Oracle’s GVP of Customer Success Shares Her 3 Tips for Building Effective Teams

customer_support_teamsThere are few people more qualified to talk about building effective customer success teams than Catherine Blackmore. Now the GVP of Customer Success of Oracle Marketing Cloud, Catherine’s career progressed alongside the growing recognition that Customer Success is a critical component of SaaS business models. In fact, many software companies invest in this discipline early (we have at Greenhouse), knowing that happy, successful customers directly impact your bottom line through reduced churn, increased referrals, and a key market differentiator.

In 2007, Catherine was recruited to run Customer Success at Jigsaw, acquired by Salesforce just a few years later. At that time, she says, both SaaS and Customer Success were fairly new ideas. As part of her role there, Catherine helped shape the role that CS teams play at SaaS businesses. However, the position is still somewhat nascent and being defined across industries, which means it can be difficult to recruit the right talent and know exactly what skills and attributes to assess.

In the “How to Hire Customer Success Teams” webinar, Catherine shares her 3 tips for success.

Hire Customer Success Early

First and foremost, companies need to know when to invest in customer success teams. Catherine says this is a common question asked by leaders and founders.

It becomes much harder to take advantage of topline growth with a leaky bucket. If your company wants to be customer-focused, Catherine recommends hiring a customer success rep early. Waiting too late means that you’ll have to change the mindset of the organization.

Catherine joined Jigsaw after the company’s Series C funding round. At this point, churn was a big problem that the company was facing. The sales team couldn’t handle customer escalations while closing new deals. Jigsaw also faced obstacles associated with scaling; they had concerns with how to operationalize the support requests coming from a user community of millions. To address this, the company hired Catherine, a CS leader, to change the way it serviced its customers.

Hiring Customer Support reps early sets you up for success. Catherine encourages companies to hire a CS individual contributor pre-revenue to make sure you can get a customer live and to value before building out your sales team.

Identify Your Purpose

Before building out your Customer Support team, you need to think about its purpose. Ask yourself, “what is the purpose of our customer success organization?” and get the organization aligned on this. Determining this will dictate the type of individuals you hire for your team. Catherine lists several objectives of CS teams that would require different candidate skillsets and experience, including:

  • Protect and grow revenue

  • Drive customer advocacy

  • Teach our customers to use and adopt the product

  • Educate our customers on best practices

  • Help customers network with other customers

If the purpose of your CS team is unlocking and driving advocacy, you’re seeking a different individual than one whose goals are to teach customers to use the product. Be clear about what your core objectives are in order to hire top performers for your organization.

Invest in Your People

“The person you are going to hire really needs to align with your purpose,” Catherine says. Your first step in hiring great people to is to build a hiring plan that attracts and assesses candidates whose skills support the purpose.

Doing so also leads to increased engagement from your employees. Beyond this, Catherine says there is a lot that leaders need to do upfront to prepare for what she calls “employee escalation.” Treat your team like your customer base and understand what it is that keeps them engaged and happy. “No different from our customer journey, we need to be thinking about our employee journey,” Catherine says.

Watch the webinar to learn more about how Catherine had built and structured her Customer Success teams at Jigsaw, Salesforce, Bluenose and Oracle. Click below to access the recording!

Image courtesy of Revelian


How to Hire a CS Team

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