Product Strategy

Scaling Customer Success in a Product-Led World

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The high-touch/low-touch/tech-touch customer success model is antiquated. In 2020, there are many strategies that allow product-led companies to offer the same CS experience that was previously reserved for the highest value enterprise accounts.

As a self-serve, product-led B2B product, the Hugo team have implemented a handful of strategies that allow us to activate, retain and grow our customers without a single customer success manager in the house.

We'll share our playbook for scaling customer success through the lens of product-led growth.

Darren Chait:
Hi, I'm Darren, I'm co-founder of Hugo. I'm here to talk to you today about product-led customer success. Thanks for joining me. Still getting used to the online conference format, but definitely means we can chat to more people in a much easier way. So, I hope you enjoy this quick session for context, and I'll just switch over so you can see my slides. I'm as I mentioned, co-founder of Hugo, I head up growth for Hugo, based in San Francisco. You could hear my strange accent, which is where I'm originally from, Sydney, Australia. And, today, with most of the team based in SF, and everyone else spread around the world in a part remote setup, we spend a lot of time focusing on product-led growth. That's how Hugo grows, that's how we've been successful to-date. And I'll talk more about that in a moment.

Darren Chait:
But to give you the context to sort of position how we got to thinking about customer success with a product-led lens, I'll just tell you a little bit about the product and the business. If we think about meetings, we all spend so much of our life in meetings, and it's a forum and a format that really hasn't changed in a long time. And if you think about the way we work, there's so much that's different. In fact, there's very little that's the same. We, now, know the average company's using close to 150 different sales tools. And, obviously, now the whole world's working remotely. And even before the COVID era, we knew that the majority of companies, upwards of 70%, had at least part of their team working remote at least some of the time. So, that's a trend, and now even the way we work that's changed so much over the last 5 or 10 years.

Darren Chait:
But, at the same time, there hasn't been much innovation with meetings. Sure, we can now use Zoom, and we can communicate in an online way more effectively. But meetings still need all of us in the room. Someone still takes notes, they get lost. The actions come up, some get completed, some don't. Next time we meet, we try and pick up where we left off it but, invariably, end up overlapping, or repeating things, or things fall between the cracks. And really the preparation piece is a whole nother can of worms. There's been so little changes in the way we meet.

Darren Chait:
So, we're on a mission with Hugo to connect the way we meet to the way we work. And the way we do that is by taking this view that the meeting note is the source of truth. If we can centralize the whole team's meeting notes, make them searchable, put them all in one place, and connect them to the rest of your tools and your team, we can use the meeting note as the common thread to recreate the way we collaborate around meetings. And that's what Hugo does. It's a product for teams, it's centralized, searchable meeting notes. Everyone takes their notes in Hugo, we prepare for our meetings in Hugo, and it connects all those insights, and all those takeaways to the rest of the team via email and Slack and the rest of our tools, like your CRM, project management tools, video conferencing tools, etc.

Darren Chait:
And the reason I talk so much about Hugo is we don't have a single salesperson. We're absolutely product-led. The way Hugo grows is across teams and between companies. And the inherently viral part of meetings, i.e.meeting each other and people meeting new people every day, allows us to use functionality in the product to acquire new users, and more about that later.

Darren Chait:
But switching to customer success for a moment and, I should say, customer success is one of the fastest growing parts of our customer base. But, in general, we're all very familiar with the growth of customer success. It's a concept that really has been nicely married, or nicely correlated with the growth of SaaS. At a slightly different rate, we know customer success came about in the early 2000s with the likes of Salesforce and other subscription-based software products growing because, all of a sudden, the annual contract, the big implementation fees, the five-year deals started to disappear, and become less obvious. So, if I was in sales and I signed a five-year deal, previously, I wouldn't really have to worry about them for many years. they've paid their money, or they're legally committed. But when we switched to subscription software, all of a sudden, I now needed to be redoing that sale every month. And if the value's not obvious, and if the customer's not getting value from the product they're going to churn, which is another new word introduced with customer success.

