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Hiring for Customer Success before... Customers

At the beginning of 2021, we made our first Customer Success hire… before we took our product to market.

It sounds backwards (and was a little confusing when I showed up to my first day of work with no customers to manage), but introducing customer success early on helped us create a culture that puts the only people that matter - the people we’ve built Nomio for - at the heart of everything we do.

Here’s how:

First, we took the time to understand our customers

Before we took Nomio to market, we spent two years in intense research and development working with design partners to make a precision tool that tackled three problems: not knowing where contracts are, not knowing what’s in them and, as a result, missing key deadlines.

When we came out of R&D, we knew we had a great product, and we knew that we could sell it. But knowing how to tell our story was only half the battle.

Instead of focusing on us, we wanted to understand the ins-and-outs of our customers’ stories - like how frustrating it was to go ‘hunting’ for contracts across shared drives, how much time was wasted typing terms from contracts into spreadsheets only to make a typo that goes unnoticed for months, or how irritating it was to figure out which party owned which obligation.

In the early days, this was the function of customer success: to sit in on sales calls with prospective customers and just listen.

As a result, when we went on to sign these customers, our customer success team had already created deep connections with them. We knew what frustrations they were experiencing in their day-to-day lives, we understood what their businesses needed, and we knew why Nomio was uniquely suited to help.

This isn’t just fluff. We knew one customer so well that we mapped out an entire org chart of departments and stakeholders during their onboarding to help them internally explain the concept of contract ownership - one of their biggest annoyances.

Point being - we introduced customer success early on, not for more sales manpower, but to become experts in who our customers are. Painting a picture during the sales process of how invested we are in each customer’s individual story also helped build customer enthusiasm and momentum for the onboarding process.  

Then, we built a bridge between our customers and our product

We’re not selling a product that’s set in stone. We see Nomio as a living, breathing piece of software that evolves alongside our customers - meaning the distance between the people who build Nomio and the people who use it needs to be as small as possible. Implementing customer success early on helped us bridge this gap.

Our approach here was partly inspired by Rav Dhaliwal, the ultimate CS guru, who wrote about customers having a habit of using products in unanticipated ways. We realised from Day 1 that in each piece of explicit (telling us what they want) and implicit (showing us how they use the product) feedback, our customers were giving us all the information we needed on what gaps existed in our product. It was pretty much like being handed a blueprint on how to be successful.

But it’s not enough for customer success teams to parrot bottom-line feedback to the product team. To craft the right solutions, the product team needs to have access to the context surrounding the feedback - what’s the story behind this feature request, how often has the customer experienced this pain, what would their ideal solution look like?

As a company that indexes heavily on written communication and visibility, our solution was to create a shared database that logs every incremental piece of feedback our customer success team receives - whether good or bad, drastic or minor - alongside the context motivating it.

This means that at any given time, our engineers know exactly what gaps are being felt in our product, and by who. The same applies in reverse; our customer success team knows what product features are being worked on, and what gaps what they’re meant to serve.

So, by introducing customer success early on, we were able to figure out a customer —> customer success —> engineer loop that actually works. The result is total alignment between our product and customer success teams around one thing: our customers.

And as a result…

Customer success isn’t just one person or one department. It’s a user-centric attitude that permeates Nomio's culture. Optimising early by making customer success hires meant we were able to align ourselves around this mindset before our first customer even walked through the door.  

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