“We should always be pushing ourselves and our customers to grow and do better,” is how Marci Trares, VP of Customer Success at Activator, opened our conversation about the Customer Success (CS) team’s role in supporting revenue growth.

All CS leaders understand their team’s first responsibility is customer care, satisfaction, engagement, and utilization to create renewals. Marci is part of the small, but growing ranks of Customer Success leaders pushing their teams in a more strategic direction.   

This group of more strategic CS leaders want their teams to continually revisit their customer goals (Why did they buy from us? Why do they continue to buy from us?) and look to expand referral opportunities in ways that increase customer value and company revenue.

“We know that our customer goals are always changing, their market is always shifting,” says Marci. “Staying on top of what our customers need and being ready and able to pivot and respond based on what’s needed, that is our role.”

I had a chance to speak to Marci recently about her key principles and practices for building a more strategic approach and mindset on her CS team.

  1. Start with continuous value discovery 🔎

“We have a consultative partnership with our customers,” Marci explains. “We need to start each conversation by making sure that we always understand what ‘good’ looks like to them.”

Marci sees continuous value discovery as the key to a successful relationship between the customer and CS team. Every conversation needs to begin and end with reconfirming their goals and areas they see the most value.   

Continuous value discovery, she believes, establishes credibility and trust by aligning with what our customer is trying to achieve.  

“We have to ask each time,” she says, “because we need a mutual understanding with our customers about what success looks like and there’s no one cookie cutter approach.”

  1. Always prep three suggestions 💡

Activator has a month-to-month subscription agreement. So they run monthly “Consult Calls” to review accounts, account utilization, and expansion opportunities.

Other CS teams might call this a quarterly business review (QBR), strategic program review (SPR), or something similar. The point is to use that time strategically.

“I always ask my team to prepare three ideas or suggestions before going into any Consult Call,” continues Marci. “Our customers are looking to us as experts. It is the proactive suggestions that make you a trusted advisor and not just a vendor.”

Those proactive suggestions could be things like sharing:

  • Industry trends or something that’s going on in the broader market
  • New approaches or ways for the customer’s team to utilize your product
  • An approach or strategy that worked with peer customers
  • A product upsell or expansion opportunity that could unlock greater value
  1. Utilization -> Renewal -> Expansion -> Referrals 👏

“Our first responsibility is always to make sure our customer is getting the right level of utilization,” concludes Marci, “and from there we should look at expansions and reference opportunities.”

Marci understands, like any good CS leader that, the right level of utilization is most important. It makes sure the customer derives value and secures the renewal.

Securing the renewal begins with an understanding of utilization metrics and outcomes are most important to each customer, then focusing every conversation on how we can as a partner improve those metrics.

Focusing on what your customer considers success naturally sets up expansion and upsell opportunities that can contribute to deepening key metrics or outcomes.

It also can set up referral introductions with simple language about “peers or colleagues who could benefit from the same success that they’re seeing.”

Customer Success teams are in a better position than anyone in the company to support expansions and secure customer referrals. Doing this by leading with value discovery and anchoring on each customer’s personal goals allows CS teams to become trusted advisors.