Customer success is a must-have for any company that builds products oriented around the customer experience. Software providers know this best, where great customer service is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s an essential component of their day to day business operations.

As corporate solutions become more complicated and business teams engage in investment into more platforms, it is becoming critical to take advantage of all the tools they have at their disposal.

Sales teams and account executives initially managed customer relationships for businesses, but the advent of new software led to a greater demand for Customer Success specialists.

In addition to benefiting customers, a customer success role is just as beneficial for the company.

Below are a few eye-opening stats from Invesp Consulting:

Experienced customers are more likely to try new products and spend 31% more than new ones.

Increasing customer retention by 5% can have a total impact of up to 95%.

Around nine out of every 10 companies see customer experience as a key factor in driving customers’ loyalty and the retention.

One of the biggest mistakes many companies make when it comes to customer success is including it too much as an afterthought.

Most SaaS organizations start with a product idea, bring in sales reps to grow revenue, and then think about building a customer success team once there are customers on board who are asking for more.

In reality, customer success should be included in initial conversations concerning either products or sales.

Creating and keeping long-term relationships with your customers should be an immediate priority for any company

Part 1: Building Your Team

Starting out, you should have your customer success team involved in every process at your company. This often means working with sales, product, support and other departments to establish a process that works well for both the employees AND the customers.

As you scale your department, and customers want different things from your team, it’s important to get clear on what they value most.

This is the list of what to do when you are building a customer success department.

1. What your company considers to be customer success?

Building your team can be a confusing time. It is important to establish expectations about customer success from the start.

Concerning customer success, there are many ways to interpret the overarching theme. Consequently, your team can customize this meaning how you see fit.

Perhaps your customer success team will mainly be focused on onboarding and serving new clients.

Working with a customer’s lifecycle directly affects your team. Your team should be aware of when to intervene on behalf of the customer, and when to refer them to other departments for help.

2. You need to have competent customer service representatives to manage your customers accounts

Now comes the fun part: finding the right people to actually manage your customers. Once you know what success looks like and how you’re going to get there, it’s time to put these plans in place.

Due to the increased complexity in today’s’ market, an effective CSM goes one step beyond the traditional role.

Customer service managers are responsible for the success of their organization because customer retention, satisfaction and loyalty is so key to success.

CSMs typically have a multitude of tasks, some more demanding than others.

We are first and foremost responsible for welcoming new account holders, training our users, and helping them realize the value of both their relationship with us as well as our product.

Customer service managers are the main point of contact for customers and other departments. They answer customer escalations, help with questions and concerns, and perform complicated projects in between these responsibilities.

Even if CSMs are not responsible for closing renewals or upsells, they still need to keep customers happy and guide them towards these conversations.

Customers want to work with vendors who are willing and able to help. CSM’s keep a constant eye on accounts, regardless of the time they have been customers, and speak as advocates during important conversations or decisions.

Yes, the lives of CSMs are stress-filled. They have to keep track of a lot for even one account and some CSMs may be dealing with up to twelve accounts at once.

The right members of your Customer Success team are crucial to the success of both your organization and its members.

3. Measure the achievements of your KPIs and metrics.

Understanding your organization’s metrics and what ‘success’ means for the business will help you keep track of customer success.

Every company has their own system for tracking customer success metrics.

How often are users actually logging in and using your product?

Has your product gained traction with users and are they committed to using it?

Customer engagement – how often are customers interacting with your team?

The customer pulse, or gut feeling, is the perception that the service team has about each individual client’s likelihood of staying a customer.

• Net Promoter Score: a measure of customer willingness to recommend your company’s products

4. Ensure that customer success is an integral part of your company culture.

This last process in putting together a customer success department is one of the most important parts for your company and client relationships.

To ensure lasting success, everyone in an organization-from the executive to the lowest level employee-need to be mentally invested in your customer.

Why invest time and effort into gaining new customers, just to see them churn a few years later?

In order to create a profitable, scalable customer success department, customer success managers should have a seat at the table – but they also need the ear and assistance from other departments.

Here are a few reasons why a company’s customer success is essential to its long-term health:

• Review metrics and review goals to track success with clients.

Other departments may have already considered the idea but this department has the chance to implement it.

• Goals are aligned to the broader office and each department.

• Customers feel good knowing that the entire company is focused on their success, which keeps internal and external stakeholders happy.

When you can’t see the customer up close and personal on a regular basis, being able to rely on data from your team will allow you, as an executive or board member, to focus on the success of those accounts.

Part 2: How to Scale Your Team

Once your customer success team is in place, it’s time to start building and growing value for your internal team. This will involve processes that are customized to the needs of both teams.

A customer success team should rely on their own processes and procedures to ensure cracks in the complexity of customer accounts don’t slip through.

1. Make sure your manager and customer service representative have the skills to service clients, provide support, and retain them.

A customer success team’s growth starts by setting up shop with the right people and skills. There is no one straight-forward process to guarantee customer satisfaction.

While not every customer success team will have access to these tools, there are some fundamental principles that every single one should follow.

Building repeatable processes: Successful customer success teams are responsible for a lot. From keeping clients happy to facilitating onboarding and training to working with executives to close renewal deals, there’s a lot going on.

