How to Define Your Organizational Charter

By Allison Pickens | Chief Customer Officer
June 14, 2016
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Posted in Best Practices, Top Posts

Allison Pickens is VP of Customer Success & Business Operations at Gainsight. She is indebted to her team members Kelly DeHart, Barr Moses, Ashvin Vaidyanathan, Sara Vaughan, Jan Bauer, and many other Gainsters for their teamwork in creating this charter!

Our Pulse conference was a-buzz with questions about org structure. Among them:

  • What are the details of Gainsight’s new organizational structure?
  • How can we maximize alignment across functions in driving success for our customers?
  • How can we clarify roles, responsibilities, and metrics for each post-sales function?
  • How can we pinpoint a precise definition of “Customer Success?”

At Gainsight we recently re-organized our entire post-sales organization to drive Customer Success. In this post, I’ll describe our new Customer Success organization in much more detail.

Recap of Our Re-Org

As a recap, here was the Before and After:

org-chart

You can learn more about the factors that motivated this organizational change here.

Recall that we started by identifying three customer needs (in the blue boxes below) and then created 3 departments, each of which is fully accountable for addressing its designated customer need.

customer-facing-departments

Those 3 customer-facing departments include the following functions. See also the 2 additional, internal departments, which support the other 3.

internal-departments

Points of Clarification

#1: We refer to the entire umbrella organization, which includes these 5 functions, as the Customer Success organization. Customer Success no longer refers to just CSMs; it’s the objective of all 5 functions.

#2: The CSMs report into a department that’s now called Client Outcomes. That’s because the particular brand of CSM at Gainsight is focused on translating the client’s business objectives into ROI on their Gainsight purchase, i.e. making sure that the client’s desired “outcome” materializes. They’re not focused on answering technical questions; that’s what our Technical Success group does. I describe the CSM role as well as the various Technical Success roles in more detail below.

#3: You can learn more about the value of Customer Success Operations here.

#4: Customer Success Sales is the name of the team that’s responsible for renewals and expansion for our smaller and midmarket customers. You can learn more about why we created that team here.

Creating an Organizational Charter

Even after we decided on the high-level org structure, there were still plenty of questions. To address those, we created a charter for every function within the organization.

Each charter includes:

  • Mission of the function in 1 sentence
  • Operating metrics that define success for this function
  • Cost metric that determines how to budget for this function
  • Activities that allow the function to achieve its mission
  • Risks to the mission that the function needs to manage
  • Dependencies on other teams

You can download a template for this charter here.

Here are some tips for defining each component of the charter:

Mission

  • The mission should be to address a need that the customer has -- not a need that your company has. This is a radical shift in mindset. It’s an indication of how much we believe that companies need to re-orient themselves around their customers.
  • If you can’t clarify the mission in 1 sentence, you probably need to think about it more.

Operating metrics

  • The vast majority of these metrics will not be financial. Financial metrics (e.g. renewal rate) are typically lagging indicators of whether you’re making progress. Your innovations today may not affect your renewal rate for another year. You need nearer-term metrics to see whether you’re on track.
  • At the same time, it’s not enough to track activities, which may or may not be productive, and which are too granular to report up to your CEO. (S/he most likely doesn’t care how many calls your CSM team had last week.)
  • Choose operational metrics that (1) are predictive of the ultimate financial outcomes you’re aiming for, (2) help you measure the success of your day-to-day activities, and (3) are likely to be important from the perspective of your CEO...with a little education from you :)

Cost metric

  • This metric should help you determine whether your current investment in this function is reasonable.
  • Caveat #1: The fact that this type of Customer Success organization combines multiple functions allows you to allocate cost flexibly across them. For example, you might decide one quarter that your most important operating metric is Time-to-Value and that, therefore, you’re willing to sacrifice budget in Client Outcomes in order to bolster your Onboarding team.
  • Caveat #2: Some teams don’t lend themselves to cost metrics. For example, we think of investing in Customer Success Operations as similar to making a capital expenditure or hiring engineers. When we hire on that team, we’re making an upfront investment that will pay dividends down the road by helping the rest of the org scale effectively. The key decision you have to make is how much you’re willing to invest for the long-term. That said, as a rule of thumb, you should start considering your first CS Ops hire once you have ~5 CSMs.

