building a customer success team

The Ultimate Guide to Building a Customer Success Team

Every SaaS company knows how important Customer Success is and what results in it can bring if implemented properly.  However, since it is a comparatively new field, there are many different ideas, thoughts on how one should be building a customer success team so that it can have a big impact on the bottom-line.
Quarterly Business Review Template
This makes it imperative to take the guidance from experts who have years and years of experience in the field.

Recently in a webinar with Debbi Stanley, CFRE, Vice President of Sales and Customer Success, Rallybound, Debbi shared several actionable insights that will guide you to build your customer success team.

Debbi has been helping clients leverage technology for the past 16 years, Prior to joining Rallybound, Debbi created several customer success programs at Blackbaud and other SaaS organizations and has served in several leadership roles in the community.

Let us start with a quote.

There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” 

– Sam Walton, Founder, Walmart

It not only applies to Walmart but all businesses whether online or offline.

This is exactly where the customer success function comes in. The aim of customer success is to keep the customers happy and engaged so that they are using your product to achieve their goals.

Customer success helps in customer retention. Once customers are retained it will lead to financial growth as they will renew their contracts and may even buy an upgraded plan of your product.

That is why customer retention is also called revenue retention or revenue protection. Hence, it is critical to focus on customer success, if we want our company to grow.
Customer Onboarding Template

What should be the relation between a customer success manager (CSM) and the client?

A CSM can play different roles depending on the company and also what stage the customer is in. But, overall the relationship between a CSM and the customer has to be similar to a doctor-patient relationship. Of course, the CSM needs be friendly and should not overwhelm the customer.

guide to building a customer success team

The CSM has to understand the symptoms of the customer, diagnose the problem and come up with a solution. S/he should be like a trusted advisor and should give their advice while looking at their business holistically.

A CSM should have deep product and industry knowledge so that s/he can give an advice that the customer might not have thought about.

When should you start building a Customer Success team?

Normally at the start, the founder along with the early team is focussed on solving the problem by building the product (at least a Minimum Viable Product) as soon as possible. So, the focus is on hiring developers, designers etc.

Eventually, as you start getting customers, there will come a natural tipping point. Once you start getting all the product usage details and can identify if there is a top tier of clients who can take advantage of the additional help that CSM provides, it is time to start the Customer Success division in your company.

Basically, if there are 20% of clients who are driving in 80% of your revenues, you need customer success in your company.

So, for example, if you have 200 clients and average deal size is of $6000 ARR. But if you have 40 clients, whose average ARR is around $80,000 ARR, you certainly need a customer success team.

What does a CSM actually do?

A CSM is not an extension of customer support or the account management team. A CSM is passionate about the product and loves teaching. He should have deep industry knowledge, impeccable customer skills, and strong analytics.

S/He is responsible for making sure that the top tier customers adopt the product and start transacting ASAP.

customer success manager role

So, for example, if it has been promised to the customer that a certain type of customer support tickets will be closed in 4 hours. But it has been 10 hours but the ticket has not been resolved, then the CSM should come into the picture. He should figure out what the problem is and make sure the ticket is resolved ASAP.

A CSM does not have to close the support tickets but make sure that the ticket gets resolved once it has crossed the deadline. This will lead to the customer being confident that there is someone who has his/her back and ready to help.

Building a Customer Success team

The first hire should be the Customer Success leader. S/he should be a consultative resource for top-tier clients. The first hire should be able to understand the customers’ needs and help them execute the same. S/he should understand the product so well that they can match it to the business need.  The leader should further product adoption which will lead to retaining the customers and also identify additional revenue streams.

The second hire could be an onboarding specialist/CSM. The aim of the onboarding specialist is to make sure that after the sale is complete, the customer reaches an early value as soon as possible. Otherwise, the customer might go into the valley of death.

To make sure that the customer does not go into the valley of death, the time to value should be less than time to live.

building a customer success team structure

Normally a 1:1 CSM should be able to manage 50 accounts while a 1 : Many CSM should be able to handle 200 accounts.

What tools should a CSM use to achieve his/her goals?

There are 3 major tools that can make the lives the of the CSMs easier:

  1. Quarterly Business Reviews (QBR): QBR reveals a lot about the clients. Basically, in QBRs the discussion should be regarding what has been done well, what needs to be fixed and what needs to be done in the future. QBRs actually varies from clients to clients.
  2. Software to track adoption: This is where customer success platforms like CustomerSuccess Box comes into the picture. They track millions of data points to give you actionable insights so that you can focus on the customers who are actually in need of help.
  3. Business goals specific to each client: How will know whether your clients are actually achieving their goals or not? For that, you need to focus on the KPIs of each of the client so that you understand how the progress has been.

To make sure that customer success is actually delivering results, you need to have some sort of scorecard where you can measure the financial objectives, customer satisfaction objectives and product usage improvements.

In the end, the focus of the customer success team should be to help the customer achieve their goals by keeping the customer engaged, improve the onboarding experience and being proactive. This will lead to customer retention and a reduction in customer churn. Hence, customer success will help in the financial growth of the company.

So, are you ready to build a customer success team and take your company to greater heights?

Arnab is a content marketer at CustomerSuccessBox. In his free time he loves watching videos on YouTube and reading about entrepreneurship and startups.