Darren Chait:
So, why are we talking about customer success today, when it's really a concept that we're all now very comfortable with and has been nicely correlated with the growth of SaaS? That's because it doesn't work for product-led growth. If you go and look at the customer success playbook, all the concepts out there... And make this a little bigger so you can see, I just grabbed a bunch of thought leadership from a whole lot of great customer success brands. A lot of it is pretty irrelevant. And this was a lesson, for me, joining and building a SaaS company. I went out looking for how we build our customer success team. What can we do to increase the value our customers get from the product, help them get started and, of course, retain them? And the more I read about quarterly business reviews, and business plans, and onboarding, and having champions within a company, and those sorts of processes, it just didn't gel because I didn't quite understand how a self-serve product that grows based on inherent product features fit into that playbook.

Darren Chait:
In many cases, our customers didn't want to talk to us, to be completely frank. They wanted to get on with it themselves. They'd signed up late one night when the pain point was most obvious. And they weren't really interested in bringing their executives every quarter to have a meeting with metrics in the slide deck. So, with that, we started looking for what does customer success mean in a product-led world? And if we zoom in, you can see in the top right here where we have this, now famous, diagram from Gainsight, which they sort of pioneered, or created originally. We also see, at the same time, this correlation between the degree of touch, how much time I spend with an account as a customer success manager, and the segment, which is roughly correlated with the value they bring or the revenue, if that's a metric for your business.

Darren Chait:
So, large accounts get high-touch, all my time. And small accounts SMBs get tech touch, none of my time, just automation. With, obviously, someone middle. The same goes for strategy, this diagram originally said that [proactive-ness 00:07:07] should be reserved for high-touch and automated, I guess you can infer, reactive is for tech touch, and SMBs.

Darren Chait:
So, if I'm a customer success manager working in a company that relies on product-led growth, I'm now very confused. My accounts grow automatically based on product design, and the features, and functionality of the product. I have to though resource my customer success team based on the size of the company. And then, when that's resourced the strategy for their customer success team, how proactive I am versus reactive or automated is also based on the size of the company. It just doesn't make sense anymore for a purely product-led company. So, at Hugo, this was a sticking point for us originally.

Darren Chait:
If we look at why can't the conventional customer success model work for a product-led business, it seems quite obvious in retrospect. And I think it's important to think about the why there, because as you grow a customer success team in your product-led organization, as you resource and prioritize customer success as an executive, you need to think about where the disconnect is, which sorts of products and which sorts of businesses need this novel approach to customer success inconsistent with the playbook, I might add.

Darren Chait:
Firstly, we're talking month-to-month. So, on that spectrum move conventional software sales, early SaaS, and where we are today, many product-led businesses are looking at a month-to-month rather annual. So, the whole concept of renewal is out the window. That confused me early on, that we're definitely not focused on renewal every month, we're focused on retention. We want you to stick around and keep getting great value from our product. We're definitely not checking in the week before you renew, so you can go into your account settings and cancel or remove your credit card. So, any talk of contract and renewal isn't relevant for a business like that.

Darren Chait:
An interesting trend we've observed is the customer success team are pooled by new customer acquisition. So, what I mean by this is if you think about in a conventional enterprise sales driven org, you have your account execs and sales team, they close a deal, you have this hand over to customer success, you have your onboarding implementation phase. They get up and running, they get value. And then, you're down to renewal over the life of the customer.

Darren Chait:
It's very different for us. I wake up in the morning, as a customer success manager, and I have all these new accounts. Some are high opportunity, some aren't as high an opportunity. All of them have come through product-led growth and functionality of the product. But I don't have a say in how many accounts are created overnight. I can't go and ask for more information from the salesperson, because there isn't one. So, the customer acquisition, and the self-serve acquisition channels driven by product-led growth are really determining the spread of accounts that we've got on our plate to manage as CSMs.