Activities

  • Spend significant time documenting exactly what you expect each team to do.
  • A time analysis can help you discover the full range of activities that each team is currently working on. You might realize that there are overlaps in activities across teams, or that there are gaps between them. You might realize that certain teams are doing things that you never would have expected them to do. That’s one reason why creating this charter is a highly productive exercise.

Risks

  • Write down all the things that can go wrong as you try to achieve your mission.
  • We’ve previously documented the key risks we focus on here.
  • This time, when fully defining each function, we added more risks that the non-CSM departments should manage.

Dependencies

  • Ask each function: What do you expect other functions to do in order to help you achieve your own mission?
  • You’ll probably realize that Function A expects Function B to do things that B didn’t think was its job at all.
  • Once you’ve documented all dependencies, add to Function B’s Activities section to ensure that B actually focuses on fulfilling A’s expectations. (I have not done this in the charters below, in order to keep them concise for the purposes of this blog.)
  • You might also decide that some of A’s expectations are unreasonable, in which case you should clarify that A needs to build its own capabilities to fulfill those needs.
  • I haven’t listed each function’s dependencies on the Internal Training & Enablement or Customer Success Operations teams because those are intuitive based on those 2 teams’ missions.

Now let’s dive into the actual charter for each function.

CSMs

Mission: Translate business objectives into real change and ROI for the client

Operating Metrics

  • Leading indicators of Renewal
    • Habits Scorecard Measure: Net # of clients moved into Green or Lime.
    • Executive Adoption Scorecard Measure: Net # of clients moved into Green. (We want to see executives using our product.)
    • NPS
    • Client Outcomes CSAT: Is the customer satisfied with the way we are identifying their business challenges, and suggesting best practices to address them in Gainsight?
    • We also have a few leading indicators that are works-in-progress. I’ll publish more on these in the coming weeks.
      • # of Success Plan Objectives closed. (For now, here’s how we use Success Plans.)
      • Movement to higher Value Stages. (The idea is that we want to drive value for our customers, not just adoption.)
      • # of Saves: Move customer from a state of Red to Yellow.
  • Leading indicators of Expansion
    • Deployment Scorecard: Net # of clients moved into Green/Lime. (We want to make sure that the licenses the customer has purchased are ultimately deployed. This paves the way for the sale of additional licenses.)
    • We also have leading indicators that are works-in-progress:
      • CSM-qualified upsell opportunities. (We want CSMs to provide leads to the Sales or CS Sales team.)
      • # of POCs converted. (Our CSMs and Onboarding Project Managers drive the success of a POC, which ultimately allows the salesperson to convert the POC to a long-term deal.)
  • Leading indicators of New Business
    • # of Sales References
    • # of Case Studies
    • # of Events that the customer participated in as a speaker
    • # of Prospect Meetings that the CSM joined and after which the prospect signed a deal with us
    • Here are the leading indicators that are works-in-progress:
      • # of Opportunities generated through Referrals. (We are thinking through how to track these more effectively.)
      • # of Prospects where a stakeholder came from a current (happy) customer

Cost Metric: $ of fully loaded CSM cost / $ ARR managed

Activities:

  • Align with Executive Decision-maker and conduct activities to drive that relationship
  • Strategy Sessions: kick-off meetings for new customers where we identify the customer’s business objectives and "success criteria" for onboarding
  • Drive to alignment across multiple stakeholders at the client
  • Use Success Plans to define, drive, and demonstrate value to the customer
  • Conduct Train the Trainer Sessions
  • Conduct Best-Practice Workshops
  • Quarterback cross-functionally within Gainsight, on behalf of the customer
  • Executive Business Reviews

