Tips for efficiency in customer success

Why efficiency, not just effectiveness, is key to scaling customer success

Main illustration: Yann Bastard

As customer success managers, we wear many hats. We need to stay on top of market trends and product updates, all while making sure our customers become wildly successful.

During times of rapid change, juggling everything on our plates, along with everything on our customers’ plates, can feel like a herculean task. Just as we’re adapting our business strategy and plans, so are our customers – and they’re looking to us for guidance.

Over the last few months, I’ve worked with customers who have seen an explosion in demand for their services and, as a result, have needed help onboarding new team members and scaling their customer experience. On the flipside, I’ve also had customers who are investing more in automation as they’ve reduced their headcount.

With so much on line for our customers and only so many hours in the day, it’s even more important that customer success managers prioritize this fundamental skill: efficiency.

The importance of being efficient, not just effective

As a customer success manager, it can be tempting to see effectiveness as our ultimate goal. If we get customers to their desired outcome and strengthen our relationship with them, then we’ve done our jobs, right?

“Efficiency means getting customers to their desired outcome quickly and without wasting effort or resources”

As I’ve watched customers sprint to adapt to this new reality, the importance of efficiency, not just effectiveness, has become crystal clear to me. If effectiveness means getting customers to their desired outcome, then efficiency means getting to them that outcome quickly and without wasting effort or resources.

Here’s an example to illustrate what I mean:

  • Effective: Successfully onboarding a customer across a total of 12 hours of tasks and meetings. You did your job and gave the customer what they wanted.
  • Effective and efficient: Successfully onboarding a customer across a total of 6 hours of tasks and meetings. You did your job and gave the customer what they wanted – in half the time.

With efficiency top of mind for me, I want to share five ways our Customer Success team is working to help as many customers as possible, as quickly as possible.

5 tips to increase your efficiency

1. Streamline the pre-sale to post-sale handoff

In a perfect world, customer success managers would know everything they need to about their customers – from the moment the deal is closed. But the reality is most sales teams are moving so quickly that information inevitably falls through the cracks, no matter how robust the process.

That’s where investing in your pre-sale to post-sale handoff can make a huge difference. Having a well thought-out internal handoff not only ensures you’re up to speed on new customers but also deepens the customer’s trust by proving you understand their business and why they purchased your product.

“Having a well thought-out internal handoff deepens the customer’s trust by proving you understand their business and why they purchased your product”

So, what should this internal handoff include? The exact details will depend on your team and business, but here’s what our customer success managers seek out before our first customer interaction:

  • Account summary: What industry is the customer in, and what services do they provide?
  • Pain points: What business problems will our product solve?
  • Use case: Which of our products did they buy, and which products might they buy in the future?
  • Integrations: What other tools are in their tech stack?
  • Timeline: When are they aiming to have our product fully rolled out?
  • Next steps: What are the action items for me and for the customer?

Bonus: Download this example template to use for your internal handoffs.

If this information isn’t readily available, use the handoff summary as an opportunity to do some research on your own or add questions to the agenda for your first call. Gathering information ahead of time avoids customers having to needlessly repeat themselves.

2. Don’t assume you and your customers are on the same page

As an expert on your product, saying things like “You can just copy and paste a few lines of Javascript” or “We can set up a webhook for that” might seem straightforward but for customers who are just getting started, these assumptions are often counterproductive.

Recently I was discussing a technical integration with a customer and we were deep into the details before I realized we were operating off different assumptions. The customer had assumed my team would implement the integration, while I had seen us playing an advisory role. Not tackling our assumptions at the start meant we then had to backtrack.

Especially for new customers, the importance of making sure you’re both on the same page can’t be overstated. Here are common traps to watch out for:

  • Assuming your customer understands how your product or services work.
  • Assuming you and your customer share the same level of technical knowledge.
  • Assuming your customer has the resources and/or internal relationships to complete tasks outside their area of expertise, e.g. implementing code.
  • Relying on jargon like APIs and automation to explain what needs to be done.

3. Focus on providing solutions, not explaining features

Because we’re intimately familiar with our products, it can feel like every feature, no matter how small, is important for our customers to know. But when we try to convey all these details at once, it’s more likely to overwhelm than enlighten our customers.

“We buy products to solve problems, not for their features”

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re looking for a new toothpaste. You want to whiten your teeth and improve gum health. You walk into the store and see the two options below – which one would you pick?

#1 best toothpaste #1 best toothpaste
Made with active fluoride
Contains 3% hydrogen peroxide
Healthier gums in just one week
Pearly white smile, guaranteed

The point should be clear: we buy products to solve problems, not for their features. In your conversations with customers, stay focused on why they purchased your product and what your product can do for them right now. You’ll get customers to their desired outcomes faster and spend less time explaining what hydrogen peroxide actually does.

4. Empower your customers to help themselves

A powerful way to help your customers, especially when things are busy, is to point them to resources they can access on their own time and also share with their teammates.

For example, I often direct customers to our self-serve content. We have a robust help center that answers almost every common question a user might have about our product. We also have the Intercom Academy, which offers courses for support and sales teams who are just ramping up or looking to gain new skills.

Intercom Academy

Sharing these resources not only saves us time and effort but also gives our customers, whose schedules are just as packed as our own, the ability to learn the product at their own speed without having to schedule another meeting.

5. Track the amount of time you’re spending with each customer

Finally, to understand where you can improve your efficiency, pay careful attention to the amount of time you’re spending with each customer. As much as we’d like to attend to all of our customers, every single day, it’s simply not feasible.

Tracking your time can give you visibility into the work that’s driving success for your accounts and work that’s simply slowing you down. One simple way we’ve done this is by tallying how many tasks we’re completing for each customer and estimating how long each task takes. Some of the tasks we count are calls, emails, and account reviews.

“More activities doesn’t guarantee more value for your customer or your business”

What we’ve learned is that doing more activities doesn’t guarantee delivering more value for your customer or your business, e.g. faster go-live times or account expansion. Instead of seeing a checklist of tasks to cross off, focus on doing the right work.

Driving customer success, efficiently and effectively

During times of rapid change, it’s crucial to invest in your customers – to show them the value of your product and retain them for the long term. But keeping up with customers’ changing needs and expectations, along with juggling everything else on our plates as customer success managers, can be a challenge. With these tips, I hope you’ll feel better equipped to help more customers, efficiently and effectively.