Tips, Tricks & Best Practices

stuartbalcombe
Participant | Partner
Participant | Partner

Re: Using HubSpot for Customer Success

How to run customer success in HubSpot (or is it even possible?) is a question we still hear a lot.

Especially when onboarding and customer success teams need to support a scaling business and start seeing churn increase overtime as customer needs get too complex for their manual and/or disconnected processes.

HubSpot might not be positioned as a common tool for onboarding and customer success but running those workflows in your CRM is great for a few reasons:

  1. Process. HubSpot has pipelines (both tickets and deals as you mentioned) specifically designed for moving customers through a defined process which provides critical reporting data and triggers for process automation.
  2. Communication. HubSpot being a CRM is designed to track customer activity, emails, and notes between all external stakeholders and internal teams. Reducing the need to ask customers for details previously covered in a previous call or email.
  3. Reporting. HubSpot has reporting capabilities built in making it possible to share key onboarding performance metrics with key stakeholders proactively or provide them with real-time access.
  4. Automation. HubSpot’s workflow builder and automation features help remove tedious and repetitive onboarding tasks from your team’s already overflowing plate.
  5. Data. Your CRM has all your customer contact records in one place and is probably integrated with the rest of your tech stack as a source of truth for all customer data (we do this via Hightouch to connect our Postgres database to HubSpot at Arrows).

I’ve laid out the playbook we use to run our onboarding and success processes at Arrows and why we chose to configure our CRM to support both onboarding and ongoing customer success instead of using a dedicated (but siloed) customer success platform.

What we’ll cover

  • How to build a repeatable system for handoffs from sales deals to onboarding
  • How to use HubSpot + Arrows to guide customers through the onboarding process
  • A system for engaging customers throughout the lifecycle to make renewals non-events.

The Hypothesis

A team building their onboarding and ongoing customer success process in a CRM tends to have less gaps in the experience for customers and maintains better visibility into performance.

Onboarding and success teams that build a well defined process will improve performance and their ability to scale.

What you’ll need

  • An understanding of the onboarding and ongoing success motions of your product.
  • Optional* A professional level HubSpot plan to run automated workflows.

1. Using pipelines for each stage of the customer journey

Pipelines in HubSpot (or any CRM) are designed specifically for purpose of moving a customer through a series of steps to reach a defined outcome. I would absolutely recommend using pipelines to map your customer journey vs adding onboarding data in custom properties on a contact or company record.The reason? Pipeline movements will always be timestamped making reporting much easier and you’ll have a visual way to see the progression of companies through onboarding and onwards to a successful renewal while quickly identifying bottlenecks along the way.

Sales

Your sales team is likely already using HubSpot deals to manage their pipeline. Running customer success in HubSpot doesn’t need to change anything about that setup, but understanding how deals move through the pipeline and how sales reports on their performance can be helpful for ensuring successful handoffs when deals are closed or providing assistance to get customers to the finish line.

We often see teams working with customers to lay out a success plan or map the steps to go live before deals are closed. Being in the same tool for success and sales makes this much smoother to understand customer context and find the information you need to stay informed.

Onboarding

Onboarding is the epitome of a process that should have a clear outcome and measure of success - that could be going live with your product but likely it will include some kind of measure of activation with your onboarding process being the steps you and your customers will take together to get there.

Having a dedicated onboarding pipeline that is separate from sales and ongoing success motions allows you and your team to focus on the incredibly important task of getting customers up and running and seeing value from your product to set them up for ongoing success.

Onboarding pipeline using HubSpot dealsOnboarding pipeline using HubSpot deals

 

We wrote a complete guide on setting up HubSpot pipelines for onboarding including some common workflows and reporting.

Ongoing Success & Renewals

Using pipelines to manage ongoing success and renewals provides a really nice way to segment the customers you’re working with based on the data you have about them.

