How To Get Leadership Buy-In For Customer Success Initiatives

Article by

Roi Kiouri

Head of Success & Support @ Perceptual Robotics

No items found.


April 27, 2023

If you've ever had customer success initiatives blocked by leadership, you know how frustrating it can be. It's like trying to catch a unicorn while juggling flaming torches—challenging, but oh-so-rewarding when you finally succeed.

I've spent years navigating the labyrinth of CS teams, and believe me, getting buy-in can feel like trying to solve a riddle from the Sphinx herself. You need the data to prove your worth, but alas! The data only comes once you have buy-in. It's the classic chicken-and-egg conundrum, wrapped in a paradox, and served with a side of frustration.

The C-suite can be tough to crack, often viewing customer success as a mysterious enigma with an uncertain impact on their bottom line. To win them over, you must channel your inner Sherlock Holmes—do your research, gather the clues, and reveal the undeniable benefits of investing in customer success. Let the witty games begin!

Here’s what we’ll cover:

& tips/examples for specific scenarios:

The impact of a lack of CS buy-in

Lack of buy-in for customer success initiatives can lead to a myriad of negative consequences; here’s the top 3.

1.  Understaffed and under-resourced CS teams

When there is a lack of buy-in from C-level leadership or other key stakeholders, CS teams might not receive the necessary resources, such as budget and personnel, that are required to effectively serve customers. This can lead to teams becoming overwhelmed by their workload, resulting in a decline in the quality of service provided to customers.

2.  Decreased team morale and productivity

Lack of support from leadership can lead to low morale within the CS team. Team members may feel undervalued, which can negatively impact their motivation and productivity. In turn, this can further hinder the team's ability to provide top-notch customer service, and may even lead to increased employee turnover.

3. Increased customer churn

When CS teams are unable to provide the level of service that customers expect, dissatisfaction can arise, leading to an increase in customer churn. Losing customers not only results in a loss of revenue, but it also contributes to a negative brand reputation, which can deter potential new customers from choosing your business.

The culmination of these factors—understaffed and under-resourced CS teams, low team morale, and increased customer churn, will ultimately result in a negative impact on the business's bottom line. Reduced revenue, loss of potential new customers, and the costs of high employee turnover can all contribute to a weakened financial position for the company.

Why leadership might be resisting CS initiatives: 5 potential reasons

Understanding the reasons why leadership might say no can help you get buy-in.

Leadership is usually concerned with the bottom line, so if you want to get buy-in, it's important that you can explain how your customer success initiative will make an impact on it.

1. They don’t understand the role of customer success

Some leaders may not fully understand the role and importance of CS in driving business growth and customer satisfaction. They may view it as a cost center rather than a revenue generator, which can lead to a lack of investment in the CS team.

2. Lack of data & metrics

If there are no clear metrics in place to measure the impact of CS initiatives, leaders may not see the value in investing in them. Without data to demonstrate the ROI of CS efforts, it can be difficult to justify the resources needed to support the CS team.

3. Conflicting goals & organizational silos

In some cases, different departments within a company may have conflicting goals and priorities. This can lead to a lack of collaboration and support for CS initiatives, as other departments may not see how CS aligns with their own objectives.

4. Resistance to change

Leaders who are resistant to change may be hesitant to invest in new initiatives, such as CS, that require a shift in the company's culture and operations. They may prefer to stick with traditional methods and ways of doing things, rather than embracing new approaches.

5. Budget constraints

Finally, some leaders may simply not have the resources to invest in CS initiatives. They may be operating with limited budgets, or facing other financial constraints that prevent them from supporting the CS team.

9 Tips to get buy-in

Define what "success" means to the bottom line

When it comes to winning over those hard-to-please decision-makers for Customer Success initiatives, it's all about speaking their language. And, let's face it, their language revolves around that magical thing called the bottom line.