Darren Chait:
The other thing that really has helped us, as founders, prioritize customer success in our business is that it's almost like a condition precedent to product-led growth. In our funnel, our customers grow and refer the product once they're getting great value out of the product. So, if we're not investing in customer success we don't get low enough down the funnel to even worry about product-led growth. And what I mean by that, just putting practical example against that, you sign up for Hugo, and you go and set an agenda, write your first meeting note. Before you're anywhere near telling your clients, or your investors, or a partner of yours about Hugo, and bringing them into the product, you've got to be fully on board and getting great value out of Hugo. So, if we're not doing a good job of customer success, we're never going to get near the product lead triggers for growth. And that's why we see customer success as a tightly coupled strategy with product-led growth. We have to get it right.

Darren Chait:
And I think what I found really interesting, at a personal level, is the changing psychology of the B2B customer. Historically, everyone wanted higher touch support, and onboarding, and access to that customer success manager. I can pick up the phone, I can send him or her an email, and be in touch with them to help me get more value out of the product.

Darren Chait:
There was an interesting Forrester study recently that showed that 3 out of 4, so 75%, of every B2B buyer would rather self-educate than learn about a product from a representative at the company. And if you think about we're now used to, on the consumer side, adopting products this way, and the consumerization of tech and the consumerization of B2B products in many cases, as we've experienced too, even giving a low value account, or an SMB account, the most experienced customer success manager isn't going to help them when all they want to do one night is play around and try product out for themselves, and share it with the team. And we're definitely seeing this trend where, in many cases, the conventional customer success approach, even without the resource constraints of scaling that in a product-led organization, isn't what the customer wants. So, looking back to a self-serve B2B product-led organization, the customer success model that we've all been used to needs to change.

Darren Chait:
And I'm going to go as far as saying, in a product lead org, the role of the CSM to respond to these challenges is that they need to be an absolute unicorn. They're a product manager, they're a designer, they're a copywriter, they're a salesperson, and they're even an engineer, in some cases. And that's how we've succeeded building a customer success function in our product-led org.

Darren Chait:
And switching back to what was the traditional pyramid of where to be spending your time, we see in a product-led org, that there's actually no correlation for us between account value and no touch or low-touch self-serve accounts. We spend where we're putting our tech touch, or no touch strategies against accounts of every size, because it scales, it matches the account renewal timeframe monthly. It allows us to be more proactive and there, when and where our customer needs us. None of these things should have any regard to the size of the company for a product-led account.

Darren Chait:
So, let's talk about how we scale this. And I want to share some plays that worked really well for us at Hugo with this different view on the role of the customer success manager in a product-led organization.

Darren Chait:
One, automated high-touch outreach. So, one thing that we learned early on is a great customer success manager is, obviously, a function of how well and how often they communicate with their customer, and at the right time. And the reason this move from high-touch to tech touch on that spectrum has happened is because you're resource constrained, and you can't afford to hire and spend more customer success time with accounts that aren't of much value to you.

Darren Chait:
We're in 2020, the technology out there is very different to it was, even at the earl days of customer success. We've found that we can automate high-touch outreach. We can communicate with our customers in the way they're only used to with vendors they're spending a lot of money with. And there's some examples on the screen here. But we're triggering emails, when customers are opening the product at strange hours of the day, asking them what they're up to. And if we can help, the same way a human might for a really high value account, we're reaching out proactively, if the customer encounters an error, or bug that's triggered by our error monitoring software. Fires an analytics event, goes into our emails, our automated email tools, and off goes the email to start a conversation.

Darren Chait:
And really all of these examples, and there's seven or eight of them in play for Hugo customers today, starts a conversation. It's proactive, not reactive. It's written in a way and articulated in a way you would expect from a human customer success manager. And really it starts the conversation that we can't do from a resource standpoint with the thousands of customers we're supporting today, but offers the same quality of customer experience. And that's what I meant earlier by a good CSM now. The CSM who designed this, for example, isn't just a customer success manager. They're really now in a product-led org, have to be a product manager, a designer, a copywriter, an engineer, all the skills that you need to build customer success solutions like this.

