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Lauren Cumming of Fixflo on connecting customer success teams with the knowledge they need

Lauren Cumming started the Customer Success (CS) team at Fixflo, a market-leading repair and maintenance management solution for property professionals that’s used by over 1,900 businesses, just over two years ago. In that time, as Head of Customer Success, Lauren has grown the team to seven people, and they’re currently working on low, mid and high-touch playbooks and strategies for handling the company’s diverse customer base.

What is one customer-guiding principle you and your teams try to live by?

One of our guiding principles is to always try and support clients in making better business decisions. In practice, this means challenging customers on their existing processes, teaching them to use the product in ways that extend beyond their original purchasing decision, and advising them of potential tactics or empowering them with information they can use for handling X, Y and Z—even if these challenges are outside the realms of our product. This stems from Fixflo positioning itself as an industry thought leader and placing emphasis on being effective change managers and advisors to our customers.

How do you onboard and train your reps?

Onboarding of our new teammates has definitely evolved as the number of tools, processes, product complexity and the team itself has grown. It’s definitely a lot more structured than a few years ago. We schedule a mixture of intro sessions around our product, the industry, our customers, our tools/tech and our culture, and assign tasks/demos, product checklists and internal knowledge base readings. Our main supporting tools for this are Asana and Slite.
We aim to give everyone a holistic overview of our business strategy and an understanding of how each team works, rapidly grow product knowledge and ensure that our new starters understand our Customer Success strategy, the projects we are working on and the processes that underpin how our team functions. Culture is, of course, important too and we always make an effort to include team lunches, buddy lunches and company-wide drinks to make people feel welcome at Fixflo and allow them to connect with people outside of our team.

How do you share best practices with each other?

At the moment, this is most likely to come up during our team stand ups/meetings, where we discuss what is working well or what hasn’t worked well. We do have standard operating procedures/playbooks and processes in place for a lot of what we do, which are stored in Planhat and Slite. In the scaleup world, things are always, always changing so it’s difficult to keep everything updated and document everything but getting knowledge out of each of our heads is definitely something we are working on to reduce business risk, and sharing is caring!

What are your biggest lessons and challenges at the moment?

Right now, I would say scaling the team in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have maintained a really good momentum this year in line with the strategy that we set out and I’m now hoping that, with a bit of readjustment, we can continue to scale the way we work, whilst maintaining our strong team culture. I think there is so much uncertainty about the economic impacts of COVID-19 that there is going to be a period of time where we need to learn if our customers’ value drivers have changed, how are they currently using Fixflo? do they need to use Fixflo in a different way? etc. and ensure that we adapt to support these changes.

In regards to lessons, I think just a big reinforcement that having a team with high adaptability quotients really makes situations like this a lot easier. Aside from moving to remote working, we have had to implement so many new processes, change the nature of our conversations and change what we were being proactive about pretty quickly, and I think my team has done an amazing job at adapting and supporting our customers at this time.

How do you ensure reps have all the knowledge they need?

If we break down ‘knowledge’ I would categorise it into three different types: industry/domain knowledge, product knowledge and then, of course, general soft and hard skills needed to do one’s job.

Industry/domain knowledge: We use an internal knowledge-base tool called Slite to store as much information as we can about all of the different property industries we operate in, including information about personas, regulation & challenges in each. We get customers to do online or onsite AMA’s [ask me anything sessions] so we can learn more about their roles and challenges. Our marketing team is brilliant at creating assets that keep us up to date with industry news/regulation changes.

Product knowledge: This makes up a key part of our onboarding focus as our product is relatively complex and we have over 40 integrations with other tools. Our product team works in two-week sprints which means the product changes very frequently, so we have fortnightly release reviews and weekly pre-sprint sessions so that we can keep on top of what is being built and why. One of our meetings is directly with our Product Owner so we can share challenges and use cases with him to help with alignment, and we use Slite to store relevant internal-facing product information.

General skills: I think this is developed on a more individual level. We have launched personal development plans to form short and long-term growth aspirations and figure out how we can best support each person and grow the skills they want/need to be focusing on. We have launched a CS team book club where we all read a chapter a week (The Customer Success Pioneer by Kellie Lucas is up first) and discuss our thoughts, ideas and actions together, as I think it is important to brainstorm with and learn from your whole team. We also have wider company initiatives such as getting in external consultants for specific skills training.

If you were asked to implement a ‘customer success’ playlist, where would you begin? And what would you share?

Well, firstly, I would recommend the CSM LDN MeetUp group for monthly face-to-face events (shameless promotion!). Our free Meetups are hosted by a different company every month, who provide insights into how their CS team works and they usually dig into a specific topic such as ‘Running Effective EBRs’ or ‘Running a High Touch CS Model’. They are also great opportunities to network with other CS professionals and there are usually snacks and drinks to complement the evening too! For me, talking to others about how they do CS and learning about their success and challenges has really helped me personally (I’m a massive extrovert and love connecting with people and talking about CS) and professionally—always useful ideas and takeaways from others.