To get them on board, make sure to connect your CS initiatives with the company's KPIs. This way, you can show them how investing in CS isn't just about keeping customers happy and singing your praises, but also about boosting revenue, reducing churn, and creating up-selling opportunities.Some key KPIs that will help you illustrate your efforts could be:

1.  Net Revenue Retention (NRR)

2.  Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV)

3.  Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

4.  Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) and Net Promoter Score (NPS)

For example, by increasing NRR, CS can show that they are reducing customer churn and increasing customer loyalty. By improving CLTV, they can show that they are creating new opportunities for upselling and cross-selling. By reducing CAC, they can show that they are lowering the cost of acquiring new customers. And by improving CSAT and NPS, they can show that they are creating a positive customer experience that leads to increased loyalty and advocacy.

In other words, defining success in terms of the bottom line is like adding a little spice to your favorite dish - it enhances the flavor and makes it more appealing to everyone at the table.

So, don't be afraid to show off your recipe for success by highlighting the link between CS initiatives and the company's overall performance. By doing so, you'll have those decision-makers waiting in anticipation of the delicious results that come from investing in CS.

Overcommunicate your impact

In the world of customer success, silence isn't golden—it's a wasted opportunity. To truly showcase your team's value, embrace the art of internal marketing. Be the town crier of your own achievements, shouting from the virtual rooftops about your triumphs.

Did your NRR shoot up like a rocket? Share it in Slack!

Score a big expansion? Let the office know!

Unearthed heartwarming stories of delighted customers? Spread the word!

By regularly celebrating your successes and putting your impact front and center, you're not only raising awareness but also greasing the wheels for future requests. When it comes time to ask for buy-in, you'll find that you've already paved the way with a trail of undeniable results.

Talk to your boss

When it comes to securing buy-in, it is important to have open and honest communication with your boss. This can involve educating them on the role and importance of CS initiatives, as well as providing data-driven insights that demonstrate the impact of these efforts on the company's bottom line.

It's important to approach this conversation in a way that highlights the value of CS to the entire organization and to frame the discussion in terms of business outcomes. For example, you could present data on customer retention rates, customer satisfaction scores, and revenue growth that can be attributed to CS efforts. This can help your boss understand the positive impact that CS can have on the company's financial performance.

In addition to presenting data, it's important to have a clear plan in place for how CS initiatives will be implemented and measured. This can include outlining specific goals and metrics, as well as detailing the resources and personnel needed to achieve those goals. By presenting a clear plan, you can help your boss understand how CS initiatives will be executed, and how they align with the broader goals of the organization.

Finally, it's important to be open to feedback and to listen to your boss's concerns or objections. By understanding their perspective, you may be able to address any reservations they have and further strengthen your case for CS initiatives.

Try a low-commitment experiment

That being said, you could propose conducting a low-commitment experiment. It’s a way to try something new without committing to it for the long haul. The goal of this kind of experiment is to prove or disprove your hypothesis, and it can be used as a stepping stone towards larger changes down the road.

Here are some ideas:

  • Implementing a new customer feedback mechanism. This could involve setting up a simple feedback form that allows customers to share their thoughts and suggestions about your product or service.
  • Using a collaboration tool in the free version or trial period that aims to improve team communication and project management.
  • Change around how you onboard new customers so that they get more value out of their first few months with you--maybe by offering training videos or webinars during onboarding instead of relying on email only?

These initiatives are low cost and effort but they will demonstrate the fact that you’re striving for the best while utilizing your already available resources. More often than not, C-Levels feel like everyone’s reaching out to them to ask for a budget instead of trying to make it work first and so they’re negatively inclined from the get-go. So go ahead and prove them wrong!

Set yourself up for success

Before you can get buy-in for customer success, you need to set yourself up for success. That means setting up a pilot project with one or two customers so that they can act as your guinea pigs and help guide future projects.

It also means not trying to do everything at once--no one likes being overwhelmed by too many choices! Start small and then expand from there when you've gotten some experience under your belt.

You should also make sure that the right people are involved in the process: someone who understands the technical aspects of customer success and someone who understands how leadership works best.

