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Alice Dinu is a Forbes 30under30 business leader, and the Co-Founder & VP for Student Success and Research at Ready Education, the leading mobile platform in the Ed-tech space. Dinu is a mentor for the Montreal Founder Institute, and brings nearly a decade of customer success experience in scaling Ready Education from a small mobile app to what is today a team of 70+ whose platform serves 350+ higher educational institutions and universities.

The topic of Customer Success can at times feel abstract. But in reality, nothing is more tangibly important to your startup's own success than ensuring your customers achieve their desired result when using your product or service. In this latest FI Alumni webinar, EIR Mike Suprovici speaks with Customer Success expert Alice Dinu about the best practices Founders can use when building an exceptional customer experience that drives renewals and long-term growth. 

Watch to gain an in-depth understanding of Customer Success best practices: define what success looks like for your own startup’s customers, and how you can build a customer journey that ensures renewals and set your customers up for success:

Below, we highlight some the top takeaways from Dinu’s presentation – but we encourage you to watch the full video interview above to view her entire presentation!


Customer Success: Startup Best Practices

Dinu opens her presentation with some conceptual equations: 

  • New business + Renewals/Upsells = Startup Survival
  • New business - Churn = Eventual Startup Death
  • New sales ≠ Renewals 

Dinu says that Customer Success teams should produce cross-functional impact—so to be most effective, they should be working directly with Sales, Product, and Marketing teams to facilitate upsells, referrals, customer feedback, partnerships, case studies, and more to ensure best CS practices.


Customer Success ≠ Customer Support

  • Customer Support – reactive, firefighting immediate requests
  • Customer Success – proactive, managing lifecycle & driving growth
  • (Source, Slide 12: Natero)

 For early-stage companies, it is perfectly okay and normal for the same individual to be doing both roles—but it is very important to not fall into the trap of waiting for customers to bring issues up, but instead to have your CS team working with your customers proactively to deliver the success they expect.


Customer Journey Maps - charting the path a customer takes from beginning of their journey until the satisfaction of their particular need. (Source, Slide 14: CMSC Media)

Why do you need a Customer Journey?

  • Engineer repeatable success results
  • Blueprint for future iterations
  • Clarity on customer interactions


Customer Success Approaches: High Touch VS Low Touch

  • High Touch: High Annual Contract, B2B/Enterprise Sales, >$20k+ contracts, complex technical setup or extensive training after purchase
  • Low Touch: SMBs/Consumer products, simple onboarding experience requiring little training

Understanding B2B Model Customers: Executives VS End Users

  • Executives: Above the Line = “ATL” – demand ROI (cost savings, increased productivity), care less about small product features and prefer to have strategic conversations.
  • End Users: Below the Line = “BTL” – care a lot about your product, and want it to make their lives easier.
  1. You need to create relationships with BOTH executives and end users!
  2. While end user input is valuable to executives, executives also trump end users in all decision-making
  3. Onboarding: define very specifically what a successfully “launched customer” means for your business.
  4. BOTH ATL & BTL stakeholders (executives & end users) should be engaged in the Kickoff call
  5. Implement Net Promoter Score!
  6. Executive reviews (whether reports or reviewing a dashboard) are all about ROI (quantitative) & strategy (qualitative) – this is a chance to set objectives, as well as present expansion opportunities

Renewal strategy should start at Day 0.

Customer Success KPIs:

  • Renewals & Churn
  • Customer Engagement – are they seeing emails? Replying? Taking your calls?
  • Product Engagement – CS can impact adoption, but ongoing engagement less so.
You have to identify what is that metric that if we nail it, we can guarantee renewals? Even if renewals are 12 months from today.

Track every stage for every customer – every team member should be able to find this information!

No CRM? No problem: track every customer interaction in Excel sheets!

You as a company should make renewals as a priority in a similar way you’re making sales a priority. What’s interesting is that as you grow, you’ll have a bigger proportion of renewals than new sales.

Early Stage Health Scores

  • Will this customer renew? Why?
  • Measure Renewal confidence: Yes, Maybe, Probably Not, No
  • Measure Renewal/Churn Reason: List all factors of renewals & churn to identify patterns

Later Stage Health Scores

  • Predict renewals and churn with a higher level of confidence
  • Weightage of customer churn risk levels: High-Risk, At-Risk, Strong, Very Strong Customers

Renewal Contract Cadence & Contract Management

  • 1 Year - 6 months out – engage customer into renewal conversation
  • 3 months out – send renewal contract
  • 2 months out – check in with 60 day deadline
  • 1 month out – check in with 30 day deadline
  • 15 days out – check in with 15 day deadline
  • Renewal date – high priority written email alerting of expiration of contract end date

You want to have ON-TIME renewals!


Churn Risks

  • Customer Engagement
  • Customer Fit
  • Product Fit
  • Champion Turnover
  • Executive Relationship
  • Product Engagement
  • Product Gaps
  • Competition

Recommended Next Steps:

  1. Review all accounts and build MVP Health Score
  2. Set monthly all-team meeting on Renewals
  3. Map your Customer Journey
  4. Identify your key Product Engagement metric
  5. Identify your “ATL” (Executive) and “BTL” (End User) key customer stakeholders

 

*  *  *

Graduates of the Founder Institute are creating some of the world's fastest growing startups, having raised over $900M in funding, and building products people love across over 185 cities worldwide.

See the most recent news from our Grads at FI.co/news, or learn more about their stories at FI.co/journey


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