16 min read
Roles in a customer success (CS) division vary but all are essential in growing your SaaS business. However, what are the different roles and responsibilities in a CS team? And what is the perfect combination of talent required to grow and retain customers? Unlock this cheat code and you have the potential to be unstoppable!
In this blog, we’ll explore this on the following topics:
Why building the best customer success team is key!
Customer success roles and responsibilities
How big should your customer success team be?
How to create the perfect customer success team structure
Empower your CS division with the best data-driven CS tech
Early on your startup can survive with just one person handling customer success: most likely a very busy customer success manager (CSM). And yes, when you start out, you may only need this one role, the super CSM “generalist”. A single man or woman dream team!
But as your company starts to grow – along with the complexity of your deliverables – one CSM isn’t enough. Indeed, as your customer success needs accelerate, so your customer success department will need to expand to cater for all your new customers. That one single CSM will soon morph into a team of specialists.
After all, a study by Deloitte shows that companies who prioritize customer experience were 60% more profitable than those who don’t. Therefore, companies that prioritize existing customers and focus on having the right people, using the best tools and applying up-to-date processes ultimately deliver better customer experience. The days of just having one CSM do everything are most definitely over!
There are various roles and titles in a customer success division – some of which no doubt we have forgotten to include on the below list. However, combine these roles together and you have the ultimate success team structure.
Kicking-off our grand tour of customer success roles is the Chief Customer Officer – or CCO as you’ll more likely hear them referred to as. The CCO comes first in the customer success team hierarchy and is normally part of an organization’s executive board.
A CCO’s area of leadership focuses on how to improve customer experience across an organization and reports directly to the CEO. Over the last two decades this role has grown in importance as net retention and delivering value against business goals have become ever more important in growing revenue. You find out more about what a CCO does in our recent CCO webinar.
Leads and directs customer experiences across all departments, from product to sales, to customer success and finance.
Concentrates on making sure an organization delivers the customer experience that a customer actually wants.
Net revenue retention (NRR) is the chief metric by which their influence across a business is evaluated.
The VP of Customer Success, and similarly the Customer Success Director, is the person responsible for all post-sale functions of a business. It is worth noting that normally the VP of Customer Success is a more senior role than that of Customer Success Director. Whatever the title, these roles design the programs, processes, and tools that fit a business and its customers’ needs.
A Customer Success Director creates and leads the success team of an organization. This particular CS role often has many other roles and functions reporting to him or her. In larger organizations there may be more than one Customer Success Director. Usually these multiple Customer Success Directors are split by geography, segment, and or industry (depending on the company).
Oversees the entire customer success team and is focused on customer retention and managing customer relations.
They act as the direct line of communication between the leadership team and the actions of the customer success team.
Analyzing customer data plays an important role in their decision making, and they act proactively in insights.
Customer Success Managers oversee the day-to-day customer relations, focusing on retention and proactively working to deliver value and as a result, impact net retention and prevent churn. In smaller customer success organizations, this same one person can oversee all post-sale activities in the business too. From upsells, to driving product adoption, delivering product value, answering support questions and overseeing all renewals!
CSMs are at the heart of your team and work directly with customers to ensure success. Responsibilities can range from onboarding and training, to strategic tasks such as relationship management and workshops. Ultimately, CSMs must act proactively and deliver value in line with business goals, as defined together with the customer. To read more about the work of a CSM read our complete CSM job description.
A CSM manages a portfolio of customers, driving the initial implementation and continual use of a product.
They also educate customers about best practices, industry developments, and how to increase the value software delivers to a business.
A skilled CSM has a mix of hard and soft skills, and can understand both business challenges and technical requirements.
A Technical Account Manager works closely with customers and provides technical guidance and expertise on the use of a product. Often the need for a technical account manager depends on the technical support a product requires. For example, technical needs when implementing a product, such as setting up complex data integrations between different data-driven products.
Technical account managers are often heavily involved in onboarding and solution design. Like a product specialist they work closely with CSMs to ensure proper technical guidance and customer support throughout the customer lifecycle.
