Get It Done: How to Customer Success at Your Nonprofit

In our first and second posts in this series, we defined Customer Success and made the case that it’s a great model for nonprofits as well as software companies.

Hopefully by now, you’re convinced that implementing a Customer Success program at your nonprofit is a good idea. If not, here’s one more serving of food for thought: Customer Success at software companies is meant to retain customers and minimize financial and contractual churn by enabling successful outcomes from using the software. Customer Success at your nonprofit could retain your talented staff and minimize the organizational churn that comes from burnout and a constant cycle of change through RFPs.

Wherever you go, there you are. New technology alone won’t solve the problems of frustration with software and staff burnout. Here’s what will: creating a structure and system to help your staff use technology fully, completely and correctly so they can get their work done, achieve their goals, and have fun doing it. Some nonprofits are already structuring themselves this way, whether they’re calling it Customer Success or not.

Great! Let’s do it. How does a nonprofit go about implementing a Customer Success model? The first step is understanding the crucial components of Customer Success.

  1. Define your desired outcomes. This process should include the specific goals you have for using your solutions, and the reason the successful use of these solutions is good for your organization and your mission. Start with why, describe what success looks like on a big-picture level and then drill down to specific key performance indicators. People are more invested in success and willing to change when they understand why.
  2. Create a comprehensive onboarding process. Onboarding is an introduction to the solution, including why the organization is using the solution, and a training program. The goal is to enable your staff to use the new system correctly as soon as possible. Progress toward success is inspiring, while stagnation is the death of enthusiasm. Onboarding happens after a new purchase, and when new staff are hired, promoted or transferred. It also happens when your solution introduces new features. A consistent and repeatable process will get your staff off on the right foot.
  3. Plan for, enable, and measure adoption. You might have the greatest system in the world, but if your staff isn’t using it consistently or making the most of all it has to offer, then it’s not serving your organization well. Adoption is a key piece of achieving the outcomes you defined in step 1. People learn and get better by doing things, so helping your staff use the system every day and take advantage of every feature will help them incorporate the solution.
  4. Communication, operations and ongoing learning. This is the nitty-gritty. To support a model and philosophy of Customer Success, you’ll need tools and discipline that help you do all these things.

The nitty-gritty: here’s what you’ll need:

Documentation, and a desire and discipline to keep it up to date

  • A knowledge base to capture the best thinking and answers from your staff
  • An operations manual. Documentation tells you how the system works. An operations manual says this is how we use this system at our organization – and why.

Support or Help Desk, a team of experts to help your staff when they have questions. While your solutions will offer support, you should also have this function internally, since your organization might be doing these differently.

  • A ticketing system to capture and measure the support requests. This will help you figure out if there are trends and common issues, such as:
  1. Are there frequently asked questions from a variety of people? Then answer that question in the knowledge base.
  2. Does one of your users have a lot of different basic support questions? Connect that person to more training.
  3. Do your power users have ideas or wish lists for features? Capture those, review them, and implement as many as you can if they will benefit everyone. Circle back with the people who submitted the idea to let them know the status and decision.

Ongoing Learning. We started this blog post series by noting that Customer Success was developed to support software that was designed and delivered differently than the status quo. We expect more rapid innovation in the coming years and decades. By enabling a culture of constant learning and sharing, we’ll prepare our organizations and our staff to be flexible and nimble so we can take advantage of new opportunities.

Empower your staff to continue learning and to share their gained expertise with others by prioritizing their participation in industry events.

  • Conferences
  • User groups - both internally at your organization, and with other users of the same solution
  • Research papers, blog posts and other ways to share thought leadership
  • Webinars

You’ll need tools, a staffing plan, and the desire to make it happen. You’ll also want to thoughtfully plan for what could feel like a significant change for your staff – aka, change management. The desire and commitment to make it happen are what’s key. Once you have that, you can build the rest.

We were doing customer success work before it was called that, and we’ve learned what works. Are you not getting the outcomes you want from your technology? Do you feel like you could do better? Does it feel like you’re spinning your wheels with a lot of urgent tasks but not making progress toward the bigger goal?

You can solve this. Raise HECK can help. Give us a call!