- 1 - Mick Weijers founded a European CS community out of the need for local insights and support, distinct from predominantly American-focused resources.
- 2 - Differentiating from virtual events, Mick's community prioritizes in-person gatherings, fostering genuine connections and encouraging vulnerability among members.
- 3 - The community addresses pertinent CS challenges through focused breakout sessions, facilitating discussions on topics such as economic downturns, upselling, and handling workforce cuts.
- 4 - Emphasizing the significance of collaboration, Mick highlights the need for improved relationships between CS, sales, and other departments to avoid silos and promote mutual learning and benchmarking.
- 5 - Mick advocates for customer journey alignment as a key driver of rapid growth, emphasizing the importance of incorporating metrics and KPIs along the entire customer journey.
- 6 - In Mick's view, a product-led growth strategy ensures sustainable business success, with a focus on fostering constant customer feedback and deep discovery across all organizational roles.
- 7 - Current trends in the CS world include a growing demand for clear ROI, a shift from reactive to proactive CS approaches, the inclusion of CFOs in decision-making units, and the rising integration of data and analytics teams in early-stage companies.
1. When and why did you get the idea of building a CS community?
So for me. Everything started when I was a one man team, actually two companies before, or like two companies ago where I couldn't connect with anyone in the company about problems that I was facing.
And then I started to look around and I found other communities like revenue gurus like rev gurus or pavilion or success hacker, but they were all very American focused.
And I was living in Europe and customer success in Europe and the US are two different beasts. Like slowly, the gap is closing slowly. It's growing towards each other. However, I needed European insights. And living in Amsterdam, I thought, okay, why not look around and start interviewing other people and try to find people that I could connect with over coffee to share my challenges and not try to yeah, invent everything myself.
So the necessity was that I wanted to connect with other peers that had the same problems to solve them quicker. And I couldn't rely on the American resources and I, so I had to basically do it myself.
2. How makes your CS community different?
I think Covid-19 sort of was a catalyst, so everything went online, so all in person events didn't happen for multiple years.
So therefore there was a lot of webinars and everyone was having Zoom fatigue everything had to be virtual, virtual, virtual. But what I changed is that I started with connecting over lunch or connecting over breakfast and first with one person, then with two people, then with 10 people, then with 15 people.
And now slowly with groups over a hundred people over foods. And it's all about in person relationship that you build, like. You and I are now having a video call and it's nice and it gets us to a certain level, but everyone knows that real human interaction is still the number one that you need when, because I'm looking for vulnerability, like I want people to share openly about their challenges and about the problems and not having to hide behind a camera and body language says a lot, especially when you try to help each other out and be this mentor to someone else.
So therefore the thing that was different. Was it, it was in person events and hyper local and especially in Europe where every country has another culture, where every city has another culture. And we try to handle customers that have different cultures, like the need for local events. So not virtual at scale, but really local in your area was born.And I just jumped in that gap.
3. What problems or challenges in the CS role is it answering?
The goal of a community is that people share a community for just a community isn't, it's nothing. So the thing is that you open up and because you force yourself to think about challenges. We have breakout rooms with six different topics that are always highly relevant.
So economic downturn that happened in January. Like what's going on with AI or what's going on with economic downturn or CFO is now in my decision making unit. What do I need to do with renewal and upsell? My management team actually wants to cut away half of the customers, customer success and customer support team.
Those are always really relevant problems that happen within the market. And then if you have people around you that can help you with basically presenting business cases towards your managers, why you should not cut away half the workforce or why you should invest in customer success during an economic downturn, it can save your business and save customer success team. That's what a community is for.
4. Is collaboration within CS teams and with the other teams (sales, support) the biggest challenge?
IF you look at maturity of customer success or customer centricity, we're still at the early days or early stages. Sales is often more important than customer success or product is more important than customer success or everyone is fighting for equality there.
So if you take your job more seriously and you meet other people and you take that extra step, you can bring that home to your own company and show your other departments what's up, like, how can you actually have relationship with products? How can you have relationships with sales? How can you avoid the silos?
And then within those community meetings that we have, we also see people from sales organizations or, or like departments or product departments. So sometimes we have round tables around how the relationship with marketing. And then you see that there's 50 50 split of marketeers and customer success managers, and then they talk about how can you get testimonials in?
How can you get customer quotes in? So those are everyday problems that you face with your departments. But instead of talking to your one marketeer. Now you're talking to four marketeers and they can bring that back. And often things that you discuss are playbooks or little tricks, or what was the most impactful change you made in your process that we want to implement in our processes, and that's, if you look at testimonials of what people have shared in these events, it's always about, I share how we work.
I check how other people are working. So we're sort of benchmark processes and then make some small changes, but also get the data and get the confidence to share this with your marketing leader that might have a completely different opinion than you and then you have some real life examples where you could connect your marketing leader or your product leader with other product leaders or marketing leaders that actually are maybe more in line with how you think the relationship should be.
5. What should collaboration revolve around? Metrics? KPIs? a shared tool?
Oh, I don't know yet what is the best way. And like every company does it differently. And that's amazing. Everyone has different ideas. Personally, I believe that the customer journey should be the center of the organization. If you don't have customer journey alignment, then you just miss out on rapid growth.
