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How to Build the Best Customer Success Team

7 min read

When's the best time to hire for your customer success team, what's a CSM, and why do you need customer success in the first place? Keep reading to find out!

What positions make up a customer success team?

Positions on a customer success team include:

  • Chief Customer Officer (CCO)

  • VP/Head of Customer Success

  • Customer Success Management Team Lead

  • Customer Success Operations Manager

  • Customer Success Manager

  • Technical Customer Success Managers

  • Enablement Manager

Why Customer Success Matters

Unlike customer service, customer success (CS) is a strategy that proactively meets customer needs, desires, and goals. This approach has been proven to reduce churn, increase retention, and improve overall customer loyalty to the brand.

Building a customer success department helps create predictable client outcomes during onboarding, product trials, and throughout all stages of the customer success journey. While customer support fixes individual problems, CS ensures that customers are getting the value they seek from your products and services.

By anticipating the customer’s pain points, goals, and desired outcome, brands can reduce friction early in the relationship and build a strong foundation that increases trust between the brand and the client

This not only helps reduce churn early on, but positions the brand to be a trusted advisor in the future. Product recommendations, upsell opportunities, and partnerships all become easier when the customer has had an amazing experience from day one.

When To Build A Customer Success Team

You should consider building a customer success team when you begin to have data on your customers. Customer success leverages client data to understand the unique challenges for each individual customer. With that said, businesses that have a small but growing customer base can begin building an effective team.

There are numerous data points that make up customer success analytics. By having an established customer base you can begin to extract existing client data and use that to monitor customer health across new and existing accounts. This helps your team identify both positive and negative trends.

Every good team starts with a strong leader. Find someone with CS experience that can help create frameworks and procedures based on your client data. Once a framework has been created, you can begin hiring customer success managers.

Let’s explore the different roles and responsibilities of each team member.

Customer Success Team Roles

Teams can vary in size depending on how mature the CS department has become, and how large the organization is as a whole. In startups, some members may take on multiple roles, while larger companies designate new positions for each function.

Chief Customer Officer

Sometimes referred to as Customer Success Director, this role helps coordinate, plan, and strategize customer-facing activities within the organization.

This role works directly with c-level executives to shape policy changes, implement plans, and plan long-term CS strategies to meet yearly goals.

A Chief Customer Officer needs to be a strong team player to be able to coordinate with many different departments and at the same time a skilled business strategist that can drive the CS-department forward to align the company's culture and services with the changing needs of the customers.

Customer Success Operations Manager

Operations Managers (CS Ops) work closely with customer success managers (CSM) to optimize internal and external processes. For example, CS Ops may work with the CSM to uncover pitfalls during the onboarding process and develop solutions to fix the issue.

CS Ops need a combination of analytical skills and soft skills to improve processes throughout the company. Many times the CS Ops role will need to interpret client data to make improvements and listen closely to CSMs for emerging issues.

Customer Success Team Lead

Team leads manage and guide the CS team. They help CSMs overcome challenges and work with executives to ensure the CS team is hitting its goal. CS team leads often work with heads of other departments to help orchestrate CS at a company level.

A CS team lead also often works directly with selected customers, more directly the larger accounts, focusing on escalation. Therefore this role requires an intimate knowledge of the product features and the capacity to onboard new customers and guide them on their customer journey.

Customer Success Managers

CSMs are the foundation of your team that works directly with customers to ensure their success. CSM responsibilities can range from the most tactical things like onboarding and training to the most strategic including relationship management and strategic workshops. Ultimately, CSMs tackle problems proactively and create customized solutions to meet customer needs.

As a CSM, you will be managing a portfolio of customers, driving the initial implementation and integration, educating customers about new functionalities, best practices, industry developments, and increasing the value your software delivers to their business.

A skilled CSM often has a mix of hard and soft skills, being able to understand the fundamentals of business challenges and technical requirements, and at the same time acting as a support and sales-function with the focus on helping customers reach their goals.

Technical Customer Success Managers

Works closely with customers and provides technical guidance and expertise on the use of the software. They are often more heavily involved in the onboarding and solution design. Also works closely with CSMs to ensure proper technical guidance and customer support through the customer lifecycle.

A skilled Technical Customer Success Manager also needs to be able to work with product management and support when the product doesn't meet the customers needs, and gather product feedback and recommendations from customers to help develop new software features.

Enablement Manager

An enablement manager (often referred to as a customer education manaager) is responsible for ensuring that customers understand how to use your software to realize their goals. This is being done by creating content that can train customers to become experts on your product.

Often, this means creating structured training programs, online micro-learning courses and instruction materials. Also it is common that an enablement manager leads product training sessions for customers as well as your company's own team members within CS, Sales and Support.

Customer Success Team Tools

CS teams rely on client data to make predictions on customer behavior. CS tools can help teams share, organize and visualize this data. For example, as CS teams grow, creating a repeatable process becomes more important. This not only eliminates any guesswork for new staff, but creates predictable outcomes for each client interaction.

Customer playbooks allow brands to refine their onboarding process and create a space for operation managers to manage new tasks and improvements.

Even newly formed CS teams can benefit from customer success tools. In the early stages of your CS journey data collection is vital. Customer intelligence tools can help your team understand client issues, pain points, goals, and roadblocks through a single platform.

Why Planhat is the best choice for your business:

Planhat is the most powerful Customer platform on the market in terms of the depth and breadth of its features thus offering the flexibility and power to go after mission-critical use cases.

Planhat provides a unified view of your customers all in one place, identifies risks and opportunities, creates clear, repeatable processes through the customer lifecycle, and offers multi-channel communication as well as customized inboxes for teams.

With Planhat Portals, it is possible to share success plans, playbooks, dashboards, goals, documents, and align business goals with your clients in a branded Customer Portal.

Altogether, Planhat is a complete Customer platform that lets you track the KPIs that matter the most for the future growth of your business.

You can read more about Customer Success analytics and how to use it to track your KPIs here, Download our report to learn What's next for Customer Success? or get a Planhat demo!

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