Works with product managers and customer product specialists when a product doesn’t meet a customer's needs.
Gathers product-specific feedback and recommendations from customers to help develop new product features.
Helps with monitoring the flow of data from customers, which helps CSMs prioritize which areas to focus on with a customer.
The Implementation or Onboarding Manager is a product expert. They are the first person to touch the client after they have signed on, and they are responsible for implementing and enabling the customer towards using the product successfully. After all, a bad onboarding can prove fatal!
This role oversees training, provisioning and configuration of the software for the customer. It is a particularly important role to have if you have a product with a complex and very involved onboarding process. For example, if there are a lot of integrations that need setting up manually or training required.
Ensure new customers understand the product and are able to reach their time to value (TTV) quickly.
Creates a range of onboarding resources that can be shared and used by the customer.
Educates entres teams and (depending on the contract) onboard new employees at later dates who also need to use the product.
The Customer Support Representative manages the tickets and incoming requests, as well as questions from clients. Customer support agents report into the customer success team in a SaaS organization and are typically more technical minded than your normal support agent.
The CSR is normally the first point of contact a customer will have if they have a problem with their software or hardware. They will have deep knowledge of the product they help cater for. As well as great customer facing skills, they must have the ability to quickly collaborate with different teams to solve the problem affecting the customer.
Help customers by answering questions and helping to solve their problems with using a product when required.
Respond directly to complaints from users and be able to address customer concerns.
Provide updates about products or services that you offer to customers.
Often associated with enterprise organizations, Customer Success Consultants are heavily involved in the roll out and onboarding phases. They also offer professional services, all of which are defined by the length of time they take to complete. Similar to the Onboarding Manager, the consultant's job entails implementation, roll out, and enablement. Most enterprise organizations charge a hefty fee for the different services they provide.
Customer Success Consultants work with customers to resolve queries and problems, on a larger scale than that of a normal CSM. But it is how they work with multiple departments and act as the focal touch point for the product with customers that makes them unique. They work within time bound engagements, and assist with projects that are defined and scoped by CSMs or Sales.
Takes on larger and targeted projects to address customer needs, based on previously identified needs.
Will take an active role in identifying customer needs, analyzing customer data to suggest ways to improve customer experience.
Normally the product they cater for is complicated or has multiple uses, across different departments.
The Product Specialist is a technical expert that normally focuses on one product, or more (depending on the company). They provide highly specialized product expertise and knowledge, which is shared with other departments including sales and marketing. Typically this role is handled by someone who has an existing role already. For example, a CSM will often perform this role as an additional responsibility.
A product specialist will often work closely, or in partnership with other members of a business to provide technical assistance. This could example be during the onboarding phase with CS or leading a demo of a product during a sales call or marketing webinar. Sometimes they are also used to introduce to clients new features a client may be interested in when upselling.
Be the direct line of communication between the product team regarding new features and how to implement them.
Educate both CSMs, other internal members of staff about product features, as well customers.
Be on hand to troubleshoot any technical issues a customer is facing or develop solutions that can be implemented by the customer.
The Customer Success Operations Manager (CS Ops) looks at customer success workflows and develops strategies to improve them. A CS Ops’ goal is to make a customer success team more efficient, and in order to do this they track team goals too.
Operations managers work closely with customer success managers (CSM) to optimize internal and external processes. CS Ops need a combination of analytical skills and soft skills to improve processes throughout a company.
CS Ops must interpret client data to make improvements and listen closely to CSMs for emerging issues.
They may work with the CSM to uncover and avoid problems during the onboarding process, as well as develop solutions to fix any ongoing issues.
The Renewal Manager oversees and manages product renewals within a success team. They are sometimes referred to as the “contract manager”. This role often exists in SaaS companies that have a high volume of renewals which have to be manually processed, or in larger businesses.
Renewal managers are focused on retention and making sure the renewal process is as seamless as it can be. Renewal managers will develop deep and trusting relationships with customers and act quickly to make sure that a customer is happy.
Proactively find ways to retain customers with other team members, such as the CSMs.