For example you could have stages in your pipeline for:

  • Active customers
  • Inactive customers
  • Customers with upcoming renewals in 30-60-90 days

These stages can then be filtered by the responsible CSM so any individual can get a high level picture of what work to prioritize.

This view also makes it easier to identify systemic issues or common challenges that make renewals more difficult so that they can be proactively addressed.

To make this view dynamic, you could configure workflows to automatically move customers between stages based on their usage in your product (and added to HubSpot as described below), properties updated by your CSMs or the status of their subscription tracked in HubSpot.

2. Configure your deals or tickets for customer success

One of the biggest advantages of running your customer success program in HubSpot is you are able to bring information about the customer from multiple places together in the same place your customer facing teams are likely already working.

Here’s how we like to pull together data from multiple sources in a single view of a deal.

  1. Product usage data from our app (explained in more detail below) - used to understand engagement and power reporting and helpful workflows to surface accounts that need support and attention.

  2. Arrows onboarding/success plan data - used to track progress towards activation and identify blockers in the customer experience.

  3. HubSpot line items for the product/plan purchased - This is really helpful to automatically drive renewal sequences and upsell outreach based on subscription dates.

  4. Customer and team member activity feed - This is your standard CRM functionality but having emails (especially with the sales extension), notes, meetings, and calls with any related contact automatically logged in one place is fantastic for letting any team member dig in and understand the context of what’s happening with this customer.

 

3. Ensuring smooth handoffs from sales to onboarding

There’s often plenty of confusion surrounding the sales <> onboarding/customers success handoff, and it doesn’t always happen cleanly. Part of providing a great customer experience is your customer feeling like the sales team listened to their needs and clearly represented what your company’s solution could do.

Here’s a deal configuration and handoff work to help align expectations and nail down responsibilities, so that it’s clear who’s managing what.

Use required deal properties - to ensure any required customer information is complete when moving a deal to “closed won”.

Use a workflow to automate the details of handoffs - I’d suggest creating a workflow to handle as many steps related to handoffs as possible to ensure they happen repeatably and without things falling through the cracks that impact the customer experience.

In this example triggered when a deal moves to the stage “Closed Won” in our sales pipeline the workflow will:

  • Create a record in our onboarding pipeline (explained in more detail in the next section)
  • Copy relevant information from the sales deal to your new onboarding record
  • Set a renewal date (this could be set directly in the workflow or by pulling in the start date of a tracked subscription from HubSpot line items)
  • Assign an owner to the new onboarding ticket using a “Rotate record to owner” workflow action. If you have multiple people or teams who work with customers during onboarding you could also add branching logic to route new customers based on specific properties (that you make required to close the deal) such as products/services purchased or persona.
  • Create a customer facing success plan (more details below)
  • Send a welcome email to the customer from the new owner based on a template
  • Create internal prep tasks in a task queue for the onboarding team.

 

4. Giving customers a clear view of “what’s next” with a success plan

One thing to think about when it comes to running your process in HubSpot (or really any customer success tool) is that it's internal facing, so as much as you get setup your customer doesn't have visibility.

To improve transparency and help everyone get a better understanding of what needs to happen next we recommend using customer facing action plans attached to each deal or ticket you create.

This way you can collect any information you need that would block getting accounts setup and customers up and running while also laying out the success roadmap that will lead to stress free renewals. You could use a specific plan for different steps of the customer journey such as:

  • Onboarding
  • QBR’s
  • Renewals
  • Feature Rollouts
  • Account Expansion

Here's an example of what a customer facing plan might look like, and also how it would show up in a deal or ticket to enrich your data and make it easy to see what's happening.
Customer facing plan exampleCustomer facing plan example


With Arrows this customer facing plan could be attached 1-1 to a deal or ticket and plan data is synced into HubSpot properties allowing you to use it in workflows and reporting.

 

5. Understand customer adoption and drive engagement

Whether you use a dedicated CS platform or HubSpot to manage your customer onboarding and renewals process, the chances are you'll want to be able to see what customers are doing in your product and how engaged they are to identify churn risks and ensure you have all the information you need for renewal conversations.

