Product-led Success: Five insights to balance success through Product and Customer Success

We recently ran a panel discussion with founders and operators discussing how business software start-ups can better balance investments between product and Customer Success (CS), and work more effectively together. Big thanks to Ryan and Daisy from Snowflake for hosting us at their beautiful offices in London. This was  a follow-on event to our launch article on product-led success from July.

We had a fantastic panel, with a mix of Product and CS leaders bringing rich insight.

Thank you to our amazing panellists:

We’ve summarised the five key insights discussed and debated during the event below.

Key insight one: Start with strategy and work backwards

Your need for CS, and the role it will play in your organisation will be unique to you. You have to start with a clear business strategy and then work backwards from there, developing the right operating model, and roles and responsibilities to deliver against your strategy. Hiring a CS team without clarity over their role is a huge source of waste, especially in the current environment where efficiency is paramount.

“CS does not always understand their role, and can generate a lot of waste, you have to first work out what you are trying to achieve, and then determine the right operating model” Kate Forgione

Key insight two: Earn the right to grow revenue

Product leaders need to balance their roadmap between building capabilities that customers will love and monetisation. You need to earn the right to grow revenue, and will find yourself as a product leader oscillating between focusing on love, and money.

“I go through cycles of building something customers will love, and then monetising that goodwill.” Josh Hart

Another useful paradigm is to balance your product roadmap between spending time adding new capabilities and removing friction. CS should not be who you turn to first to address friction the product creates, you have to go back to the source.

“Product roadmaps are often not well balanced between adding new features, and addressing points of friction which negatively impact customers’ perception of value.” Melissa Hajj

Key insight three: Your baby might be ugly

No one wants to hear this, but your product might simply not be good enough yet. Papering over product issues with CS is easy - going back to the product and diagnosing route cause issues is hard, but it’s the only scalable way to address what’s getting in the way of success.

“Our Customer Success team is our product’s biggest cheerleader as they know we’ve built something customers genuinely love.” Josh Hart

There also needs to be a recognition over what your product can and can’t solve for, and a healthy respect for the way in which customers want to benefit from your solution. There may be customers who simply do not want to engage with your product in the way you imagine and are more interested in the outcomes it can deliver e.g. some customers may prefer to pay you professional service fees to do it for them.

“Some of our customers just wanted their problems solved. They didn’t care about the specifics of the workflows, nor did they want to build them themselves. For these customers we sold them professional services to do it for them.” Sheree Buller Lim

Key insight four: Don’t hire Customer Success too early

Be extremely clear about whether you really need CS based on where you are on your growth journey. Hiring CS too early can be harmful, as you as founders and product leaders should be engaging with customers as much as possible as you navigate your way to product-market fit. It would be counterproductive to insert someone between you and your customers early on.

“Early on you have to spend as much time with customers as possible, hiring CS too early would get in the way of that.” Josh Hart

Key insight five: Facts are your friends

CS can be a fantastic source of customer insight, but it can be difficult to separate signal from noise and can lead to a tense relationship with Product. Agreeing structured and disciplined processes over how CS should provide customer insight to Product and insisting on data to back up their insights is critical to ensuring collaboration is effective and the right enhancements are prioritised.

“If CS are annoying your Product team send them away, and insist they structure their feedback and back it up with facts and data.” Kate Forgione
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