Updated: Oct 3
Professional Services (PS) has a few more miles on the clock compared to Customer Success (CS) yet both are vital components to scaling your revenue, especially in industries like SaaS, consulting, communications or technology. So fast scaling companies in these fields and beyond are starting to realise and see the value of partnering the two functions, blurring the lines between the departments. It is a method that enables customers to know exactly the people servicing them in order to have their outcomes achieved. Implementations, especially in the worlds of SaaS, Software and Tech Consulting can be complex - self serve is just not possible - and delays, poor outcome realization and miscommunication can prevent or delay upsell and, in the worst case scenarios, increase the likelihood of churn. Here are eight ways to best partner CS with PS:
CS should make the introductions If customer success is responsible for your ongoing relationships with your customers then it makes sense that they are the ones responsible for highlighting the key stakeholders, across both your clients org and your own, to the wider group. Customer success should be the ones explaining who will be delivering the outcomes for the clients and therefore bring professional services into the fold. Why? It separates CS from PS in the customers eyes, retaining the former as the value layer, and clients are knowledgeable as to who to turn to for what. Furthermore, it keeps support items at an arm's length from CS; that is the role of support and if CS gets bogged down in problems, NPS is likely to suffer and making a customer a success will become sidelined by firefighting.
Roadmap as one - CS & PS should talk through customer outcomes together. This is a prerequisite to planning as you’ll want to be speaking in the customer’s language and in doing so CS can understand whether things have been delivered as the customer sees it or know when to intervene. It further aligns both teams so the relationship can be collaborative and PS will be more inclined to keep CS up to speed moving forward with delivery. Any customer success requirements can then be addressed in a timely manner, for example as to when to identify upsell/cross-sell or how to best deploy the professional services in the future. The opposite can be damaging as when CS are not there to observe, when checking in with the customer they’ll likely miss key areas PS identified at kick-off and these will become underserved.
CS needs to get feedback, not just for NPS health but for PS health NPS is important but CS also needs to know if PS is keeping promises; disconnected teams will obviously struggle. This will compound any issues with the client if you return to them looking to extend your services - they will likely fire back with “you’ve not delivered on the initial plan”.
CS is value, PS is delivery but without a partnership, value won’t be built-in Before when CS was essentially account management, the relationship between them and the customer revolved around likely revenue opportunities. Now revenue opportunities are seen more as a result of CS providing value with any desired revenue retention or growth following naturally. That value layer should be entrenched in the delivery aspect - if a disconnect exists between CS and PS the result is often that PS isn’t providing value, likely as they are viewing delivery as job done. The customer doesn’t care about the receiving of the service, they want to know that the service solved their challenges. CS can guide PS as to whether value delivery is on track.
CSM’s can keep executive sponsor involved in delivery, so churn risk is reduced We’ve all seen when customers love your service but the exec sponsor isn’t seeing value as they are not on the front line of the service received. Use the CSM to ensure that the exec sponsor is kept in the loop and PS will thank them later.
PS can tell CS if there’s been problems - hard to glean engagement if there’s an issue If CS returns to a customer ignorant of their issues, then they’ll hit a wall in engaging the customer in the success plan. Lack of collaboration internally if highlighted to a customer can be a significant driver of churn (Hubspot, 2020).
The discovery document should work for both CS and PS This is simple. Both customer success and professional services need to to build reports and dashboards around what constitutes success for the customer to deliver both products, services and success effectively.
To Scale As you grow the number of customers and complexity of work either rises or it differs in form, so much so that delivery is likely going to have to evolve with it. Coping with this complexity will be easier if CS and PS have been partnering in standardized ways to-date and have a proven success story with such an approach (why else would you have scaled?). This means the inevitability of having to move delivery away from in-house and towards a growing partner network will be all the more easy if the criteria for partnering in-house can be applied to third-parties to ensure the client experience remains positive even away from your own teams.