They have access to users and information to help drive your roadmap forward
Product Managers are the glue of all the different departments, you can’t do your job until you master this. It comes down to these two rules:
Predict when your stakeholder will be the detractor in changing your plans. Mitigate these risks by involving them or adjust your timeline.
Identify opportunities to make them the promoter in pushing your plan forward. Spell out how your plan can help them do their job better or make them feel good.
As a former Customer Success Manager, I use collaborating with Customer Success as an example. If you currently work in SaaS, it is a department that you will interact with on a day-to-day basis.
Promoter — Catch red flags during sales
To ensure the customer gets what was promised during the sales and is off to a good start, Customer Success is often brought in by Sales early on.
The product often needs to be customized to cater to their needs. Partner with Customer Success on what customizations are tricky to build during the implementation phase. So they can call out these red flags before the deal is signed.
Sales are so focused on getting the deal. The implementation timeline is often overlooked. This stress trickles down to customer success to communicate why things are behind — which adds stress to the product team to build it faster.
Promoter — Justify feature prioritization
We are told to use data to justify why certain features are prioritized — because they are objective. However, humans are subjective and motivated by instant reward.
If the Customer Success Manager can get a shoutout from 5 users he or she manages about this new feature, they will push for that — even though the data shows you that 20 unknown users have asked for another feature. I can also guarantee she will thank you after receiving the positive feedback.
When you want to push for a feature and you know which key customers have asked for it, reach out to the customer success manager. If there are multiple candidates, pick the one that is known by everyone in the company.
After the customer plays with the prototype, have the customer success manager to share exactly how a customer has used it and how it helps advance their business goals.
Subconsciously, they are advocating this on your behalf. What makes it more powerful is that it is a story with a character (customer) that everyone can relate to.
Detractor — Attempt to save at-risk customers
When key customers want to cancel because “The product is missing x features” or want to switch to competition because “They have x features that you don’t”, you know they will be knocking on your door. To come up with a strategy to save the client, they will either ask for a timeline or request to have the features implemented ASAP.
If the feature is already on the roadmap, shift the focus from “when they will get it” to “how to best solve the problem for them” . Be prepared to adjust your roadmap and allocate time to figure out what is the minimum shippable feature with your developers. In parallel, ask customer success to schedule time with the users — from getting design feedback to figuring out how it fits into their existing workflow. So you can get ahead of flushing out any vague requirements.
Sum it up
Customer Success Manager has direct access to users and other information that can help drive your agenda forward. On the contrary, anticipate when they will start knocking on your door — so you can stay ahead of it.
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