Risks (click the link to the left to learn more about the following risks)

  • Renewal Risk
  • Habits Risk
  • Deployment Risk: the risk of downsell because a small percentage of licenses have been deployed.
  • Sentiment Risk
  • Company Risk
  • Requests from the customer for contract extension, breakage, other alteration

Dependencies

  • On the Onboarding department, for ensuring the customer’s Gainsight administrator is 100% ready to own their Gainsight configuration after onboarding. Specifically:
    • Onboarding Solutions Architecture, for providing documentation of the customer’s instance for the Gainsight administrator
    • Onboarding Training, for providing Admin 101 training
  • On Onboarding Project Management, specifically, for:
    • Fleshing out detailed use cases for the customer and ensuring that these align with the customer’s expectations
    • Delivering a detailed project plan that the customer has agreed to
    • Providing weekly updates to the Decision Maker and Adoption Champion (mid-level manager) at the customer on project status
    • Leading technical implementation meetings with the customer
    • Running internal meetings to prepare for customer conversations about onboarding
    • Escalating risks to project timelines internally and to the customer as soon as the Project Manager identifies an issue
    • Providing information about the ways in which the customer’s business objectives were addressed during onboarding
  • On Onboarding Training, for:
    • Providing instructors to lead Gainsight administrator and end-user training programs
    • Providing training materials and leave-behind job aids for end users and their managers (Adoption Champions)
  • On Customer Success Architects, for helping customers with additional configuration of Gainsight after onboarding (assuming there is no statement of work, in which case our Onboarding organization handles the new project)
  • On Support, for handling break-fix and how-to questions

Customer Success Sales

Mission: Guide the customer through their decision on the renewal (by demonstrating the value the customer has achieved) and on expansion (by educating the customer on value they could achieve) -- specifically for our SMB and Midmarket accounts. (The Sales team retains accounts in our Strategic and Enterprise segments.)

Operating Metrics

  • Renewal
    • Gross Renewal Rate
    • Levers of Gross Renewal Rate:
      • Resolution Rate: Tracks how effective the team is in resolving renewals within the quarter
        • Calculated as ARR of all quarterly expiring deals Resolved by end of quarter (Closed or Lost), divided by total ARR eligible for renewal in the quarter
      • Close Rate: Measures how effective your team is in winning the available renewal business
        • Calculated as ARR of all quarterly expiring deals Closed by EOQ divided by ARR Resolved by EOQ
      • Conversion Rate: Measures how effective your team is in driving upsells & minimizing discounts
        • Calculated as the ‘New’ ARR for quarterly expiring closed deals divided by Original ARR
  • Expansion
    • Net Renewal Rate

Cost Metric: Cost per $ of renewal; cost per $ of upsell

Activities:

  • Participation in Executive Business Reviews: guide strategic discussions on ways to drive additional value
  • Work with customers on an ROI assessment
  • Identify white space
  • For our smaller customers, our CS Sales representatives take on a hybrid Customer Success / Sales role, and thus take on some CSM activities mentioned above.

Risks

  • Renewal Risk
  • Downsell Risk
  • For our smaller customers, our CS Sales representatives take on a hybrid Customer Success / Sales role by managing upstream risks in the relationship:
    • Company Risk (Sponsor Change)
    • Sentiment Risk
    • Habits Risk

Dependencies

  • On the CSM (since we assign both a CS Sales representative and a CSM on midmarket accounts), for:
    • Including the CS Sales representative in EBRs and other key relationship meetings
    • Mitigating upstream risks to the renewal
    • Identifying expansion opportunities

Onboarding - Project Managers

Mission: Drive fast time-to-value and sustainable success by leading a structured process to achieve a defined set of business objectives.

