How to manage thousands of clients for your startup with only a teeny-tiny team

How to manage thousands of clients for your startup with only a teeny-tiny team

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At the 2017 edition of the Customer Success Summit, our startup, Teamleader received two awards: one individual award and one for the entire customer service team. Our team successfully managed an exponential growth: from 1,500 to 5,000 customers in one year. Let me share the  three most insightful learnings from our customer success approach on how to manage such tremendous growth at our startup.

This is a guest post by Rob Klijsen, Country Manager at Teamleader Nederland

1) Ditch classic account management  

In big enterprise deals, you might need a dedicated account manager to take care of the needs of the clients. With 5,000 customers and only 15 agents, we realized quite early that we wouldn’t be able to scale our customer success team if we used the classical approach and make every agent responsible for a part of the customer base. That isn’t feasible, especially since we onboard about 500 new customers every month.

Thinking about this problem, we realized that we solved a similar problem in the sales department. In here we “divide and conquer”: split up sales tasks over different people. The idea is to let people focus on their strengths. A sales guy getting a rush from closing a deal will not be getting the same rush from onboarding a client. And if that works for the sales team, why wouldn’t it apply to customer success?

2) Mapping the customer success journey

When we mapped out the customer success lifecycle, it was apparent that the needs of a customer change significantly throughout the relationship. The clearest distinction is between getting a client to use the software (onboarding) and keeping the client (retention).

In onboarding, our main goal is to get our customer operational as fast as possible. After this first phase the retention phase commences, where we focus on helping customers get the most out of our platform.

So a happy customer relationship looks like this:

  1. Customer gets onboarded

  2. Customer is up and running

  3. Customer is using the tool more and more

  4. The software becomes a crucial tool for the customer

An onboarder should be more process oriented, thinking along with the customer while setting up their account. Retention managers, on the other hand, need to be able to see where, why and how a customer can improve the usage. The further clients go into the lifecycle, the more needs or expectations a customer will have. It’s the job of the retention agent to fulfill these needs. For every phase in our model, we find people with the perfect skill set who can help our clients.

This model offers two big advantages: it caters to the needs of all our clients as they go through the customer lifecycle, and it allows us to compartmentalize internally.

3) Don’t take your customer by the hand

This doesn’t mean we set our customers free and never look back: if they have any specific questions, our Customer Success Team is there to help. We also like to keep our customers alert: we continue to feed them information, share useful tips, and keep them informed on updates and changes.

Our model doesn’t allow us to take them by the hand every step of the way, so we let them do a bit of homework as well. This way, they will emotionally invest in the product and in the success of the tool. This results in a high engagement and involvement as well as self-sufficient, confident and independent clients.

This is a guest post by Rob Klijsen, Country Manager at Teamleader Nederland.

Image top: Smiling customer service representative talking with client by Shutterstock. Image center: Customer Service Call Center Agent Care Concept by Shutterstock

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