CS Ops

Designing, mapping, and optimizing post-sale processes

Jeff Beaumont shares insights on how to design, map, and optimize post-sale operations through documentation and repeatable processes.
November 30, 2023
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Mukundh Krishna

In part two of the CS Ops Deep Dive series, featuring Jeff Beaumont, Senior Director at GitLab, the focus shifts to designing, mapping, and optimizing post-sale processes. GitLab, known for setting the gold standard in documentation and transparency, is at the forefront of this exploration. Head here for part one.

Jeff delves into the efficiency and productivity aspects of post-sales operations, emphasizing the importance of repeatable processes at every organizational stage. He addresses operational efficiency, discussing building, iterating, and executing projects seamlessly.

Here’s what he had to share with us.

The key considerations in building and optimizing post-sale processes revolve around the core concept of trust. Whether establishing repeatable processes, crafting comprehensive documentation, or measuring Customer Success Operations (CS Ops), the overarching goal is to build trust in these practices. Trust extends beyond people to encompass functionality, reporting, and data governance. The challenge is to approach these initiatives with trust at the forefront, recognizing that scalability and efficiency are outcomes of fostering trustworthiness.

Part 1: Setting up repeatable processes

What are repeatable processes?

Repeatable processes are fundamental to achieving consistent and efficient outcomes for any organization. Repeatable processes mean they are recurrent and occur without error or exception. Consider it like following a recipe when you're baking bread or preparing a meal for dinner. You follow the steps, and you expect to get the same delicious result you've always enjoyed. While you can add your own unique twist, the core process remains the same.

Repeatable processes also mean they can be automated as much as possible. Automation ensures that the process consistently delivers high performance.

In this context, there are four essential factors to consider when assessing the quality of a process:

1. Repeatable: The process should occur consistently, producing the expected outcome each time

2. Clear: Clarity is crucial, especially when it comes to documentation. A well-documented process ensures that everyone involved understands their role and the steps to follow.

3. Consistent: Consistency is key. It builds trust and reliability.

4. Accountable: To know if a process is effective, you need to have accountability measures in place. This involves tracking and measuring the impact of the process to ensure that it positively contributes to your overall business goals.

While these four are the cornerstones to set up a repeatable and scalable process, it's also important to adapt them to specific needs and be open to reiterations that may enhance your processes. Whether it's enhancing efficiency, improving customer satisfaction, or streamlining your operations, repeatable and well-structured processes play a critical role in achieving your business objectives.

Why should an organization set up repeatable processes?

Repeatable processes not only help streamline and scale tasks, but also serve as a foundation of trust within a team and across the organization. Trust in well-defined, reliable processes enables team members to confidently execute tasks, ensuring consistency and reliability. Additionally, decision-makers can have faith in the accuracy of data and reports generated by these processes and systems.

How do you keep the team accountable for following these processes?

Repeatable processes are at the heart of any successful post-sale operation. Ensuring accountability and transparency can lead to a stronger and more supportive working environment, where everyone is aligned in their understanding of the challenges and the path to improvement. 

To achieve this, consider implementing a core responsibilities tracker. Use the tracker to document your processes and categorize them as red, yellow, or green, based on their status.

It also fosters trustworthiness within your team and with your leadership. Instead of reacting to complaints or issues, you can proactively approach your leadership or customer success managers (CSMs) with a clear status update.

For instance, if your policy management is green, it's a sign that everything is on track. However, if your CS key performance indicators (KPIs) are red due to certain challenges, you can address them by sharing your plan for improvement.

This proactive approach not only prevents surprises but also encourages collaboration and support. It opens the door for CSMs, sales reps, and executives to ask what they can do to help. Even if there's no immediate solution, at least they'll understand the challenges you're facing and empathize with your situation. This transparency builds a bridge of trust between your team and the leadership. They can engage in meaningful discussions about why certain processes are falling behind and what can be done to rectify them. 

The key is to present this information in a clear and digestible format, such as a slide deck, focusing on the top priorities. By sharing this data with your stakeholders, you invite them to ask, "How can I help?" and create a collaborative atmosphere. It changes the conversation from finger-pointing to a shared commitment to success. By keeping your stakeholders informed and involved, you can cultivate trust and foster a sense of teamwork that drives your team's success.

Part 2: Documentation

What is documentation?

Documentation is more than just a mundane task; it serves as the backbone of organizational knowledge and efficiency. In essence, it encapsulates the critical information and processes that drive your operations. The value of documentation becomes evident as teams expand, and communication transcends beyond a few individuals. It transforms into a key tool for maintaining a shared understanding of procedures, making it indispensable for collaborative environments.

Why is documentation important?