Darren Chait:
And I wanted to zoom in on the proactive support. That's the second strategy that's been very effective for us. We've built a bot that pings the relevant CSM when a user experiences a significant error to help us proactively deal with that. We know that errors and bugs are one of the key causes of churn. So, when they occur, if we can turn that negative experience into a positive one, and if we can start a conversation in the way a CSM would always love to do, but it's usually days or weeks later, we have this unbelievably high-touch, high quality customer experience for a product-led organization which, typically, hasn't always gone together.

Darren Chait:
Our third strategy that's been effective is around the decentralization of customer success. So, if we look for a moment based on some of the other strategies I just mentioned, what is customer success now? For us, as a business, it's not a function anymore. We don't have a team of just customer success managers. It's a way of doing things that's now spread across the team. If I have an engineer building out a flow that checks in with customers based on data trigger points, ask them how they are, is that customer success, or engineering work, for example.

Darren Chait:
So, in a product lead org, similarly, the growth team is part of the product team, which is also a design function. And then, the engineering team build it. We're really changing our views on what typical functional team set up should look like. And the same should go for customer success. Customer success is, now, the role of the whole company. So yes, we do have CSMs, who are responding to these emails and are perhaps the ones hopping on Zoom calls for certain accounts. But, ultimately, customer success, for us anymore, isn't based on the titles of the few people, it's that function. Just like a growth function, now, involves many people from different disciplines.

Darren Chait:
Welcome packs and swag APIs and that, we've achieved a lot of great success and advocacy by using product triggers to send out bits and pieces to high value accounts when they sign up. So something, again, that a customer success manager has always done in a traditional org around direct mail and engagement through swag and other material, that's all automated for us. If you sign up and you're a account of a certain value, we'll send you out a welcome pack with everything you needed to get onboarded, and started yourself. As your team grows, so will the swag, and so will other triggers as well in that flow. So, that's something that's worked really well for us as well, as a product-led org, trying to scale our customer success team.

Darren Chait:
And the last idea here is around a Slack bot for everything. What are the triggers? Go and ask yourself, what are the indicators for accounts heading the right way, and accounts not heading the right way? Forgetting how you respond to them, for a moment, if you just expose all of those early indicators, you can very quickly find solutions that scale. So, whether that's churn, whether that's an NPS response, whether that's certain click behaviors, or product, or feature usage in the product. All of these things indicate something about that account.

Darren Chait:
Now that, for us, is where we start as we build our customer success strategies. What do we know? And how do we know it? From there, what do we do about it is the new way of thinking about customer success. What do we know? Excuse me, what do we know and how do we know it have always been customer success triggers. But, historically, what we do about it has been something that's reserved for customer success managers in traditional software orgs. In a product-led organization, what do we do about it is the opportunity to automate and build these processes that scale into the tens of thousands of customers very, very quickly without hiring more and more headcount.

Darren Chait:
So, that's a quick overview of how we think about customer success in a product-led organization. In summary, the change that you need to think about is that customer success is now a function for everyone that's not reserved for accounts of a certain size. Rather, it's the way of thinking where we can take the triggers, and insights that we have a modern piece of software, and with a modern tech stack, and use that to increase advocacy, drive customer growth, and do it at the same pace and velocity that product-led growth enables.

Darren Chait:
Definitely love to continue the conversation. With Hugo, we're definitely big believers in product-led growth. It's got us to where we are, and it powers our growth every day. And we like to think that we've done it not at the expense of customer success. The customer experience, for us, is really core, and tightly coupled with our product-led growth today.

Darren Chait:
So, thanks for joining. We'd love to continue the conversation, you can reach out to us via Twitter or on LinkedIn. It's @hugoproduct on Twitter. Or to learn more about Hugo, you can hit www.hugo.team. Thanks very much. Enjoy the rest of the conference.