This is also why cultivating repeatable procedures will be invaluable. Your team can seamlessly manage all of the day-to-day CSM work with ease by quickly bringing new team members into play when necessary.

Balancing new and long-term accounts: Many customer success teams struggle to scale while juggling in the meantime.

On one hand, new customers require a lot of attention and assistance with account setup when they are first brought into the company. On the other hand, long-term accounts might be neglected which may lead to lost opportunities for upsells.

As your customer base grows, making sure you have an account management strategy in place will ensure that both new and existing accounts are equitably addressed.

Re-engaging with dormant customers: If your team has been around for a while and you have some strong customers on the roster, they might not need as much attention as new or finicky ones.

One of the potential issues that often arises is an organic lapse in communication. However, as much as possible, it’s important to re-engage with your customers.

When you first start thinking about how you’ll engage with customers, it’s important to take a big step back and consider the following questions: What is your company’s annual sales price? Will a model that has many customer service reps actually support revenue growth or will you need an engagement model that’s less touch?

There is no foolproof way to prevent customer churn, but putting the right safeguards in place can help. Once an account starts getting close to canceling, CSMs should put a freeze or other limits on their account so that they don’t end up losing them at the last minute.

3. Create a compensation plan that can grow with your company.

CSM compensation plans start to look more and more like sales salaries in that they are inherently tied to performance and target revenue goals.

Compensation models for CSMs are typically three:

• Base salary with no bonus or variable component

• Base salary with bonus opportunities.

• The base salary will include a variable component that both rewards for performance and provides an opportunity for greater earnings over time.

Based on your company’s compensation plan, putting a system in place that makes sure CSMs are rewarded for lifetime customer value with an additional variable component.

3. Ensure you have the right tools.

Hiring employees is one part of the growth equation, but it’s not the only key component. As important as bringing on new people are ensuring that you have the right tools in place to help your current customers.

When a business grows, finding the right customer success platform to support this growth and managing any difficulty with improving customer relationships is critical.

4. Look for a point in which to scale.

When deciding when to scale, think about these three things:

• Annual Contract Value targeted per CSM

• Product Complexity

• Quantity of Customers Per CSM

Three key factors contribute to a customer service team’s success: the number of employees, (ARR), their individual skill level (complexity) and volume.

When it comes to budgeting your business, you will need to take different factors into account. You may not fit in one of the three categories above and find that your company needs to be modeled differently.

Signs that your company needs to improve customer service include shallow relationships with customers, overworked CSMs, lack of insight into the customer base and an increase in churn.

5. Put your customers on the path to growth.

Another step toward scaling a customer success team is preparing your customers to grow with you. No matter how well prepared your team may be, unless the customer is committed to your product and long-term partnership there’s nothing that can be done.

The key to when you’re starting a company is focusing on customer loyalty and long-term success.

  • Having a long-term outlook, right out of the gate – for example, during your sales calls or kick-off meeting.
  • Being accessible to customers when they need you and having the answers on-hand or knowing who to ask for help.
  • Understanding the long-term success expectations of each customer is vital to provide excellent service. Listening and research are important where defining these expectations.
  • Flawlessly executing every possible customer hand off between departments so that the customer is always made to feel at home.
  • You should have a long-term vision for success to reach customers, starting with your initial meeting.

Part 3: Optimizing output

Having a customer success team in place can make the difference between satisfied customers and those who are not.

One of our first thoughts when optimizing a team may be to look at CSM performance. Let’s say you manage a team with varying degrees of success and retention rates among clients.

Low-performing representatives receive more attention in the average organization, whereas they should be treated like high performers.

Understanding how high-performing employees organize their days, communicate with clients, work with other departments, and measure success can help maximize the output of your entire team.

Here are some strategies to transform your customer success team into the best ever:

  • Use live chat as a way to communicate with your customers and provide a link to helpful content in case they need more context.
  • Repeating the same webinars and demos for new prospects is not enough. Host client-specific meetups, forums, and demonstrations to highlight new features, products, and provide space for clients to share their experiences with others in a setting where they feel comfortable.
  • Work with your marketing team to create a strategic customer marketing plan that connects advertising best practices to the rapport of CSMs.
  • Create an online system where customers can interact with each other and ask questions.Your customers will be able to share tips, tricks, and advice.
  • Install pop-ups and notifications on your platform or in your product to let customers know when there are new features, products, or updates available.

Important takeaways

Use these tips to ensure your customer success team is fully prepared for their day-to-day duties.

  • Ensure customer success is clear by having a single idea of what it means for each person in the company.
  • It is important to match customer success managers with the appropriate personality traits in order to convey empathy and satisfaction.
  • Setting strong goals so that your team, department, company, investors and customers know how things stand.
  • Business owners should make their customers’ satisfaction with the company a priority, not just of marketing and customer service staff but of the whole organisation.
  • CSMs help customers reach their highest potential by focusing on customer skills and tools.
  • Laying the foundation for long-term relationships that mutually benefit both the company and their customers by being transparent, trustworthy, and providing a value.
  • No matter how long a customer has been partnered with the company, you should always look for ways to surprise them.

Fortunately, your customer success team is successful in large part do to the efforts of their CSMs.

Great customer success managers take a while to form, and require the company’s focus on bolstering their skills and growing the account.