Take a role in upselling product features or enhancements to existing and happy customers.
Monitoring and reporting on applicable KPIs, and forecasting customer trends is an important part of what they do.
Today, customer advocacy is growing in importance and for many it is one of the key pillars in building a customer centric organization. Customer Advocacy is about putting the needs of customers at the core of everything you do and acting on their behalf. The role of the Customer Advocacy Manager is to help make sure an organization prioritizes the needs of the customer.
A customer advocacy manager acts as the link between their company and customers. They help their company respond to customers and help build advisory boards together with marketing and product. They also assist in curating case studies and providing video interviews. Ultimately, they help ensure customer satisfaction and may develop into brand advocates.
Respond to customer feedback, both positive and negative, and offer support to customers in a personalized manner.
Be open and honest with customers: for example, if a customer is going through a tough period then recalibrating a deal is worth more in the long term than an upsell.
Help customers through complicated processes and be the first point of contact if something goes wrong or they need help.
Brand advocates (not to be confused with customer advocates) are customers who like your product and thus are a good source for customer referrals. They are proof that you are providing a good product or service. A customer advocate manager will help to nurture customers into brand advocates.
A Professional Service (PS) means offering assistance to a customer when they have a project or goal which they wish to achieve via your product. This can range from customisation of the product to more niche made services, such as assisting a customer who is using your product to create something. PS helps to retain customers and offers routes for future expansion.
Professional Services come in all different forms and sizes, from small projects, to large, almost agency-like projects. For example, a SaaS company that provides an enterprise-level ad maker, may offer the PS of assisting in ramping up ad production if requested by the customer. They are often billed as one-off payments.
Configure and customize the product so it meets a customer’s highly specialized needs.
Offers ways for the customer to ramp-up use of a product without the customer having to cover costs such as training or adding new members of staff.
Must act when requested by the customer to ensure the customer is successful in using the product.
Next, this is a question we hear regularly: how big should my customer success team be? And the truth? The truth is there is no one-size fits all approach when it comes to building your dream CS team. However, it is well worth considering the basics when it comes to exact numbers and the questions you need to ask.
For example, how many customers do you have? How big are those customers – for example are they small businesses or huge multinational enterprises? How complex is your product? Does it take weeks of training and onboarding to get up-to-speed, or is it self-service?
Indeed, as you can see from the customer success roles and responsibilities listed above, team size and function is dependent on what you offer and who you serve. For more information regarding different sizes of CS team check out our latest case studies. In them you will find useful information on the many varied and different sizes of CS team that are out there in the community.
Onboarding, and understanding your customer's needs and behavior is the highest priority of any customer success team. Therefore, building the perfect CS team is critical.
Consider building a customer success team when you have data on your customers. Customer success needs client data to understand the challenges each individual customer has. Even businesses that have a small and growing customer base can begin building an effective team this way by using data.
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. Plus, there should be numerous data points that can make up your customer success analytics.
And remember, a good CS team starts with a good leader. Begin by finding someone with CS experience who can help create frameworks and procedures based on your data. Once you have created a framework together, you can begin hiring CSMs (and whoever else may be required).
Having the best people, in the right roles, with the correct responsibilities is one thing – but do they have the resources they need?
Empowering your CS division with the best data-driven CS tech is one of delivering a better customer experience. Indeed, for many organizations having access to a customer platform is an important milestone becoming a more proactive, rather than reactive team.
After all, being able to manage and monitor customer data, apply automations, triggers and playbooks not only leads to happy customers and potential upsell opportunities – but also a happier team. And of course, a more profitable team with a higher net revenue retention (NRR).
Yet, finding the best customer success platform for your CS division’s needs can be quite the time-consuming task. That’s why Planhat has created a free RFP template for customer success software that makes finding the best platform easier. Indeed, making sure you ask the right questions on behalf of your customer success division is critical.
After all, even if you have only one CSM, making the most of every second they have for improving experience, retention and even upsell is a no brainer. Download now and share with whoever you are in talks with to make sure you get the best tech for your team.
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