Darren Chait:
Hi, I'm Darren, I'm co-founder of Hugo. I'm here to talk to you today about product-led customer success. Thanks for joining me. Still getting used to the online conference format, but definitely means we can chat to more people in a much easier way. So, I hope you enjoy this quick session for context, and I'll just switch over so you can see my slides. I'm as I mentioned, co-founder of Hugo, I head up growth for Hugo, based in San Francisco. You could hear my strange accent, which is where I'm originally from, Sydney, Australia. And, today, with most of the team based in SF, and everyone else spread around the world in a part remote setup, we spend a lot of time focusing on product-led growth. That's how Hugo grows, that's how we've been successful to-date. And I'll talk more about that in a moment.

Darren Chait:
But to give you the context to sort of position how we got to thinking about customer success with a product-led lens, I'll just tell you a little bit about the product and the business. If we think about meetings, we all spend so much of our life in meetings, and it's a forum and a format that really hasn't changed in a long time. And if you think about the way we work, there's so much that's different. In fact, there's very little that's the same. We, now, know the average company's using close to 150 different sales tools. And, obviously, now the whole world's working remotely. And even before the COVID era, we knew that the majority of companies, upwards of 70%, had at least part of their team working remote at least some of the time. So, that's a trend, and now even the way we work that's changed so much over the last 5 or 10 years.

Darren Chait:
But, at the same time, there hasn't been much innovation with meetings. Sure, we can now use Zoom, and we can communicate in an online way more effectively. But meetings still need all of us in the room. Someone still takes notes, they get lost. The actions come up, some get completed, some don't. Next time we meet, we try and pick up where we left off it but, invariably, end up overlapping, or repeating things, or things fall between the cracks. And really the preparation piece is a whole nother can of worms. There's been so little changes in the way we meet.

Darren Chait:
So, we're on a mission with Hugo to connect the way we meet to the way we work. And the way we do that is by taking this view that the meeting note is the source of truth. If we can centralize the whole team's meeting notes, make them searchable, put them all in one place, and connect them to the rest of your tools and your team, we can use the meeting note as the common thread to recreate the way we collaborate around meetings. And that's what Hugo does. It's a product for teams, it's centralized, searchable meeting notes. Everyone takes their notes in Hugo, we prepare for our meetings in Hugo, and it connects all those insights, and all those takeaways to the rest of the team via email and Slack and the rest of our tools, like your CRM, project management tools, video conferencing tools, etc.

Darren Chait:
And the reason I talk so much about Hugo is we don't have a single salesperson. We're absolutely product-led. The way Hugo grows is across teams and between companies. And the inherently viral part of meetings, i.e.meeting each other and people meeting new people every day, allows us to use functionality in the product to acquire new users, and more about that later.

Darren Chait:
But switching to customer success for a moment and, I should say, customer success is one of the fastest growing parts of our customer base. But, in general, we're all very familiar with the growth of customer success. It's a concept that really has been nicely married, or nicely correlated with the growth of SaaS. At a slightly different rate, we know customer success came about in the early 2000s with the likes of Salesforce and other subscription-based software products growing because, all of a sudden, the annual contract, the big implementation fees, the five-year deals started to disappear, and become less obvious. So, if I was in sales and I signed a five-year deal, previously, I wouldn't really have to worry about them for many years. they've paid their money, or they're legally committed. But when we switched to subscription software, all of a sudden, I now needed to be redoing that sale every month. And if the value's not obvious, and if the customer's not getting value from the product they're going to churn, which is another new word introduced with customer success.