Operating Metrics

  • Admin 101 Completion Rate: Make sure that the customer completed training at the start of onboarding
  • Time to Technical Enablement: Customer completed configuration of Gainsight
  • Time to Launch: Customer launched Gainsight to the team
  • Time to Initial Value Moment (IVM): Customer was in Green or Lime Habits for 2 weeks in a row
  • Onboarding CSAT
  • NPS (NPS survey sent after project close)

Cost Metrics:

  • Gross margin for Onboarding Services
  • Leading metrics for gross margin:
    • Billable Utilization per person: % of hours spent on billable activities
    • Productive utilization per person: % of hours spent on productive activities (including improving our processes or content)
    • Delta between actual hours and planned hours from the statement of work

Activities:

  • Manage all new customer onboarding and statements of work (SOWs) associated with upsells that require more than 50 hours of work (the Technical Success department handles the rest)
  • Design content and structure of various onboarding programs
  • Manage the onboarding journey
    • Prepare for and participate in the Sales to Post-Sales internal Hand-off meetings
    • Schedule, prepare for, and lead the Kickoff Meeting for the customer
    • Create a project plan that follows internal guidelines, and get approval from the customer
    • Regular (minimum weekly) cadence of internal and external communications on the project plan, including a Status Report sent to the customer and an internal Chatter Update
    • Financial reporting for each SOW
    • Maintain the project plan and track time
  • Capture the specific use cases and configuration deliverables
    • Consult with CSM to create User Stories
    • Do a subset of technical configuration: Configure GS functionality via UI (Reports, Dashboards, Rules)
    • User Acceptance Testing and End User Training preparation and materials, in collaboration with the CSM
  • Position the customer for success post-onboarding
    • Coordinate the documentation of the customer’s instance of Gainsight
    • Ensure the Gainsight Administrator at the customer is ready to own the Gainsight configuration – or else recommend the appropriate Technical Success Admin-on-Demand program (a type of managed services)
    • Ensure that the set of Business Challenges initially aligned on with the customer are addressed by the configuration

Risks

  • Onboarding Risk: Project plan is at risk or customer is unhappy with onboarding
  • Initial Value Moment 90-Day Risk: Customer has not achieved Green or Lime Habits within 90 days of contract signature
  • Initial Value Moment 120-Day Risk
  • Readiness Risk: Design processes (e.g. internal content, training, readiness assessments for prospects, etc.) with the Sales team to ensure that customers are ready for onboarding
  • Actual Hours > Planned Hours
  • Requests for alterations to the Onboarding Services contract
  • Capacity Risk: Risk that a team member cannot deliver on customer requirements due to bandwidth constraints

Dependencies

  • CSM for managing the overall relationship with the executive sponsor. However, the project manager communicates updates on the project plan to the sponsor
  • CSM, for confirming that the anticipated project deliverables and user stories align with the business challenges identified
  • CSM, for managing the launch of the customer’s instance of Gainsight to their team
  • Technical Success, for providing technical guidance to customers after onboarding
  • Technical Success, for managing statements of work that require less than 50 hours

Onboarding - Solutions Architects

Mission: Contribute to fast time-to-value and sustainable success by thoughtfully designing an architecture to support customers’ use cases and ultimately delivering instance documentation to the customer.

Operating Metrics: Similar to those for the Project Managers

  • Time to Technical Enablement: Customer completed configuration of Gainsight
  • Time to Launch: Customer launched Gainsight to the team
  • Time to Initial Value Moment (IVM): Customer was in Green or Lime Habits for 2 weeks in a row
  • Onboarding CSAT
  • NPS (NPS survey sent after project close)

Cost Metrics:

  • Billable Utilization per person: % of hours spent on billable activities
  • Productive utilization per person: % of hours spent on productive activities (including improving our processes or content)
  • Delta between actual hours and planned hours from the statement of work

Activities:

