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Building a shared mission between Community and CS Ops

Welcome to the second post of our Pulse 2022 blog series! (AKA the Pulse cheat sheet of your dreams.) First, we covered why community needs a seat at the table. Now, Tiffany Oda, Director of Community Operations at Venafi, shares her perspective on the alliance and shared goals between Community and CS Ops. 

The synergy between Community and CS has always been strong.

And now, more than ever before, CS teams strive for greater efficiencies—which in turn will only accelerate the current drive towards digital strategies like Community. And, that amplifies the need for CS Ops teams to be more ingrained with Community data, and vice versa.

CS Ops and Community teams actually look at a lot of the same phases of and activities during the customer journey when it comes to data and insights to strengthen their teams. To us, this only makes sense. There’s a defined journey a customer goes through as they use your products, and in the midst of that journey they’ll have touch points with your CSMs, other Community members or documentation meant to self-serve and make them more effective. With increasingly digital journeys being built, there’s no way to pull these apart. They could all happen at the same time, or separately, and they then need to make sense and be a similar experience.

Phases to note specifically are:

  • Onboarding: Reduced time to onboarding resources, or onboarding of certain segments of customers. General customer engagement and having a grip on tracking (authentic) relationships
  • Product and feature updates: Increased product adoption, awareness of new functionality and features, and better product feedback loops
  • General support: Ticket deflection, increased ways for customers to effectively self-serve their questions, connect with peers
  • Customer retention: Satisfaction, and also account expansion opportunities
  • Advocacy: Customer advocates, referrals, references – even more critical as digital makes it easier for customers to voice opinions on your brandScreen Shot 2022-09-01 at 12.55.53 PM

Community is so ingrained within CS Ops that there is, in fact, a term to describe their synergy. Enter Community Ops.

“Community operations is like the general manager of a restaurant. They have one foot in front of the house and the back of the house.”
–Tiffany Oda, Community Operations, Venafi

Pillars of Community Ops

What are the key components of a Community Ops program? Let’s dive in.

  1. Process
    Define improvement areas, identify bottlenecks and eventually solve them efficiently and with some level of automation when possible.
  2.  Programs
    There’s a few types of programs Oda is running, and they can be defined as “Scalability” and “Maintenance” programs, programs focused on (updating) policies and guidelines for the rest of the CS and Community teams, and ensuring everything is properly documented for the future.
  3. Tech stack
    To get all of the data and insights you need, you’ll probably need some tooling. Plus, your CS and Community teams probably already have an existing technology stack to manage. The latter is also a clear pinnacle of Community Ops. Think about the platform your community is built on, but also adjacent tooling and the overall architecture of the entire technology stack
  4. Reporting
    Integrated reporting on everything Community, whether it’s the health of the community, member growth, monthly active users (MAU), daily active users (DAU), or the Community program’s impact on business metrics like NRR or retention.
  5. Run the biz
    Probably the most important part. Although Ops can handle the granular details, it’s important to have that 30,000-foot view. You’ll need to think about what feedback your community has been giving you, how to incorporate that into a clear Community roadmap, and also evaluate your budget. This will most likely be a shared responsibility between Ops and Community Managers to get a full picture for planning in the future and seeing what is working and what should be tweaked in the future.

Tech stack and reporting

We’ve said it before: Community should be a central part of your CS tech stack.

So when it comes to reporting, make sure that you have the entire flow of data across different tooling mapped, and it’s running smoothly. This will enable you to tie certain datapoints together to get a better view of the right KPIs for your business, or specific business challenge you’re solving.

To do that efficiently, you need a technology stack that’s built with the right datapoints in mind to make informed decisions, iterate, and most importantly report them accurately. This will involve you having to talk not only to your CS Ops counterpart, but also the wider business, as we all know definitions of certain metrics may vary (and they shouldn’t)!

Second, it should all be scalable. A most pivotal point of durable growth, is making sure you’re ready for the next phase of the journey. From the perspective of a CS technology stack this means it needs to be flexible, but also offers meaningful insights at every stage of the customer journey to fuel that growth and make the right decisions.

Finally, we urge you to think digital first. Not just because it’s the preference of your customer, or because it’s a way to get rid of some CS headcount. But because it’s a sustainable way to build programs that include EVERY customer, at EVERY stage of their journey.
The same applies to a CSM’s day-to-day. Finding the right metrics they need for conversations should be automated so CSMs can focus on more important things, like relationship-building and actually helping out customers. Let’s face it, you didn’t hire your CSM team to just repeat FAQs to customers, or spend days on getting their reports together. You hired them to spend time with customers.

Community metrics to prioritize

To launch a successful community, make sure you have key metrics in place as you draft your Community success plan. You’ll find that your KPIs will reflect these efforts as your customers become more and more ingrained in the community.

Screen Shot 2022-09-01 at 12.17.24 PMSome of standard KPIs include…

  • # of Members
  • # of Active (and returning) Members
  • Accounts with Members
  • # of Activities
  • Activity Type
  • Content Helpfulness
  • Site/page visits 

You can for example create how-to’s, educational content, customer stories, and product updates with a clear digital CS-driven goal, and even involve your community. When you build a customer-centric tech stack that engages and inspires customers with relevant content, you can increase engagement, Product Adoption, and eventually, Retention. A Community is a great channel for distribution.

For instance, if they’re interested in a product feature and there’s a webinar, invite them to that webinar. Show them that they are valued in the community and reward them with badges or points, that you then show on a Community Leaderboard. Show them the various areas of the community and get them acquainted with them so they can in term decide which are the best fit for them, and increase the chance they’ll contribute in the future.

Shared CS and Community Metrics

When it comes to KPIs, there are a ton of shared metrics of success between Customer Success and Community.

Screen Shot 2022-09-01 at 12.31.35 PMFinal Thoughts: Achieving operational excellence

So how do you go about aligning your Community with CS? The good news is there are plenty of opportunities for the two teams to work together. Oda suggests anything from onboarding, to developing shared KPIs, and even sharing the same tools in your tech stack.

The more intertwined your teams become, will only result in achieving operational excellence and strategy in your organization.

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