Preflight Conversations

Setting up a Customer Success Enablement function

Sisira Mallampalli, Manager - Customer Success Enablement & Training @ Whatfix, how a dedicated CS Enablement function can support CS teams
December 2, 2021
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In this Deep Dives session, Sisira Mallampalli, Manager - Customer Success Enablement and Training at Whatfix, joined Srikrishnan Ganesan, Co-founder - Rocketlane, to discuss how a dedicated CS Enablement function can support fast-growing and high-performing CS teams. 

Whatfix is a digital adoption platform that helps companies deliver modern and easy onboarding, effective training, and better support to users through contextual content displayed at the time of need. Enterprises worldwide trust Whatfix to improve end-user productivity and performance while ensuring quick ROI on their technology investments. 

Before managing customer enablement at Whatfix, Sisira worked as a Technical Enablement Strategist and a customer-facing Solutions Architect at Akamai Technologies. An interest in training through her career led her to her current role that she defines as ‘making a CSM’s job easier.’

In this session, Sisira focused on: 

  1. The role of Customer Success Enablement in Customer Success
  2. Why and when companies should invest in building a dedicated function for it
  3. Ideas and recommendations for effective Customer Success Enablement.

In the rest of this post, we share some of our key takeaways from this discussion.

What the Customer Success function at Whatfix looks like

The Customer Success team at Whatfix broadly has five teams, including Operations, Advocacy, Support, Advance Solutions, in addition to 60 CSMs. The CS team grew from 30-35 members in 2020 to 60 in 2021 and is projected to reach 100 CSMs by 2022. 

Besides the standard focus areas of GRR and retention, CSMs at Whatfix also work on customer engagement to understand their business objectives, get the ‘customer pulse,’ and build alignment towards them. 

How the Customer Success Enablement function at Whatfix came to be

Sisira shared that CS Enablement at Whatfix was set up with the objective of ‘developing the careers of CSMs to enable them to grow and mature in their roles.’

The biggest reason for introducing this function was the rapid growth of the CS team that made role-specific internal employee development an area of focus. 

Additionally, given the highly contextual nature of a CSM’s role across the industry and that most CSMs at Whatfix were/are not hired as CSMs, training was necessary to ramp up employee skills to match the requirements of high-focus departments such as Customer Success and Professional Services.

Setting up the Whatfix Customer Enablement function

Sisira spent the first three months of her role researching and talking to people from CS – across layers and roles –  to understand responsibilities, pain points, challenges, and expectations, with a special focus on expectations ( CSMs vs. managers).  It helped define how CS Enablement was different from HR training in that enablement is closer to department roles and goals, with an expected impact on business metrics. 

This exercise helped identify gaps and areas of opportunity. For instance, one of the issues this exercise highlighted was how collaterals created by the product team – although complete and thorough from a product/feature lens –  were not helping CSMs be consultative in their approach to pitching features to customers.

Besides understanding the CS challenges employees face, this phase also helped define an important aspect of the Customer Enablement role:  converting CS business objectives into CS enablement requirements. 

The right approach to setting up a CS Enablement function

Customer enablement should be built up to ensure a quantifiable impact on key departments by showing how specific enablement projects have impacted parameters like CSM productivity, GRR, etc. For instance, CSM productivity could reflect either the increase in the number of accounts a CSM manages, or in CSMs having more customer touchpoints, or improved NPS and GRR. 

Sisira recommends focusing on enablement when the CS team has more than one employee – even if in a part-time or shared capacity role. Some organizations do this using shared resources between CS Operations and CS Enablement.

Ideas for making a business case for a CS Enablement function

  1. Identify and demonstrate the specific projects to focus on and their objective, the effort involved, the intended outcomes, etc. Create a projection with ROI for the expected investment
  2. Use a hiring-based approach: Similar to how the Operations/Support function is set up to support CSMs on a ratio basis, make a ratio-based case for X number of CS enablement resources needed to train Y newly-hired CSMs.
  3. Use publicly available sales enablement case studies to design a similar one for CS enablement.

CSM skills: Helping CSMs showcase value and ROI to customers

Customer enablement at Whatfix runs a use-case/example-driven workshop for CSMs that breaks down a specific account/customer to understand why the customer bought the solution, their goals, the Whatfix implementation, how the value was demonstrated, etc.

These workshops help CSMs develop interviewing skills to probe their customers with questions that can help them better define the actual business objectives.

Other workshops include dedicated workshops on:

  1. Kickoff meetings (business objectives analysis, how to conduct kickoffs, what to present, what information to highlight, how to design the deck, etc.)
  2. EBRs (focused on presentation skills, demonstrating value, what presentations/slides/templates to use, which data to lead with, close with, etc.)

A CS enablement measure that has positively impacted customer onboarding

Kickoff meeting training that includes practice sessions with defined evaluation criteria. Every CSM at Whatfix has a couple of trial runs of the kickoff meeting as part of new hire training.

Designing CS Enablement training resources

  1. Use a spaced learning approach to visit and revisit important topics every few weeks
  2. Include practice/hands-on sessions
  3. Keep recorded sessions short (or break them into smaller sessions spaced out using an activity or quiz)
  4. Leverage quizzes to ensure interest and retention. Quizzes work especially well for product training sessions

 Advice for CSMs

  1. Use the kickoff to introduce yourself and the CSM role correctly to set the right expectations at the start. Most CSMs miss this during the kickoff and lose the opportunity to establish who they are, what they do, what the scope of their role is, and how they can help customers achieve their business objectives. This step is especially critical for CSMs to differentiate themselves from Services/Support/Implementation. This helps customers have the right expectations, what questions and support they can reach out to them for, and build confidence that the CSM is the go-to person for all their business objective needs.
  1. Resist the temptation to handle support tickets or undertake activities (especially on an ongoing basis) that could dilute the customer perception of your role.

Recommendations: Resources and tools for CS enablement

  1. A learning management system to track the completion of training resources. (Whatfix uses TalentLMS, SAP Litmos)
  2. A content creation/authoring tool (Sisira uses Mmhmm for designing training sessions)
  3. Collaboration tools (Slack, Confluence, Jira)
  4. Resources: Preflight Community, Gainsight
If you have any additional strategies you want to share, we’d love you to join Preflight!

More like this

  1. Implementation Stories from Preflight
  2. Customer onboarding resources from Rocketlane
  3. The Launch Station - a podcast for all things customer onboarding

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Mohana Valli Prabhakar
Marketing Analyst @ Rocketlane & Community Manager, Preflight

Introverted, but willing to discuss books. Follow me on Twitter @Mohanavalli96

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