Darren Chait:
So, why are we talking about customer success today, when it's really a concept that we're all now very comfortable with and has been nicely correlated with the growth of SaaS? That's because it doesn't work for product-led growth. If you go and look at the customer success playbook, all the concepts out there... And make this a little bigger so you can see, I just grabbed a bunch of thought leadership from a whole lot of great customer success brands. A lot of it is pretty irrelevant. And this was a lesson, for me, joining and building a SaaS company. I went out looking for how we build our customer success team. What can we do to increase the value our customers get from the product, help them get started and, of course, retain them? And the more I read about quarterly business reviews, and business plans, and onboarding, and having champions within a company, and those sorts of processes, it just didn't gel because I didn't quite understand how a self-serve product that grows based on inherent product features fit into that playbook.

Darren Chait:
In many cases, our customers didn't want to talk to us, to be completely frank. They wanted to get on with it themselves. They'd signed up late one night when the pain point was most obvious. And they weren't really interested in bringing their executives every quarter to have a meeting with metrics in the slide deck. So, with that, we started looking for what does customer success mean in a product-led world? And if we zoom in, you can see in the top right here where we have this, now famous, diagram from Gainsight, which they sort of pioneered, or created originally. We also see, at the same time, this correlation between the degree of touch, how much time I spend with an account as a customer success manager, and the segment, which is roughly correlated with the value they bring or the revenue, if that's a metric for your business.

Darren Chait:
So, large accounts get high-touch, all my time. And small accounts SMBs get tech touch, none of my time, just automation. With, obviously, someone middle. The same goes for strategy, this diagram originally said that [proactive-ness 00:07:07] should be reserved for high-touch and automated, I guess you can infer, reactive is for tech touch, and SMBs.

Darren Chait:
So, if I'm a customer success manager working in a company that relies on product-led growth, I'm now very confused. My accounts grow automatically based on product design, and the features, and functionality of the product. I have to though resource my customer success team based on the size of the company. And then, when that's resourced the strategy for their customer success team, how proactive I am versus reactive or automated is also based on the size of the company. It just doesn't make sense anymore for a purely product-led company. So, at Hugo, this was a sticking point for us originally.

Darren Chait:
If we look at why can't the conventional customer success model work for a product-led business, it seems quite obvious in retrospect. And I think it's important to think about the why there, because as you grow a customer success team in your product-led organization, as you resource and prioritize customer success as an executive, you need to think about where the disconnect is, which sorts of products and which sorts of businesses need this novel approach to customer success inconsistent with the playbook, I might add.

Darren Chait:
Firstly, we're talking month-to-month. So, on that spectrum move conventional software sales, early SaaS, and where we are today, many product-led businesses are looking at a month-to-month rather annual. So, the whole concept of renewal is out the window. That confused me early on, that we're definitely not focused on renewal every month, we're focused on retention. We want you to stick around and keep getting great value from our product. We're definitely not checking in the week before you renew, so you can go into your account settings and cancel or remove your credit card. So, any talk of contract and renewal isn't relevant for a business like that.

Darren Chait:
An interesting trend we've observed is the customer success team are pooled by new customer acquisition. So, what I mean by this is if you think about in a conventional enterprise sales driven org, you have your account execs and sales team, they close a deal, you have this hand over to customer success, you have your onboarding implementation phase. They get up and running, they get value. And then, you're down to renewal over the life of the customer.

Darren Chait:
It's very different for us. I wake up in the morning, as a customer success manager, and I have all these new accounts. Some are high opportunity, some aren't as high an opportunity. All of them have come through product-led growth and functionality of the product. But I don't have a say in how many accounts are created overnight. I can't go and ask for more information from the salesperson, because there isn't one. So, the customer acquisition, and the self-serve acquisition channels driven by product-led growth are really determining the spread of accounts that we've got on our plate to manage as CSMs.