Documentation plays a pivotal role in addressing several crucial aspects:

  • Scaling: As a company grows, documentation becomes essential for scaling operations. What may be easily communicated among a small team requires formalization as the organization expands. This not only facilitates seamless onboarding but also ensures consistency and accuracy in execution.
  • Reducing workload: For example, when a process is well-documented, like the data flow from a CS platform to Salesforce CRM, it streamlines operations. In contrast, undocumented processes can lead to significant additional work, like when a certain field update issue emerges.
  • Building trust and confidence: Documentation instills confidence in team members by providing a tangible reference point. When processes are clearly outlined, trust is built within the team, and individuals can rely on documented information to guide their actions.
  • Fielding questions: Well-documented processes act as a repository for information, preemptively answering questions that might arise. This not only saves time but empowers team members to find answers independently, fostering self-sufficiency.
  • 24/7 accessibility: Perhaps one of the most significant advantages is that documentation remains accessible 24/7. Even when team members are on vacation or unavailable, the documented knowledge persists, ensuring continuity in operations.

Who requires documentation?

The need for documentation extends across various stakeholders within an organization. Firstly, new team members greatly benefit from well-documented processes during the onboarding phase. It expedites their integration into the team by providing a clear roadmap of existing procedures.

Existing team members also rely on documentation as a constant reference. This reduces the necessity for repetitive explanations and clarifications, promoting efficiency and consistency in day-to-day operations. Moreover, cross-functional collaboration is facilitated as different departments can access shared documentation, preventing the formation of isolated silos.

Leadership and executives find value in documentation for strategic decision-making. A well-documented repository of processes offers insights into the operational status of the team, fostering alignment with organizational goals. The transparency provided by documentation supports informed decision-making at all levels of the hierarchy.

In essence, documentation serves as a universal tool that enhances the effectiveness of teams, facilitates collaboration, and empowers both new and existing team members. Its impact is not limited to specific roles; rather, it is a fundamental asset for ensuring organizational clarity and coherence.

Tips for documentation

Jeff shares some tips on making documentation more enjoyable, organized, and collaborative at your organization.

  • Make it fun and enjoyable by adding surprises or "easter eggs" throughout the content.
  • Utilize chat GPT to assist you in creating documentation guides and formats.
  • Consider your audience and tailor the documentation to suit their needs, whether it's CSMs, technical groups, or Salesforce administrators.
  • Start small and avoid trying to document everything at once. Take it step by step.
  • Find a consistent rhythm that works for you, whether it's a dedicated time each day or setting aside a few hours on a specific day.
  • Hold yourself accountable and ensure that you make progress in your documentation efforts.
  • Structure your documentation by asking important questions such as who, what, where, when, and why.
  • Share the workload with others on your team, allowing for collaboration and a more efficient documentation process.

Part 3: Measuring CS Ops success

Why is measuring the success of CS Ops complicated?

Measuring CS Ops can be challenging compared to measuring other roles such as Account Executives (AEs) or Customer Success Managers (CSMs). AEs and SDRs have measurable metrics like lead generation and call volume, while sales reps can be evaluated based on demos, pipeline, closed sales, and customer retention. However, CS Ops is often project-based, making it difficult to measure its effectiveness. Projects vary week by week, from building reports to developing processes and cleaning up data, making them less repeatable and harder to quantify. This uniqueness of CS Ops adds complexity to measuring its impact.

Tips to measure CS Ops success

  • Take a strategic approach - When it comes to measuring the efficacy of your CS Ops function, take a more strategic approach. Consider establishing a set of core responsibilities that serve as a bridge in conversations between your team and internal stakeholders. This provides clarity on what truly matters and opens the door for collaborative dialogue.
  • Try the CSM NPS metric - Another valuable metric is Customer Success Manager Net Promoter Score (CSM NPS). Conducting semi-annual surveys can unveil insights beyond a numerical rating, delving into aspects such as timeliness, communication, and overall satisfaction. These surveys can extend beyond the CS Ops team to gauge perceptions of the tools and reports created.
  • Track progress through Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) - Ensure your OKRs are well-defined, measurable, and aspirational, allowing for transparent reporting at the end of each quarter. This not only showcases achievements but also identifies areas for improvement.
  • Ensure leaders have accurate and timely reports - Evaluate whether CS leaders have the necessary data for informed decision-making, especially during crucial planning cycles. This is vital for identifying trends, challenges, and opportunities.
  • Implement a robust data governance program - Beyond tracking bug counts, focus on factors like data uptime and the perceived trustworthiness of data. This enhances the overall reliability of the information your team relies on.
  • Consider establishing a Customer Success Manager Advisory Board - While not a direct measurement of CS Ops, it fosters communication and gathers valuable input from the field. This engagement enhances collaboration between your team and Customer Success Managers, contributing to a more cohesive and informed operational strategy.

