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The importance of Customer Success in a Prominent VC/PE firm

How A VC & PE Firm Assess and Improve Customer Success

Samma Hafeez leads the Customer Success advisory practice at VC / PE firm Insight Partners. Her role involves working with founders, CEOs, and revenue leaders to build winning go-to-market strategies and functions that grow revenue/improve retention. From international development to influential roles in various SaaS startups and scale-ups, Hafeez's career is a testament to her adaptability and expertise. Her life is equally rich in personal adventures, marked by travels to remote corners of the world and cherished moments with her family.

The Path to Insight Partners

In 2020, Hafeez joined Insight Partners, a venture capital and private equity firm with a portfolio boasting over 500 companies and a successful track record of guiding more than 50 of them to IPO. Hafeez previously worked in international development and lived in a number of countries around the world. Her diverse background and extensive experience in Customer Success positioned her extremely well to offer deep insights and strategic guidance to help founders, CEOs, and revenue leaders build a winning business.

Guiding New CX/CS Leaders

When it comes to recommendations for new heads of CX or CS, Hafeez emphasizes the importance of immersing themselves in the company's core operations and aligning with the board's preferences. She also suggests that new leaders adopt a consultative approach, including running a discovery process and assessment to either challenge or validate existing approaches. A formal readout with objective recommendations can then be shared with the leadership and Customer Success teams, thereby building trust and establishing credibility. Hafeez also strongly suggests that CS leaders meet with as many customers and partners in the first 100 days and review support cases to gain a deeper understanding of the company through the customer lens. Finally, she advises the new leaders become a user of the product from day one.  

Crafting a Winning CS Strategy

Hafeez identifies the key components of a successful CS strategy as focusing on leading valuation indicators. She emphasizes an 'outside-in' approach to gathering intelligence and feedback that will enable you to walk in your customer's shoes. She champions a culture where customer success is synonymous with company success, urging an organization-wide adoption of this mindset. According to Hafeez, the strategy should be customer-centric and grounded in a genuine understanding of customer needs and experiences.

Insight’s Approach to Evaluating CS Before Investing

At Insight Partners, Hafeez and her colleagues conduct a comprehensive evaluation of a company's customer relationships and CS commitment before investing in the business. She firmly believes that customer success is critical to driving predictable growth and influencing the company's go-to-market strategy. This meticulous evaluation process includes in-depth customer interviews and an analysis of customer outcomes.

CS elements that prospective investors look for

Insight invests in high-retention businesses that offer products that are relatively easy to adopt and use. She also highlights the company's ability to scale service delivery and support as the business grows. Finally, she advised company leaders to focus on GRR and logo retention, as well as NRR, to ensure all are moving in the right direction.

Measuring Success in CS and VoC Programs

For Hafeez, measuring a CS or Voice of Customer (VoC) program's success is closely tied to the stage of growth of the business. Key focus areas include successful onboarding, adoption, retention, and outcomes, with metrics evolving alongside the business. One example she shared includes a portfolio company that generates over 50% of its expansion leads and roughly 25% of referrals through the Customer Success team, thereby significantly reducing customer acquisition costs. Her approach underscores the importance of aligning these success metrics with the company’s growth and changing priorities.

Trends and Challenges in CS

Hafeez notes that while some companies reduced their CS investments, many in Insight's portfolio either maintained or increased their focus on CS. As Hafeez sees it, the challenge lies in overcoming the perception of CS as a departmental function rather than a holistic company strategy. She anticipates significant changes in the CS landscape in the years ahead, driven by technological advancements like generative AI, which should help reduce the administrative aspects of CS and allow more time for human interactions and personal engagement. She envisions automation and efficiencies, allowing CS leaders to have more of a focus on change management. She also hopes that implementation cycles will be drastically reduced, which will greatly impact growth. 

Connect and Explore More

Samma Hafeez HeadshotTo delve deeper into Hafeez's insights and journey, she welcomes connections on LinkedIn and encourages following the Insight blog.

About CX Chats

CX chats is an interview series with Ben Holland, where we talk to industry leaders in the field of customer experience and customer success. Each interview dives deep into the insights from each leader and highlights how they became successful, tips for aspiring CX professionals, and their thoughts on the future of CX.

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