity must connect with systems such CRM, email, support, billing and your application.  

“A common challenge that a CS person may be completely unfamiliar with,”  says John, “is that your customer records have different IDs in different systems.” For example, a customer with the ID ‘123’ in your app will have a different ID, like ‘ABC’ in your CRM system, then ‘XYZ’ in your billing system. “Depending on the maturity or the size of your business, these things may be totally disjointed.” 

It’s up to the CS software to group all this information under one customer name and record, but you need to know where it should be retrieved from. 

5. Can you get access to customer data?

As a member of the customer success team, you may not have the credentials to access the information in all the different systems your company is using. This carries forward when you’re implementing a CS platform and cannot grant access to the software provider in order to connect your systems with theirs. 

7 Questions to Ask Before Implementing a Customer Success Platform
Lack of access to the necessary systems can badly interrupt your implementation process. 

As mentioned above, you'll want to work with your CTO to secure access to the right systems. They should be aware of the connections that you want to make. You don't want to be surprised in the middle of the implementation if the CTO can't provide access for some reason.

Another issue John mentions is API access. “Not every system allows third party integration—what's called API access,” he says. “You might have to upgrade or pay more to get that kind of access. So there may be restrictions here based on what your systems have or the license you purchased.”

For example, the Salesforce CRM API is only available in specific editions. If your company uses a Salesforce edition that doesn't offer API access, your CS platform won't be able to access the important data in that system. “Although it's not a common problem, a couple of Amity customers did struggle with this,” mentions John, “so it’s something you should be aware of and plan for accordingly.”

Access is made more difficult when the data your company has is inconsistent, duplicated, or missing. This is called bad data

Bad data, when overlooked, can really set back the implementation process. CSMs who don’t realize this problem exists will have to take a break to clean up that bad data and come back to the software provider to complete implementation. 

It’s hard to avoid bad data, but with this awareness, you can do the clean-up before implementation, and save some time—and headaches—down the road.

6. Can you get a developer to implement the CS software?

In order to get usage data from your application in the CS software, you will likely need help from a developer. “This is someone on the team who can instrument the code and install a small snippet JavaScript code a few places,” says John.

Sometimes, this has already been done but under the direction of a different team, such as product management or marketing, who are looking for different data than the customer success team. Thus, someone will have to go back into the code and add the instrumentation to meet the CS team’s needs. But, does that someone have the time to help you?

Lack of developer resources can make it hard to impossible to implement new software.

“Generally, the development effort requires just one person working for a day or two,” notes John. “But I've heard of cases where many months passed before a developer was available to make these simple changes.”

If you account for this challenge before you begin implementing a software, you can start having those discussions with IT and securing those resources sooner rather than later.

7. Are your CSMs involved in implementing the CS software? 

When some companies invest in a new IT system (like customer success), they assign an IT resource to perform the implementation. Unfortunately, in some cases, the IT resource fails to involve the CS team during this process. 

Then, when the implementation is complete, the IT expert will "train" the CS team for a couple hours and move onto the next project. Meanwhile, the customer success team has to deal with the choices that someone, who’s not in CS, made on their behalf. This will make CS less likely to successfully adopt the new software. 

“Unfortunately, we have encountered this a few times," says John. “We’re obviously concerned about it and we also stress that at least one customer success representative must be engaged throughout the implementation.”

Sometimes, however, the CS representative apart of this process isn’t reflecting the needs of the entire customer success team. This may happen when there’s only one representative from one level of management, such as the CCO

This person will naturally have different needs from the CS system than a CSM. As such, the different members of the customer success team have to align their goals and preferences when implementing the software.

Customer success and engineering have to work together to ensure the software is implemented effectively

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About the Author

Elakkiya Sivakumaran

Elakkiya Sivakumaran is a Technical Writer at Amity. She enjoys interdisciplinary writing (who said English, Classical Studies, and Psychology can't mix?) and learned almost everything she knows about English grammar from high school Latin. She is currently studying English and Classical Studies at the University of Waterloo.

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