Like if you look at the lean startup or winning by design principles, it's all about the bow tie or the customer journey. But have talks around your customer journey. We actually align our full OKR structure along the customer journey. And then it's very easy to not think in departments, but you think in relationship between steps of the customer.
And then what you also said is the KPIs or the metrics that you have from the start of your journey, all the way to the post sales journey, but maybe to the renewal side, to the advocacy or to the offboarding that's also unfortunately part of the journey. And then if you align with all the metrics, no one thinks that they are actually in a department.
They know what kind of role they have along the journey and that leads to alignment. So I I'm full on alignment. I just don't know yet what the best method is or will be in the future because tool alignment along the journey is difficult. Like there are CRMs, there's marketing tools, there's customer success tools, there's data warehousing, there's all kinds of little niche tools in between.
But how are we all going to align that along the customer journey? I hope we will solve that in the next five years, but who knows?
6. How does CS fit into a PLG motion?
That's a very interesting question. So personally, I believe that we always think in those boxes, like it's either sales-led growth or customer centric-led growth or be like product-led growth, PLG, but in the end, I think that products should be at the center of the organization and they should be responsible like an adoption of the platform.
And that's one of the most important metrics. But I think everyone in the organization should be able to talk to customers and get feedback. So product teams need to be able to ask the question behind the question. Customer success needs to be able to ask the question behind the question and do very in depth discovery.
And I think if you think about this is a product led organization. Then only product is going to talk with customers and sales is just selling it if they already have a sales department, but they have very little power. I really believe in equality there that everyone is just constantly collecting feedback at all stages.
In my ideal world, it would be product-led growth because in the end, that's the most sustainable also for enterprises also for, because customers need to use and adopt your product. You need to be happy. They need to see ROI. And that is in the end, your success as an organization and then customer success is a supporting function.
Sales is a supporting function. The core in SaaS at least is the software and I've seen it fail with sales-led organizations where they really didn't emphasize enough that product should be in front of customers every week. And now I've also seen other companies where head of product or product owners are talking to customers in a daily basis or weekly basis and use that to, to define the product roadmap and strategy for a long run.
7. What are the current trends of the CS world?
So what I like about the current market is that customers are more picky. So they want to see clear ROI. Personally, I believe that customer success is always a revenue conversation. Like you should either expand like a customer or you will slowly die.
Like if you just like really, really look longterm, you either need to grow your impact for a business.
So if they really love your product X, then you need to be looking at how can I make product Y in the future or product Z. So growth is essential within the current market. And before we, we got lazy a little bit, like people were just looking to spend their budget. They were just throwing it into the next idea.And now you need to show ROI. You really need to show that you have business impact. And that's the number one trend that I see that companies are struggling with. It's really making the change, the change to talk about. You invest a Euro. What do you get out of it? Does it save you time? Does it, does it, does it make your more, more revenue?
Does it make you more efficient? But they are having a hard time with transferring that into metrics, KPIs, and actually ROI drivers. So therefore I love the trend that now the CFO is part of the DMU. Like I love to have a conversation about impact, but I do see a lot of people struggling with that change.
That's one example. So other examples is that the maturity of customer success is growing a lot before it was customer support plus. So basically we were just 99 percent reactive, 1 percent proactive, and I see the switch, if I just look high level within Europe, like of course, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, they're a bit ahead of the market where UK is way ahead and then you, you go down to France or Spain and Italy and everywhere you see this change that before it was 80 percent reactive, 20 percent proactive, and now slowly you see 80 percent proactive, 20 percent reactive.
And I see Heads of customer success really reporting in"Hey, my team is not proactive. I'm not enough. We need to cut away a certain element in the process, or we need to hire a specialist or a tool for that!" But everyone is looking into proactive customer success and talk around impact, revenue, CSQLs. How can your customer happiness or your NPS scores or your customer quotes be fed back into marketing and then marketing can actually get pipeline out of it.<
So You have pipeline influenced by customer success. So the metrics are going further and wider because it's all about business impact. That's one other trend that I love to see now, the more proactive approach. And, the third one is that I was a bit afraid that they were going to cut away a lot of customer success teams because of the budget cuts and luckily it didn't happen. So, I was really afraid that full teams were fired. I do see some trends, however, within Europe that American companies that had European based teams, they just let go of their European based teams. So they say, okay, we can manage this from our headquarters. I did see that happening, but in general, we didn't see the same that happened a few years ago where they just cut away all customer success and marketing spend to just save costs without really realizing why. But I think they've learned that if you just cut away your customer success team, that it's got a very big impact on them on churn. And then actually a fourth dynamic that I see is that data teams and data and analytics or rev ops is being embedded in early stage companies. They just start with measuring and start with data instead of trying and see what sticks. No, people really realized that old ways of working are not there anymore. Like you can't have lunches with people selling stuff on your blue eyes anymore. No, you really need to have the data and the internal metrics.
Your VCs are asking for adoption rates. They ask you for your business unit economics very early on. So you need to have good systems in place from day one. Just Excel is not going to do the trick anymore. You need tooling.