Finally, make sure that you have all the resources necessary: time, money, space...and data! Since this is new territory for everyone, you probably won’t have much data about your customers before starting out but it’s okay!

Pick your battles

Pick the battles that are most important to you. If a customer success leader is passionate about helping customers and making them successful, they will be motivated by this goal and want to work on it every day. In contrast, if they don’t care much about helping customers succeed but rather just wants the team focused on their numbers or meeting deadlines with no extra effort required from anyone else (except maybe management), then they won't be able to get buy-in from leadership because there's no alignment between what they want and what she cares about doing every day--and without alignment there cannot be buy-in!

Prioritize your initiatives

You don't have time to do everything, so prioritize your initiatives based on ROI and impact to the customer. For example: if one initiative is going to improve customer retention by 5%, but another initiative is going to improve it by 20%, then go with the latter. Similarly, if one initiative makes a small difference in customer satisfaction but another will make a huge difference in customer satisfaction (and both are scalable), pick that one!

Show the numbers

If you're going to get buy-in from leadership, you need to show them how your team makes a difference.

The first step is to identify key metrics that demonstrate customer success value and then develop a plan for tracking them regularly. A good place to start is with the standard customer success metrics: customer retention rate, customer acquisition cost (CAC), net promoter score (NPS), churn rate and MRR/ARR growth rate. These are the most common because they measure the value of the work being done by CSMs across all stages of the funnel--acquisition through retention--across multiple channels (online or offline). For example: If we have a $10K MRR/ARR growth goal each month but can only achieve 5% due solely because our customers don't stick around long enough for us make an impact on their business? The answer is probably not worth investing in further until this problem has been addressed head-on!

Build a coalition of advocates

Rally support from other departments that stand to benefit from customer success initiatives, such as sales, marketing, and product development. A unified front can help sway the opinion of leadership and increase the chances of securing buy-in.

This collaborative approach also helps break down organizational silos and fosters a shared understanding of how CS initiatives contribute to the company's overall success. It enables a unified focus on customer satisfaction, retention, and growth, which in turn has a positive impact on the company's bottom line. Furthermore, collaboration opens channels of communication, ensuring that customer feedback is shared across the organization, leading to data-driven decision-making and continuous improvement.

In essence, fostering interdepartmental collaboration helps to create a customer-centric culture, where all teams work together to support and drive customer success. Plus, more “influential” departments might help you advocate for your mission. Remember; whatever works!

Getting buy-in for hiring in the customer success team

Securing buy-in for hiring requires a strategic approach that demonstrates the value and necessity of new hires to enhance the customer experience and contribute to the company's growth. Start by gathering data on the current workload of your CS team, showcasing how additional team members can help alleviate pressure and improve response times. Highlight the direct correlation between an adequately staffed CS department and customer satisfaction, retention, and ultimately, revenue.

Let's take the example of hiring a Customer Success Analyst for a growing SaaS company. The expected outcomes for this role that can help secure buy-in from leadership could be:

Improved Customer Insights: They will be responsible for analyzing customer data to identify trends, patterns, and insights that can inform business decisions. By providing actionable insights, the analyst can help improve customer satisfaction, retention, and lifetime value.

Increased Product Adoption: They will work on analyzing usage data and identify opportunities to improve product adoption. By understanding how customers use the product, the analyst can help the team develop targeted training and resources that increase adoption and reduce churn.

Enhanced Customer Health Scores: They will develop and track customer health scores. By identifying customers who may be at risk of churn, the analyst can help the team prioritize their efforts and take proactive steps to improve retention.

By outlining these expected outcomes and linking them to key company KPIs, you can make a strong case for the importance of the Customer Success Analyst role and secure buy-in for CS hiring.Present a well-defined hiring plan, outlining the roles, responsibilities, and expected onboarding timeline for new CS team members, as well as the projected costs and return on investment. By combining data-driven insights and a clear plan, you'll be better equipped to convey the importance of hiring in CS and gain the support of decision-makers within your organization.