Darren Chait:
The other thing that really has helped us, as founders, prioritize customer success in our business is that it's almost like a condition precedent to product-led growth. In our funnel, our customers grow and refer the product once they're getting great value out of the product. So, if we're not investing in customer success we don't get low enough down the funnel to even worry about product-led growth. And what I mean by that, just putting practical example against that, you sign up for Hugo, and you go and set an agenda, write your first meeting note. Before you're anywhere near telling your clients, or your investors, or a partner of yours about Hugo, and bringing them into the product, you've got to be fully on board and getting great value out of Hugo. So, if we're not doing a good job of customer success, we're never going to get near the product lead triggers for growth. And that's why we see customer success as a tightly coupled strategy with product-led growth. We have to get it right.

Darren Chait:
And I think what I found really interesting, at a personal level, is the changing psychology of the B2B customer. Historically, everyone wanted higher touch support, and onboarding, and access to that customer success manager. I can pick up the phone, I can send him or her an email, and be in touch with them to help me get more value out of the product.

Darren Chait:
There was an interesting Forrester study recently that showed that 3 out of 4, so 75%, of every B2B buyer would rather self-educate than learn about a product from a representative at the company. And if you think about we're now used to, on the consumer side, adopting products this way, and the consumerization of tech and the consumerization of B2B products in many cases, as we've experienced too, even giving a low value account, or an SMB account, the most experienced customer success manager isn't going to help them when all they want to do one night is play around and try product out for themselves, and share it with the team. And we're definitely seeing this trend where, in many cases, the conventional customer success approach, even without the resource constraints of scaling that in a product-led organization, isn't what the customer wants. So, looking back to a self-serve B2B product-led organization, the customer success model that we've all been used to needs to change.

Darren Chait:
And I'm going to go as far as saying, in a product lead org, the role of the CSM to respond to these challenges is that they need to be an absolute unicorn. They're a product manager, they're a designer, they're a copywriter, they're a salesperson, and they're even an engineer, in some cases. And that's how we've succeeded building a customer success function in our product-led org.

Darren Chait:
And switching back to what was the traditional pyramid of where to be spending your time, we see in a product-led org, that there's actually no correlation for us between account value and no touch or low-touch self-serve accounts. We spend where we're putting our tech touch, or no touch strategies against accounts of every size, because it scales, it matches the account renewal timeframe monthly. It allows us to be more proactive and there, when and where our customer needs us. None of these things should have any regard to the size of the company for a product-led account.

Darren Chait:
So, let's talk about how we scale this. And I want to share some plays that worked really well for us at Hugo with this different view on the role of the customer success manager in a product-led organization.

Darren Chait:
One, automated high-touch outreach. So, one thing that we learned early on is a great customer success manager is, obviously, a function of how well and how often they communicate with their customer, and at the right time. And the reason this move from high-touch to tech touch on that spectrum has happened is because you're resource constrained, and you can't afford to hire and spend more customer success time with accounts that aren't of much value to you.

Darren Chait:
We're in 2020, the technology out there is very different to it was, even at the earl days of customer success. We've found that we can automate high-touch outreach. We can communicate with our customers in the way they're only used to with vendors they're spending a lot of money with. And there's some examples on the screen here. But we're triggering emails, when customers are opening the product at strange hours of the day, asking them what they're up to. And if we can help, the same way a human might for a really high value account, we're reaching out proactively, if the customer encounters an error, or bug that's triggered by our error monitoring software. Fires an analytics event, goes into our emails, our automated email tools, and off goes the email to start a conversation.

Darren Chait:
And really all of these examples, and there's seven or eight of them in play for Hugo customers today, starts a conversation. It's proactive, not reactive. It's written in a way and articulated in a way you would expect from a human customer success manager. And really it starts the conversation that we can't do from a resource standpoint with the thousands of customers we're supporting today, but offers the same quality of customer experience. And that's what I meant earlier by a good CSM now. The CSM who designed this, for example, isn't just a customer success manager. They're really now in a product-led org, have to be a product manager, a designer, a copywriter, an engineer, all the skills that you need to build customer success solutions like this.

