Carter Stepanovsky cares.
Carter’s a customer success manager at Kapost. Given the descriptive title, it’s fairly easy to deduce the job’s role and responsibilities. But it’s fascinating still to unravel the behind-the-scenes details of a function that might otherwise be taken for granted.
In this part two of our series featuring interviews of various specialists within Kapost, I speak with Carter who proved to be a wonderful spokesperson. No wonder Carter’s job is all about talking about marketing content software and optimizing the processes involved via phone.
Here’s what our conversion sounded like…
Barry Feldman (BF): Carter, what is a customer success manager?
Carter Stepanovsky (CS): A customer success manager is a liaison between the customer and the product. So our role is to develop a relationship with the key points of contact from the customer side, build their trust, understand their business, their challenges, goals, and help customers succeed with Kapost through training and sharing best practices.
Ultimately, a customer success manager is the day-to-day point of contact that ensures Kapost is adopted and used well within the organization.
When Do Customer Success Managers Get Involved?
BF: I first spoke with Angie Harp, who is major account executive. When you talk to Angie you haven’t bought the products yet, but when a customer talks to you, they have, is that right?
CS: That’s correct. We’re certainly post-sale. The account executive has closed the deal, the contract is signed, and then the customer success manager is brought in to help bridge the transition and lead the customer throughout the lifecycle of their contract.
BF: So how does it start?
CS: It starts with some internal discussions with the account executives and the members of the customer success team, and also an engagement director. After that internal sync, we have a meeting with the customers, head of the strategic alignment session. The goal of the meeting is to make introductions, find alignment on goals, expectations, and timelines, and introduce an onboarding and training roadmap, so everybody knows what’s going to happen in the coming weeks and months as they launch Kapost.
BF: Who is involved on the client side?
CS: Ideally, the account executive has done a great job of working with key players on the customer side and has a designated executive sponsor—the person who is signing and allocating budget for this purchase—as well as an identified project lead. So, someone on the customer side will take on the responsibility of coordinating and spearheading the launch of Kapost internally.
Have Software…Gotta’ Learn
BF: Is this process pre-planned? That is, is it so repeatable that you know what to do, or is it totally ad hoc?
It’s critical to understand their goals, where are they today, and where they want to be in six months or a year.
CS: It skews to the preplanned side, but it is customizable, so we will incorporate the goals and objectives and any sort of relevant information that the account executive has gathered, so it’s relevant to the customer and customized, but it does follow a template.
BF: Generally software takes time and effort to learn. What is it that they need to know and learn?
CS: Ideally they’re coming to the table with a solid grasp of what they need internally, which challenges they want us to solve, or have a solid understanding of their current process and where they have opportunities to improve. And then certainly there is just a willingness to learn a new tool and devote the time it takes to setup new software. Those are the three key components.
BF: We’re talking about the customer’s workflow, aren’t we?
Carter: Yeah, for sure. It’s going to be mission critical. So we need to establish an understanding of their current content operations as it relates to the kind of content they’re producing and how they want to search and report on their content. We call that “custom fields” or “metadata” that allows customers to maximize the platform.
With an understanding of their current workflow and internal processes, we can help translate those components in their system. It’s critical to understand their goals, where are they today, and where they want to be in six months or a year.
Optimizing the Experience
BF: Are you helping new clients setup and make changes to optimize their use of Kapost?
CS: Absolutely. That strategic alignment call is pretty high level, but shortly thereafter we get into more granular discussions where we are talking about what kind of content are you producing, how you want to tag it, who is working on it, and in what order.
My role as a customer success manager is ultimately to understand their business, their processes, their current content operation, and to seamlessly transfer that into Kapost while adhering to our own platform best practices. It can become a delicate balance of managing customer expectations and habits and processes and aligning them with our platform and how it can be optimized.
BF: Kapost is a large and powerful piece of software, so I gather there’s a learning curve. Do you accelerate the process by having customers read, watch, or listen to certain stuff?
It can become a delicate balance of managing customer expectations and habits and processes and aligning them with our platform and how it can be optimized.
CS: We have a really comprehensive online community that is consistently updated. It includes documentation, user guides, short video tips, and webinars. We’re trying to meet people where they are in terms of how they like to learn by offering a wide variety of options to quickly harness the power of Kapost.
BF: I was told about your “Day in the Life” session. What’s that about?
CS: Once we have optimized Kapost and transferred and translated the processes and content operation elements into Kapost, we like to sit down with the key players on the customer side (typically leads from different teams) and work with them to work within the system.
There really is no better way to learn the system—as well as optimize the system once you have that basic framework in place—than to use Kapost. So the “Day in the Life” is meant to mirror their daily actions in Kapost.
There really is no better way to learn the system that to use it.
So we’re on the phone and in a screen share. Typically they’re leading the way creating content, editing content, collaborating, accessing calendars, doing all of the things users would do in Kapost in their day-to-day lives.
BF: It doesn’t go on for an entire day though, does it?
CS: No. It typically takes an hour or less. So we try to zip through a few different examples of how they will be using Kapost.
Speaking to—and for—Customers
BF: Let’s step away from the customer facing role now and talk about what you might do behind the scenes because of your a customer-facing role. Does a customer success manager such as yourself get involved in product development or iteration at Kapost?
CS: We do. As the liaison between the customer and the product, it is important that we collaborate and communicate with the product and engineering teams. They do a great job of keeping us in the loop regarding feature enhancements and the roadmap so we can continuously communicate the information to customers.
We also have a great feedback loop whereby we can share suggestions or instructive feedback from customers around the product, whether it’s an idea for a new feature or a request to change something. All of that frequently goes back to the product team. So it’s a pretty dynamic feedback loop in both directions which helps us continue to evolve and improve Kapost.
BF: Do you (and the 10+ people on the customer success team) get involved in the development of Kapost content?
CS: We do, absolutely. Whether that is customer-facing help documentation or something else, we’re always working to evolve and grow the resources that our customers have at their disposal. We also work with our own marketing team to highlight the successes of our customers through blog posts, case studies, and webinars to showcase how Kapost customers succeed in their businesses.
We’re always working to evolve and grow the resources that our customers have at their disposal.
BF: How do you know when you’re doing the job well? Are there measures of success for customer success manager?
CS: It all comes down to retention. At the end of a contract we hope to see a customer renew, so we’re in a position to always find value and help our customers track their goals and meet or exceed them. If customers continue with Kapost year-over-year then I certainly feel I’ve been doing my job well.
BF: Do customers give Kapost feedback about the performance of their customer success managers?
CS: There is no formal process such as survey or anything like that, but I’ve had the pleasure of having customers in an ad hoc way write feedback to Kapost leadership regarding their experience with us. It’s mostly good, which is always nice.
This article is the second in a series that will examine the various roles and responsibilities at Kapost. Our goal is to help you understand how the company caters to and cares for our customers across the complete customer experience.