This post originally appeared in Customer Experience Magazine.
In today’s economy, where nearly every company is either “born in the cloud” or transforming into a SaaS-based, recurring revenue business model, almost all have realized that they can’t accelerate growth without investing in Customer Success (CS). Usually, that means establishing a CS team that can take care of your customers, ensure that they’re achieving value, outcomes, and return on their investment, and, ultimately, keep them from churning.
When it comes to building the foundational elements of their CS organization, many companies follow a similar, often effective strategy: hire a customer success leader, bring on your first Customer Success Managers (CSMs), purchase some CS software to automate things such as customer health scores and playbooks, and the rest will start taking care of itself.
And, to be honest, it works! Companies that invest in Customer Success have been proven to reduce churn, increase NPS and customer satisfaction, and accelerate their growth. But as they start to scale, every single one eventually realizes that they’re missing one very critical component: customer success operations (CS Ops).
It makes perfect sense: after all, could you imagine scaling your sales team without sales or revenue operations? Or your marketing team without marketing operations? Sure, you could do it — but the efficiency and effectiveness of two of your most important business functions would be severely impacted. Simply put, you can’t achieve peak growth without a CS Operations team, either. Once you hit your fifth CSM, I’ll go so far as to say you’re better off hiring your first CS Ops teammate before or even instead of hiring your next few CSMs.
Let’s dig in a bit and find out more about what CS Ops does, why it’s critical for modern businesses, and why it’s become the hottest career in the customer service space.
Why CS Ops Is So Important Today
Everyone these days is highly focused on how you leverage digital tools to deliver a more personalized customer experience at scale. And this is a good thing; you can’t scale a company today without the right tools and software to empower your people. But in order to get the maximum value out of any mission-critical software platform—whether CRM, Marketing Automation, or CS software, you need both the software and the operational “wizard” who can capitalize on the tool’s potential to reach scale, gain efficiencies, and get the best return on your investment.
How CS Ops Adds Value
Think of your Customer Success organization as an orchestra. Your CS leader may write the music, but it’s your CS Ops team who “conducts” the performance, ensuring that everything and everyone stays in tune and aligned—including your customer data, CS software, and CS team. You can’t function at scale without them.
And a lot of what the CS Ops team does determines the success of the day-to-day of the CSM: Which playbook should we run? Based on the data and the customer profile, what are the most effective tasks CSMs should take on based on the data and the customer profile? What channels should they be using to get this message out? How exactly are they delivering the most value and best outcomes to the customer?
Here are some of the core functions and roles your CS Ops team will take on to help scale your organization:
- Plan the roadmap for your CS practice
- Create, source, and manage digital-led systems and tools that will scale as your business grows
- Develop best practices for integrating both high-touch and digital-led CS models and programs
- Engage with your product team to ensure that customers are being effectively engaged within your application(s)
- Give CSMs the tools and processes they need to do their best work
- Oversee all data science and reporting
- Craft actionable insights from that data
- Create the structure and processes for executing the “one-to-many” CS approach (bulk email, in-app engagements, events, community, etc.)
- Offer strategic consulting for CS leadership
When to Bring CS Ops on Board
Once you go over five CSMs, you’re heading toward an inflection point where simply adding more CSM headcount isn’t going to get you or your customers the results or financial return you’re looking for.
It’s possible to start by hiring a fractional person to spend between 4-8 hours per week focused on CS Ops. That interim lead could be someone you’re borrowing from another operations team—sales or marketing, for example—or brought in on a contractual basis. But even a fractional CS Ops resource can really get your customer flywheel humming. And as you continue to grow, you’ll develop the insights and data points as to when you’ll need to hire a full-time resource.
As that flywheel goes faster and faster, you’ll start building out different segments of a full CS Ops team: data analysts, workflow analysis, systems analysis, and someone to manage your digital tools.
No matter what size your business is, it isn’t easy to execute your strategy without having a CS Ops team in place—or at least a plan to build one. It’s the role you didn’t know you needed—and one that can truly pay for itself. And an amazing career track for those as passionate about processes and systems as they are about giving customers a stellar experience with your company.