Life at Buildout

What Happens When the Customer Success Team Goes Dark for 3 Days

One of our company-wide Standards here at Buildout is ‘We Prioritize our Customers’, which means that every action we take, regardless of our role, should be in service of our customer because we value a truly exceptional customer experience. So why would our Customer Success team ‘go dark’ for three days straight and how exactly did we do it? Read on to find out!

Tell Me More

From June 21st - 23rd, my Customer Success team went completely dark. That’s right - unplugged, heads down, unreachable to customers and colleagues. We completely signed out of Gmail and Slack and operated out of our project management tool, Clickup. 

The ‘why’ is simple. As a team, we’ve tried to increase efficiency and make big changes that we know will have a huge impact on the customer experience. While we’ve made some progress, it’s been slow because Customer Success Managers are nothing if not empathetic individuals and Buildout’s CSMs feel the urgency of their customers and work tirelessly to ensure that they get the best, most complete answer to their questions. How can we prepare for tomorrow when we’re working hard to solve our customers’ problems today?

When we took a step back to evaluate the needs of our customers and the needs of their team, we found that our customers were coming to the Customer Success Team for training on the most basic of concepts. That means the teams’ calendars were full of repetitive calls, but it also meant that customers were taking precious time out of their day to learn simple tasked-based concepts instead of doing the work that’s most important to them.

In effect, the Customer Success Team was spending its time accommodating training requests rather than doing the proactive work needed to ensure that our customers are seeing value.

I’m a firm believer that the key to customer success is in the manufacturing of a customer experience. So we asked ourselves, “What can we do for three days that will have the biggest impact on what we can build in the future and what will have the biggest impact on the customers?” What we found is that by defining the new user experience and manufacturing a positive experience, we can free up our time to focus on larger projects and we would be creating the collateral needed to build on our adoption efforts in the future. 

Confidence in Going Dark

In the weeks leading up to our dark days, we met with our Product team to understand their vision for the remainder of the year and we created one heck of a plan in Clickup. These days weren’t about workshopping and brainstorming ideas. We set out to have our heads down for three full days of undistracted production and execution. 

And we couldn’t have done it without the help of our Product Support and Account Management teams. They were there to pick up the slack over those three days. Our Customer Success team had emails forwarded directly to the Product Support team so we could feel confident unplugging and know that our customers were being taken care of in our absence. It was critical to have this transfer of ownership and customer care.

In return, we made a commitment to our Product and Support Teams: we will emerge from our dark days with the resources and collateral needed to improve the customer experience, thereby reducing Support issues and creating opportunity for increased product adoption. 

What We Accomplished

The work we did over those three days ignited a fire within the team. We were inspired by the possibilities that laid before us once we’d had an opportunity to feel “caught up.” Dear reader, if you’ve ever worked in customer success or in the tech world, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

In three days we laid the groundwork for what had previously felt like pie in the sky goals. We built email campaigns, in-app walkthroughs, and supporting Help Center content built, and were ready to manufacture a full new user experience for both our general audience, as well as our more unique strategic customers. And we did. Over the course of ten days following our dark days time, we took an opportunity to consult other teams on our work and finalize our initiative.

Last week I had the opportunity to share the full new user experience at a company-wide Town Hall and since then, many new ideas have been suggested so that we might further manufacture a positive experience for our customers. 

What We Learned

The dark days allowed the Customer Success team to dedicate our full attention to projects that affect the new user experience as a Buildout customer. It also allowed us to make huge strides in improving our workflows and processes that ultimately impact our customer experience.

Lessons learned from our dark days:

1. If I could do it all over again, I would have done it sooner

You don’t have to wait for the busy season to end or for things to “cool down” to take a page out of our book. And, in fact, you shouldn’t. That day will likely never come, especially if you don’t take steps to operationalize your customer experience. When I first broached the subject of removing my team from our customers’ and colleagues’ reach for three days with my manager, I held my breath. NO WAY she’s going to go for it.  But I was wrong. The need and the outcomes were clear. And I’m happy to say that after three days, the world did not come to a grinding halt. And again, that’s very much because of the work our colleagues did to cover for us during that time.

2. Zoom out and then zoom back in

In the weeks leading up to our dark days, we identified opportunities to improve the customer experience and free up our time for more valuable work and found ourselves limited by thinking only of what could improve our customer experience, as it is today. You’ve probably said something similar to yourself about your own team’s work – “If only we had this ONE thing, it would be better.” That thing, big or small, is important to recognize, but it can limit your ideas if you’re not careful. Does that one thing matter if you were to totally rethink what the customer experience could and should be? 

Instead, zoom out to imagine what the ideal customer experience could look like. Is manufacturing that customer experience within your control? What would it take to get there? Zoom in on the opportunities to build that customer experience, while addressing the now.

For example, we hope to work towards a customer experience at Buildout that addresses the specific needs of our customer personas. By loosely defining those personas, we were able to begin creating collateral in our customer-facing learning management system, in-app communications tool, and email campaign tool that both address the longer-term goal of defining and supporting those customer personas across our organization, while simultaneously solving for the immediate need to create materials that could be used by each of the customer personas we most frequently encounter.

3. Make a plan. Map it out. And then be ready to pivot

On our first day, we joined a video call to kick things off – our plan was clear. We needed ‘X’ collateral to create ‘Y’. But as the day wore on, it was clear that in order to build ‘X’, we needed something else entirely! So we pivoted. ‘Y’ was accomplished, but not in three days. And that was a-okay because the goal of our dark days was to go back to basics and set the foundation for future improvements and growth. 

We could have used duct tape and spit to build ‘Y’ and it probably would’ve worked. But we wouldn’t be in a position today to build on ‘Y’. Instead we’d be figuring out how to dismantle ‘X’ and start over.

What’s Next

The new user experience will launch in its totality over the next couple of weeks and our work will be put to the test. We’re looking forward to learning from the success and challenges that come with any new initiative and taking what we learn to build additional experiences for our different customer personas.

Additionally, we have some work to do to make sure that the experience we’ve built doesn’t go stale and that there are processes in place to regularly update the content we’re sharing with new users.

And we’ll be going dark again! Likely in the next two to three months. This time we hope to focus on manufacturing a new experience for our Manage & Close customers who are seeing value tracking their deals from end to end. There’s helpful data we hope to share with those customers at a regular clip, like deals closed, where they were sourced, and how they can repeat their success using Buildout.

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