Darren Chait:
And I wanted to zoom in on the proactive support. That's the second strategy that's been very effective for us. We've built a bot that pings the relevant CSM when a user experiences a significant error to help us proactively deal with that. We know that errors and bugs are one of the key causes of churn. So, when they occur, if we can turn that negative experience into a positive one, and if we can start a conversation in the way a CSM would always love to do, but it's usually days or weeks later, we have this unbelievably high-touch, high quality customer experience for a product-led organization which, typically, hasn't always gone together.

Darren Chait:
Our third strategy that's been effective is around the decentralization of customer success. So, if we look for a moment based on some of the other strategies I just mentioned, what is customer success now? For us, as a business, it's not a function anymore. We don't have a team of just customer success managers. It's a way of doing things that's now spread across the team. If I have an engineer building out a flow that checks in with customers based on data trigger points, ask them how they are, is that customer success, or engineering work, for example.

Darren Chait:
So, in a product lead org, similarly, the growth team is part of the product team, which is also a design function. And then, the engineering team build it. We're really changing our views on what typical functional team set up should look like. And the same should go for customer success. Customer success is, now, the role of the whole company. So yes, we do have CSMs, who are responding to these emails and are perhaps the ones hopping on Zoom calls for certain accounts. But, ultimately, customer success, for us anymore, isn't based on the titles of the few people, it's that function. Just like a growth function, now, involves many people from different disciplines.

Darren Chait:
Welcome packs and swag APIs and that, we've achieved a lot of great success and advocacy by using product triggers to send out bits and pieces to high value accounts when they sign up. So something, again, that a customer success manager has always done in a traditional org around direct mail and engagement through swag and other material, that's all automated for us. If you sign up and you're a account of a certain value, we'll send you out a welcome pack with everything you needed to get onboarded, and started yourself. As your team grows, so will the swag, and so will other triggers as well in that flow. So, that's something that's worked really well for us as well, as a product-led org, trying to scale our customer success team.

Darren Chait:
And the last idea here is around a Slack bot for everything. What are the triggers? Go and ask yourself, what are the indicators for accounts heading the right way, and accounts not heading the right way? Forgetting how you respond to them, for a moment, if you just expose all of those early indicators, you can very quickly find solutions that scale. So, whether that's churn, whether that's an NPS response, whether that's certain click behaviors, or product, or feature usage in the product. All of these things indicate something about that account.

Darren Chait:
Now that, for us, is where we start as we build our customer success strategies. What do we know? And how do we know it? From there, what do we do about it is the new way of thinking about customer success. What do we know? Excuse me, what do we know and how do we know it have always been customer success triggers. But, historically, what we do about it has been something that's reserved for customer success managers in traditional software orgs. In a product-led organization, what do we do about it is the opportunity to automate and build these processes that scale into the tens of thousands of customers very, very quickly without hiring more and more headcount.

Darren Chait:
So, that's a quick overview of how we think about customer success in a product-led organization. In summary, the change that you need to think about is that customer success is now a function for everyone that's not reserved for accounts of a certain size. Rather, it's the way of thinking where we can take the triggers, and insights that we have a modern piece of software, and with a modern tech stack, and use that to increase advocacy, drive customer growth, and do it at the same pace and velocity that product-led growth enables.

Darren Chait:
Definitely love to continue the conversation. With Hugo, we're definitely big believers in product-led growth. It's got us to where we are, and it powers our growth every day. And we like to think that we've done it not at the expense of customer success. The customer experience, for us, is really core, and tightly coupled with our product-led growth today.

Darren Chait:
So, thanks for joining. We'd love to continue the conversation, you can reach out to us via Twitter or on LinkedIn. It's @hugoproduct on Twitter. Or to learn more about Hugo, you can hit www.hugo.team. Thanks very much. Enjoy the rest of the conference.

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Gretchen Duhaime
Darren Chait
Co-founder of Hugo
Darren is Hugo's Australian-born, San Francisco-based co-founder and Head of Growth. He and the Hugo team are on a mission to connect the way you meet, to the way you work.