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