Part 4: Q & A

1. How to get started with documentation and accountability when you are just one person handling operations?

If you’re the sole team member handling operations, you can ask your teammates to help or create a tracker for core responsibilities. If the documentation isn't highly technical, you can ask your colleague to help once you've listed the things that require documentation. You can also create a responsibilities tracker and share it with your colleagues to make them aware of what you're working on and let them know where you need their help. Getting your leader's agreement or a commitment from someone who volunteers to help can contribute to your success. Holding people accountable for their commitments is important. Remind them about their deadlines from time to time and use the tracker to help manage these commitments.

2. How to improve documentation in a company overwhelmed by it, making it difficult to know what to trust and ensure that it is up to date, relevant, reliable, and usable?

  1. Establish a single source of truth. Clearly define a single place for all essential documentation, such as in a company handbook or a Google Doc, depending on the organization's size and resources. 
  2. Update these documents regularly to ensure accuracy. Set reminders for re-validation up to a year out. 
  3. Get buy-in from all team members and leadership. If possible, invest in a tool that will help keep all your documentation in one place and regularly update all information on it.

3. Does GitLab have a separate PS team? If so, what are some challenges that these teams face? How do these teams document processes? 

The PS team at GitLab operates under the customer success team, which includes Customer Success Managers (CSMs), solutions architects or sales engineers, renewal managers, and the professional services team. These roles involve pre and post-sales duties, such as sales engineering, solution architecture, service renewals, and professional services. They assist customers with various tasks like migrations, updates, building tools, and education.

One of the main challenges they face is dealing with the diverse and complex needs of each customer, especially when it comes to migrating data from one tool to another or integrating different tools. It also involves meticulous documentation of every process. Implementing a new CRM, for instance, may seem straightforward because it's a common ask from customers, but every scenario is unique due to different team preferences and integrations with other systems like billing or data migration from previous CRMs. A significant aspect of addressing these challenges involves in-depth education for the internal team and customers.

4. What are some metrics that the CS Ops team can track to measure success?

When measuring the success of a CS Ops team, don’t make a direct correlation between customer renewals and the team's performance, given that many factors contributing to renewals are not controlled by the team. Although it is important to track the involvement of the individual and their contributions, you should focus on more practical measurements that reflect the team's performance. These include the efficiency of their work processes (like the number of clicks needed to perform an action), and their ability to manage their 'book of business' effectively. This approach allows for a better assessment of the team's performance without relying solely on broader performance indicators like renewal rates.

5. What are customer onboarding, implementations, and service delivery teams prioritizing today? How have their priorities changed over the past few years?

GitLab has shifted its primary focus towards platform adoption. It offers a multi-use platform that includes tools for source code management, continuous integration, continuous deployment, and more. However, it believes customers can only get valuable returns on their investment when they use at least three of GitLab's various features. A while back, the company cared mostly about getting customers onboard and maintaining communication. Now, GitLab wants to ensure its customers are adopting multiple features on the platform.

GitLab also envisions a centralized user center for customers to access all necessary resources and improve its digital presence. These changes are in response to global economic shifts, including higher inflation and interest rates, which heighten the need to deliver more value to customers. This new focus is not meant to replace existing customer support or success roles, but rather to enhance their functions and provide better support to customers who might not be directly connected with a CSM.

6. What tools would work the best for all teams involved, such as sales, customer success, and the product team, to make the process of receiving documentation during the sale- to-customer handoff and updates on released features easier?

GitLab’s sales team uses something called the ‘Command Plan’ to ascertain customer needs, establish key contacts, identify the main value proposition, assess potential risks, and for other considerations. This information is mainly helpful when closing substantial contracts. The ‘Command Plan’ serves as a guide for the sales rep for effective customer engagements and gives the CSM important insights into customer needs. Shared documentation like an account transition or prep doc can also be created, and the sales team can detail what and why the customer is buying, and recommend suitable features. The CSM can then take necessary actions by looking at this document. Similarly, the product team should also have a release cadence in place, releasing new features and writing them up themselves. These practices not only help the CSM, they also allow sales reps to improve their skills, evaluate customer compatibility, and plan for future interactions with the customer.

|The GitLab command plan, for example, can be found on their public handbook page.

|For more such exclusive content from some of the best minds in customer success, onboarding, professional services, and implementations, join the Preflight Community.

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Shuvedha Subramaniam
Content Marketer @ Rocketlane

Marketing analyst @ Rocketlane. An Advocate by choice and a penwoman for the love of it. When the world zips, I like to zoink. Also, being happy by being kind.

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