One thing that is often touted by dedicated customer success platforms that seems less common in the HubSpot community is pull product usage data into the CRM for reporting and/or driving behavior based actions whether automated or manual.

This isn’t as hard as it might sound using reverse ETL tools like Hightouch or Syncari. These tools make it possible to query your app database or really any other data store and pipe and map that data to HubSpot properties.

I’d suggest product usage from external systems in custom properties on company records and then using a workflow like the one below to copy it to associated tickets or deal in your onboarding and success pipelines whenever it gets updated. If the data is user specific you could of course do the same thing with a contact record.

At Arrows we use Hightouch to pull data from our Postgres database into HubSpot company records and then push it into the deals we use to manage our self-serve and sales-assist motions.

Here are 3 ideas for using product data inside your CRM.

Example 1: If you are using a customer facing plan with due dates, you can sync the due date of the current task from Arrows to HubSpot and then if it is past due kickoff reminders to the customer and/or your team to follow up.

Example 2: If you know that users taking a particular action in your product correlates to increased change of upgrading their account you could create a HubSpot workflow that sends a Slack notification to the CSM or Account Manager responsible for renewals to follow up and close the deal.

Example 3: You could also use a similar workflow based on the time since the customer was last contacted or if they are within a certain number of days of the target date and have not completed specific required steps to see value. Depending on the parameters you could assign to the ticket owner, escalate to additional team members or kickoff a whole new playbook as needed.


6. Report on onboarding performance

A huge advantage of running onboarding and renewals using HubSpot ticket pipelines is you can drastically simplify the work involved in getting all your data together for reporting.

Here are a few onboarding/success specific reports I'd suggest setting up:

1. Total tickets/deals in each stage of onboarding

This report is really helpful for quickly identifying bottlenecks and potential problem steps. For example do you have a lot of customers in a stage that requires a file upload? Are there many tasks in one stage? Is the point person for the customer not the right person to complete a task in this stage?

Identifying the bottleneck is the first step in improving the process to remove it.

2. Reporting on onboarding progress vs team activity

HubSpot Custom Reports that combine data from both your team's activity and your customer's behavior during onboarding are a really powerful way to get insight into your customers progress and how effective your process is at making them successful. This video shows how to setup an onboarding dashboard that also surfaces at risk onboarding's based on a threshold level of progress you set.

3. Segmenting onboarding/renewal performance by team member
recorded a video here of how you could think about setting this up to show the impact team members have on the velocity and success of customers during onboarding.In summary - running onboarding and renewals in HubSpot using ticket pipelines is absolutely possible and has a ton of advantages.

4. Plan utilization

One great way to use any product usage data you are syncing into HubSpot is to create a computed property for Plan Utilization. In conversations with customer success leaders we’ve often seen some variation of this used as a north star for product adoption for account health.

In the example below our plan Plan Utilization property is a calculation of the seats currently filled (driven by product data) divided by the total number of purchased seats (from our subscription data).

We could set a baseline that a health account will be utilizing at least 85% of it’s seats and build lists or move customers between pipeline stages based on this metric. We could also report on the number of companies with plan utilization above and below our baseline overall.
Calculating a customer "health" scoreCalculating a customer "health" score

 

Running customer success in HubSpot isn’t just possible but I’d argue it’s actually preferred.

Making customers successful isn’t the responsibility of a single team but instead everybody who touches the customer experience from marketing and sales to success and product has a part to play.

Running the entire customer journey in a single tool (HubSpot) means there are less handoffs, less data gaps, and less places for a customer to fall through the cracks causing avoidable churn.

Having one tool for everything our customer team works has been working well so far, always curious to hear other ways to set things up.

1 Reply 1
kvonloesecke
Community Manager
Community Manager

Re: Using HubSpot for Customer Success

This is great! Thanks for sharing this guide with us, @stuartbalcombe!


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