  • Project Deliverables
    • Participate in appropriate Kickoff, Status, Working and Onsite meetings
    • Facilitate Data Discovery sessions
    • Design architecture to achieve customer requirements
    • Document design for customer review and approval; for use in configuration
    • Configure Gainsight including MDA, data integrations, Connectors and business processes via Gainsight Admin UI
    • QA configuration deliverables
  • Operations
    • Provide accurate and timely time-tracking and task management updates
    • Document the customer’s instance via established processes in GonG (i.e. the Implementations object, Integrations object, Customizations object)
  • Contribute to internal best practices
    • Establish architecture and solutions best practices
    • Contribute to Vault (our best practices library within Gainsight): Each SA nominates 1 new Vault Asset (either Rules or Reports) and builds it in a Demo Org each week
    • Contribute to the Training team’s content
    • Provide timely, constructive feedback to the Product team for enhancements and blockers

Risks

  • Onboarding Data Risk: When the customer notices a discrepancy in their data within Gainsight
  • Identify Product Risk

Dependencies

  • Product team, for advising the customer on advanced use cases
  • Technical Success team, for escalating advanced troubleshooting to the Product team
  • Technical Success team, for managing a ticket related to a bug identified during onboarding

Onboarding - Training

Mission: Contribute to fast time-to-value by educating the customer on how to administer and use Gainsight.

Operating Metrics

  • Admin 101 Completion Rate: Make sure that the customer can complete training at the start of onboarding
  • Admin 101 CSAT

Cost Metrics:

  • Billable Utilization per person: % of hours spent on billable activities
  • Productive utilization per person: % of hours spent on productive activities (including improving our processes or content)
  • Delta between actual hours and planned hours

Activities:

  • Instructor-led training during onboarding
    • How to configure Gainsight and other training for administrators
    • End-users
    • Paid 1:1 training engagements
  • Online training curriculum
    • End-users
    • Administrators
    • Self-paced onboarding

Risks

  • Admin 101 not completed by administrator
  • Delayed Training milestone
  • Admin change during Onboarding (in which case we’d need to get the new admin up to speed)

Dependencies

  • Product Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) on the Product team, for providing technical details about the product
  • Product Education team, for providing certain technical content and ensuring that we’re ready to train customers on new product releases

Technical Success - Support

Mission: Tackle inbound challenges relating to the customer’s existing configuration, quickly and to the customer’s satisfaction.

Operating Metrics

  • Time to resolution for tickets (excluding tickets relating to verified bugs and product feature requests, for which our Engineering and Product teams are responsible, respectively)
    • % of tickets resolved in < 8 biz hours
    • % of tickets resolved in < 5 business days
    • % of tickets resolved in < 10 business days
    • % of tickets resolved with 1-touch; average # of touches per ticket
    • % of tickets with SLA breaches
    • Average time to resolution
  • CSAT
  • # of Knowledge Base articles published

Cost Metrics:

  • COGS as a % of revenue
    • Leading metric: Cost per ticket

Activities:

  • Troubleshoot the following customer inquiries via ticketing system (could be submitted to success@gainsight.com or via our website):
    • Break-fix questions relating to the existing configuration and features enabled in the customer’s instance of Gainsight
    • How-to questions on the existing configuration and features enabled
    • CSM best practice questions
  • Build Support knowledge base: content that can answer a customer’s question (to help the customer avoid having to submit a ticket)

Risks (click on the link to the left to learn more about the risks below)

  • Support Risk
  • Bugs Risk
  • SLA Breach

Dependencies

  • Onboarding team, for documenting customers' configurations

Technical Success - Customer Success Architect

Mission: Help customers with new configuration after onboarding, quickly and to customers’ satisfaction.

Operating Metrics

  • Time to resolution
    • % of tickets resolved in < 8 biz hours
    • % of tickets resolved in < 5 business days
    • % of tickets resolved in < 10 business days
    • % of tickets with SLA breaches
    • Average time to resolution
  • CSAT
  • # of Knowledge Base articles published

Cost Metrics:

  • Gross margin for managed services (when the customer outsources administration of their Gainsight instance to us)
  • Leading metrics for gross margin:
    • Billable Utilization per person: % of hours spent on billable activities
    • Productive utilization per person: % of hours spent on productive activities (including improving our processes or content)
    • Delta between hours purchased by the customer and hours expended

Activities:

  • Provide net-new configuration post-Onboarding -- either configure it for the customer or show them how to configure
  • Execute statements of work after onboarding that require less than 50 hours. (SOWs with more than 50 hours are handled by the Onboarding team.)
  • Provide managed services

Risks:

  • Configuration Risk: when configuration is taking longer than expected or is bumpy
  • Data risk after onboarding
  • Requests to alter the Managed Services contract

Dependencies:

  • Onboarding, for setting up a proper configuration and training the Gainsight administrator on their instance

Technical Success - Community

Mission: Create a vibrant Community that (1) helps customers -- including administrators, executives, team leaders, and end users -- exchange ideas and solve problems together, (2) provides a concentrated knowledge base, and (3) creates a stream of feedback on our product and customer experience from customers back to Gainsight.

Operating Metrics

  • Awareness: # of visitors (new and total)
  • Consideration: % active customers (monthly active customers / total customers)
  • Engagement: % MAU (monthly active users / total users)
  • Retention: % of posts that have been resolved
  • Average time to resolution
  • Self-Sufficiency: % self-service (one customer resolving another customer’s post)
  • Ratio of Community page views to Support tickets. (We’d like to see this ratio increase over time, as customers engage more in Community and rely less on our Support team.)

Cost Metrics:

  • Cost per topic resolved on Community. (We want to help customers help each other; the more customers who are engaged on Community, the lower the cost to Gainsight to resolve each post.)

Activities:

  • Make Community the best platform for customers to get answers about Gainsight and about Customer Success more generally, by:
    • (1) activating new customers and users
    • (2) ensuring a closed loop on questions / ideas / problems
    • (3) creating a high-quality knowledge base

Risks

  • Unanswered question: When a question hasn’t been answered within 48 hours

Dependencies

  • Onboarding, Support, CSA, and CSMs, for encouraging customers to engage in the Community
  • Customer Success Operations, for executing Copilot Outreaches to encourage participation in Community

Customer Success Operations

Mission: Make all the teams within our Customer Success organization run smoothly together and with other Gainsight departments (e.g. Sales, Marketing, Product)

Operating Metrics

  • Supports the attainment of the metrics owned by other teams within the Customer Success organization

Cost Metrics:

  • We invest in Business Operations as though it’s an R&D expense, similar to Product or Engineering. We’re investing for long-term scalability.

Activities:

  • Manage our own instance of Gainsight, including Copilot outreaches and Surveys
  • Analytics, using Reporting within Gainsight
  • Prepare materials for board meetings
  • Own financial planning and hiring forecasts for Customer Success organization (working cross-functionally with Finance)
  • Design and build systems to identify upsell opportunities, manage renewal risks, and track and forecast renewals
  • Enable CSM efficiency by providing data and materials to the team
  • Help other departments design processes that are then configured in Gainsight
  • Help determine the metrics on which bonuses should be based and track progress towards those metrics
  • Help implement meaningful segmentations and optimize customer journey for each segment
  • Lead cross-functional initiatives and design processes to help the functions work together more smoothly
  • Customer Success thought leadership content, including developing Assets for Vault (our best practices library within the product) and helping me with these blog posts! (If you’re looking to blog more, your Operations team can help you.)
  • Maintenance operations – including renewals and upsells operations, commissions, systems maintenance, etc.

Risks

  • Process gaps and cross-functional pain points
  • Manage our Customer Success Scoreboard and identify risks to achieving our metrics
  • Manage our weekly At-Risk (aka Code Red) customer meetings
  • Renewal & Upsell processing risk: risk that the order form isn’t processed correctly, or that the commission calculation is wrong.

Dependencies

  • On all teams within the Customer Success org, for their partnership in developing effective processes and their feedback on existing processes
  • On Onboarding and Client Outcomes, to nominate and build Assets for Vault (our best practices library)

Internal Training & Enablement (known as GEEK - Gainsight Enablement for Expert Knowledge)

Mission: Make Gainsters extremely knowledgeable about our product.