See also: How To Hire A Customer Success Manager

Getting buy-in for purchasing a customer success platform

I think I speak for everyone who has ever worked in CS when I say that “THE CRM/SALES TOOL IS NOT FIT FOR CS”.

Sorry for screaming in CAPS but I just needed to get it out of my system.

Seems like a simple logical deduction but somehow it’s not and gaining buy-in for implementing a new customer success platform requires a comprehensive strategy that highlights the platform's potential benefits for both customers and the company.

Start by laying out the current state of your CS operations, highlighting any areas that are causing bottlenecks, inefficiencies, or customer frustration.

Then, introduce the star of the show: a new CS platform that promises to streamline workflows, automate tasks, and deliver a superior customer experience. Sprinkle in some key features and benefits, such as a centralized knowledge base, real-time analytics, and seamless integrations with other systems. Make sure to include a few success stories from other companies in your industry who have implemented similar platforms and seen measurable improvements in CS metrics.

Finally, top it all off with a clear plan for implementation, including timelines, resource requirements, and expected outcomes. With this irresistible pitch, you'll have decision-makers salivating at the prospect of a new CS platform in no time.

Getting buy-in for customer success team training

Picture this: your CS crew is currently juggling customer concerns like a troupe of circus clowns but without the applause. It's high time we offer them a bit of assistance, don't you think?

Introducing the pièce de résistance (oh, pardon my French!)—a comprehensive CS training program that will transform your team from mere mortals into superheroes. This magical elixir of knowledge will empower them with enhanced communication, problem-solving, conflict resolution, and empathy powers.

Need to convince the skeptics? Begin by outlining the current skill gaps within your CS team and linking them to tangible business challenges, such as low customer satisfaction scores or high churn rates.

Let's take the example of a skill gap in the area of effective communication. Many customer success professionals may struggle with effectively communicating with customers, particularly in challenging situations.

To fill this skill gap, a training program could be developed that focuses on effective communication strategies, such as active listening, empathy, and de-escalation techniques. The training could also provide opportunities for practice and feedback, as well as guidance on how to tailor communication styles to different customer personalities and needs.

The expected outcomes of this training program could include:

Increased Customer Retention: Effective communication can help build trust and strengthen relationships with customers, reducing the likelihood of churn.

Reduced Time Spent on Customer Complaints: By using effective communication techniques to address customer concerns early on, your team can reduce the amount of time spent on escalated customer complaints.

Improved Company Reputation: Your CS team is the face of your company; through effective communication, the company can build a positive reputation and increase word-of-mouth referrals.

Present a clear training plan that includes targeted objectives, a proposed curriculum, and expected outcomes, ensuring that the training aligns with your company's strategic goals. Highlight the long-term benefits of continuous professional development, such as increased employee engagement and retention, which can lead to cost savings and higher productivity.

Include a cost-benefit analysis that demonstrates the potential return on investment from the training, showcasing real-world examples of other organizations that have successfully implemented similar training programs.

Now, for the grand finale! Present your decision-makers with a crystal-clear implementation plan, complete with timelines, resource requirements, and expected outcomes. With this spellbinding pitch, you'll have them leaping out of their seats and shouting, "Encore!"

There you have it—a symphony of wit to help you win over the hearts and minds of your company's decision-makers. Let's bring that CS training to center stage!

Final thoughts

Getting buy-in for customer success can be tough, but it's important!

"We've been hearing about customer success for a long time," they'll say. "Why should we do this now?"

"Because it's important," you will reply. "We need to take a new approach to our customers."

"Why?" they will ask, with the tone of someone who knows that there's more than one way to skin a cat but is not convinced that any of them are worth doing at all. No animals will be hurt in the process, don’t get us wrong but securing budget and basically making leadership to take you seriously is a ruthless endeavour.

So, if you're struggling to get buy-in for customer success, don't lose hope! Remember that it's not about being perfect from the start. It's about doing the work, learning from your mistakes and moving forward with confidence. If you're ready to make an impact on your company's bottom line through customer retention and engagement, then go ahead and make it happen. Leadership will thank you for it down the line!