Aside from this, I recommend the ‘Creating Customer Success’ podcast as this is all about storytelling and usually very easy to relate to—sometimes you just want a bit of validation that someone else has the same challenge or has tackled something in a similar way to you! I subscribe to a lot of CS content but, if I’m honest, I find it rare to find an absolute gem article or blog post and take most of them with a grain of salt. I do like reading interviews of CS leaders though, definitely into the storytelling/personal deep-dive stuff!

How do you share important pieces of information with your customers?

It depends on what this is in relation to and what segment and market the customer operates in. Some of our channels include bulk emails, one-to-one emails, one-to-one calls, bulk webinars, in-product pop-ups/flows, published guides/videos and customer portal updates.

How do you measure and improve the performance of a CS team?

I think this ultimately comes down to data, tech stack and improved processes. You need to be able to measure and track the right data points for KPIs to be effective, so as your data gaps reduce, your KPIs can mature. Empower your team with tools that have clean, centralised data that are integrated with other tools that you use (not an easy task!) and allow for efficiency savings around time-consuming tasks, so your team can repurpose their time to more value-add activities. Always be reviewing and refining your processes and playbooks in line with customer growth, changing expectations, product changes and team growth.

How do you make sure the customer’s voice is heard through your entire organisation?

For us, this breaks down into four core components: successes, challenges or failures, product improvement requests and general sentiment. We use a Warmfuzzies slack channel for sharing positive/nice feedback from customers and a CustomerHat channel for sharing new case studies with all teams. It’s important to celebrate customer wins with everyone as they should be thought of as business-wide successes.

All customer product requests and enhancements are sent to the CS, sales and product teams as they come in, CSAT & survey scores are reported back to the board and wider business, [we hold] monthly CS/Sales meetings and have spent a lot of time aligning our product and CS teams to help ensure our product is being shaped by and will provide additional value to existing customers.

We have also found that showcasing a successful client implementation/success story and the why behind this versus a failed client story has proven to be effective at helping the wider business put their Fixflo customer hats on about the realities of using and implementing our software.

As a business, we understand the importance of listening to our customers, we take their feedback on board (and reply to every single one) and actually use it to drive business decisions from how we sell Fixflo to the language we use in our help guides.

How do you build success plans with clients?

We only do this for specific segments of customers and use the customer portal feature in Planhat (our Customer Success platform) to define goals (which when then track on a quarterly basis), list tasks that need to be completed (on both sides) to reach those goals with dates/assignees and basically try and make it as collaborative as possible.

What are the best engagement strategies?

I think this depends largely on:

  1. The types of customers you have; are they tech savvy or not? Are they office-based or out and about? Do they have lots of other tools in place vying for their attention? etc.
  2. The level of service you are aiming to provide them with, depending on your resources/segmentation/what they have agreed to in their contract.
  3. The outcome you are trying to achieve; is it simply a nice-to-have notification? Are you trying to get the customer to do something really important? Are you trying to re-engage a customer who has gone quiet? Is it a survey? etc.

This is definitely one of those questions where there isn’t really a right or necessarily helpful answer, but I would say that this is an area that needs constant refining as customer needs and expectations change. You may also need to change how you engage with specific customers to be able to scale effectively, e.g. moving them from a mid-touch to a low-touch model.

What productivity hacks do you use daily for managing the way you work/personal development?

  1. Station: A tool for keeping all my tabs/apps in one easy to access place
  2. Chrome and Slack add ons: [such as] Zoom on both, Google Calendar in Slack to update my status automatically, Slack integrates with our core tools like Planhat & Typeform for instant alerts.
  3. Gmail snooze: Such a simple but effective way to manage emails.
  4. Planhat (customer-related tasks/projects), Asana (internal related tasks/projects)
  5. I always write a list of my top goals of the week (and include any I didn’t do the week before) and try and block out appropriate time in the calendar to get them done and tick off as I go.
  6. I don’t look at my phone at all throughout the day.
  7. Break down elephant-sized tasks into bite-sized chunks so you can better prioritise/feel less overwhelmed and feel accomplished quicker.
  8. In regards to personal development, I try and set goals on a monthly basis. For example, listen to two podcasts, catch up with two people face-to-face/online, attend one MeetUp, read three chapters of a book etc.

How do you teach yourself and your team to deal with failure?

I think, for me, failing at something every now and then is inevitable and helps to build up one’s resilience and overall professional backbone—you can’t always be top of your game or make the perfect decision. I also want my team to have opportunities that can potentially lead to ‘failure’, as this means they are likely doing something new, and stretching beyond their comfort zone which is important for self-development. If something hasn’t quite gone to plan (or totally blown up!), it is important to spend time processing this, accepting it and being self-reflective and honest with yourself. I think talking about it always helps and doing a retrospective about what you/they could have done differently or could do to improve, in order to flesh out the constructive learnings from the situation [also helps].

As a manager, relating to your team is important, share past mistakes with them and tactics you use. I can think of a recent example where an email I sent in response to a sensitive situation was not well received by a large customer. After sending it, I knew it was not the right approach and I was very vocal with the team about why I did it (but shouldn’t have) and how I would handle it differently next time round so they could learn from my mistake too! At the end of the day, there is no point in dwelling on what you did wrong or aren’t currently doing great at—move on and create a best practice guide or action plan of what you want to focus on next. Feeling determined to improve in some shape or form should be your ideal outcome of any moment of failure.

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