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Adam Houghton on customer-obsession, sharing accountability with Customer Success, and building product expertise
Product State Q&A
EC: We talk a lot about customer-centricity in tech. What’s the key for product people to be truly close to the customer?
AH: I think these buzzword terms are mostly fluff and that if companies are openly talking about customer obsession, it probably means they aren't all that customer centric.
What matters is delivering on the promise we market and sell to our customers. It's really that simple.
Marketing creates the promise, product builds the promise, sales sells the promise, customer success delivers on the promise.
Gather feedback through each motion, maniacally remove user friction and constantly iterate to create differentiation.
Do this and you'll have a killer flywheel motion with a highly confident and inspired GTM team that will drive new revenue, renewals and expansion and a happy and successful customer base who will do a lot of selling for you as well.
Just get closer to your GTM teams and magic will happen.
EC: What are the signs and outcomes of an excellent collaboration with product leaders?
AH: It starts with mutual roadmap prioritization and communication. A roadmap or release should not be a surprise to a CS team or to your biggest customers if you play in the enterprise space.
Both teams should deeply understand the problem being solved and why we are building, or not building, certain features and workflows.
Shared KPIs between Product and CS teams is also key. Whether it's an organizational north star, like NRR, or it's a shared metric that both teams can influence like DAU or MAU, with a shared measurable goal you end up creating a forcing function that brings the teams who can most influence that outcome closer together.
It creates accountability and will drive the behaviour you want to see between those two functions.
EC: How important is it for Customer Success team members to be data-informed experts in the product?
AH: For me this is critical and I think it is inexcusable to not be an expert in your product and the related usage metrics if you work for a product company with a subscription model. It's your company's lifeblood.
Our job in CS is to maximize value for our customers through the use of the product based on their job to be done and their required outcome and you can't do this if you aren't a product expert and if you don't learn to be data driven.
In SaaS, with continuous product updates and inevitable priority changes for end users, you are never done onboarding a customer so continuous discovery and enablement is a must.
In PLG motions use this same approach to get users to a gate faster to unlock the next phase of growth, in sales-led motions use this approach to earn the right to sell the next product, to expand seats or to increase prices.
We all know time to value is key and what's most important is the time it takes to get the customer to develop a new habit for your differentiated sticky features. If anything, just do that and you'll retain your customers and earn the right to grow with them.
“In SaaS, with continuous product updates and inevitable priority changes for end users, you are never done onboarding a customer so continuous discovery and enablement is a must.”
- Adam Houghton
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