Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from OpenView’s eBook Building Your Customer Success Strategy.
In fewer than four years, David Sacks and Adam Pisoni were able to transform their business, Yammer, from a startup in the crowded collaboration space into a hyper-growth juggernaut that was acquired by Microsoft for $1.2 billion. Mike Grafham, former Head of Customer Success, attributes much of Yammer’s success and ability to differentiate itself in the market place to its customer-first business model and the customer success philosophy that guided the way the company was designed, organized, and driven from top to bottom.
Behind the scenes of Yammer’s dizzying ascent there were three core pillars that defined and enabled the operating philosophy, the business, and its success:
1. Customer-centric Vision and Mission
From day one, Yammer rallied its team behind a customer-centric vision and mission. Yammer’s mission was to help organizations become more responsive in their work by functioning like a network and making better use of the knowledge that people in their organization possessed. The team felt the modern workplace evolution had not kept pace with the needs of today’s professional teams. They believed that a social collaboration platform would fill gaps in workplace communication.
Hiring to this vision and the corresponding core values, they made sure that each person who came to work at the company was dedicated to bringing this vision to life by helping each customer communicate and collaborate more efficiently and effectively through the Yammer platform. The team they hired had a very specific and shared purpose against which to benchmark their actions and decisions.
2. Customer Outcome Focused KPI
To realize this vision, the organization knew it needed an engaging product that was capable of transforming how people work. Yammer’s management team went all in on this intention and focused on a single key guiding metric: product engagement. “Each member of our team cared deeply about whether customers were actually using Yammer and deriving value from it,” explains Grafham. “Engagement was a useful proxy for whether our customers were succeeding with the product.”
While many of their competitors focused on the traditional SaaS goal of acquiring customers, the Yammer team also applied efforts into helping customers achieve their goals. Product decisions were made through the lens of whether they would increase end user engagement with the product. This singular focus helped them drive utilization, which in turn could be translated into customers’ productivity and efficacy with the product. Ultimately, Yammer knew happy, successful customers would tell authentic and passionate stories about their experience with Yammer – stories that would influence future customers and accelerate acquisition.
Even more important to the sustainability and valuation of the business, Yammer’s successful, highly engaged customers were less likely to abandon the product and more likely to respond positively to up-sells and cross-sells. Because Yammer consistently delivered on the promise they’d made they saw high engagement, low churn, and strong customer expansion – the key indicators that made the company attractive on the M&A market. With a strategic vision and focused performance metrics in place, the last piece of the puzzle was to address how the team would infuse the strategy into day-to-day tasks.
3. Flexible and Easily Adapted Environment
Yammer created a collaborative, flexible environment and a dynamic organizational structure that enabled teams to evolve rapidly in whatever way was necessary to fulfill their mission and drive the vision forward. “The way we were organized meant that people were free to pursue the best course of action for our customers and for the business,” says Grafham. “We combined a clear, shared mission with a huge amount of individual and team autonomy to deliver on that mission.”
This autonomy allowed the organization to evolve rapidly – learning from customer successes and failures – so it could consistently meet the needs of its customers even as it scaled.
This flexibility empowered the organization to proactively innovate on its organizational model and how it delivered on its customer success promises.
Ready to build your own customer success strategy? Download the eBook to learn more about Yammer’s processes and discover tips and tricks you can implement in your own business.