Operating Metrics

  • Employee scores on certification tests
  • Engagement Survey results relating to enablement

Activities:

  • Run training programs for Customer Success organization (and also our Sales team)
  • Technical new hire training program
  • Certification programs for each category of technical knowledge and for new product releases
  • Coach team members 1-on-1 and in groups
  • Be a conduit of information from our Product and Engineering teams

Risks

  • Certification risk (poor scores)
  • New hire risk (slow ramp)

Dependencies

  • On Onboarding Training, for Admin 101 materials and content, which can be used to train internal team members as well
  • On Engineering, for specialized product training
  • On the various teams, for specialized job-specific training, e.g. Project Managers for training on our project management / time-tracking system, or the Support team for training on our ticketing system
  • On Solutions Architecture SMEs, for detailed training on specific product capabilities


Chief Customer Officer

3 Comments

  1. David Brannan
    October 20, 2016 at 7:04 pm · Reply

    Really good stuff Allison! I’ve been in the Professional Services world for the past 16yrs, specifically in Implementations (Onboarding), and I think this is my first real education on “Client Success” holistically. I really like this perspective. Its an easy way to stay focused on the real objective and makes the cross-functional relationships not seem so disfunctional.

    Question for you though. I’m trying to wrap my head around the CSM role. Do you agree that this role must poses a hybrid set of attributes (sales, project management, implementations, technical, support, etc)? If so, any recommendations on where I should focus my efforts in finding this talent? Also, do you feel they have to have a strong grasp of the industry domain? I just feel there are so many checkboxes to check when looking for a candidate, and not everyone will meet all the criteria.

    Thoughts?

    Thanks!

    Dave Brannan

    • Allison Pickens | VP Customer Success & Business Operations | Gainsight
      November 3, 2016 at 7:10 pm · Reply

      Your question is a great one; and as for many great questions, unfortunately I don’t believe there’s a universal answer. My #1 piece of advice would be to make a list of all the activities in post-sales that need to get done, and then cluster those activities into logical roles (which may include some or all of the roles I list in my blog post on organizational charters). If, as a thought experiment, you define CSM broadly as “work that you do in order to pave the way for the renewal,” then actually we have 2 roles at Gainsight that count as CSM: Client Outcomes and Customer Success Architects. Client Outcomes Managers are focused on strategic work; Customer Success Architects are focused on technical work.

      That said, let me try to provide you with some more specific guidance. Your target profile for CSM will depend on a number of variables. Here are a few:

      (1) Are you focused on small customers (resulting in high account ratios per CSM), or large customers (low account ratios)?

      If small: Hire folks who can execute a process consistently
      If large: Hire folks who can have a strategic conversation with an exec

      (2) Are you a startup or an established company?

      If startup: Hire folks who can wear multiple hats and thrive in ambiguity
      If established: Hire folks who can represent your brand well

      (3) Are you growing quickly or more stable?

      If quickly: Hire folks who can create their own processes so that they don’t reinvent the wheel every time
      If stable: Hire folks who want to achieve excellence by a standard you define

      (4) Is your product highly technical?

      If so: Hire technical folks

      (5) Does your product require significant business process change?

      If so: Consider hiring folks with change management experience (e.g. at a consulting firm)

  2. Yuli Chen
    July 17, 2017 at 11:04 pm · Reply

    Allison,

    Thank you so much for providing both strategy and tactics towards building a holistic Customer Success organization. I LOVE how your highlight that the mission should be customer centric!

    Having been fortunate enough to be in start-ups as small as 10 people to companies with 1000+, I’ve worn numerous hats within Customer Success. This article has helped me take a step back to visualize how all the pieces can fit together in a cohesive metrics driven organization.

    Do you believe the CSM role should be the sole point of contact responsible for the customer experience? If not, given so many moving pieces, so many different customer touch points, and, potentially numerous redundancies, how would you go about creating an ideal customer experience without turning the CSM into a bottleneck?

    Yuli Chen

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