It is increasingly apparent that having a CS Ops team and leader is becoming a necessity.
Why? Customer success (CS) is evolving and moving outside the box it once inhabited. It affects so many parts of business because it is not exclusively about customer success or customer experience (CX) anymore. It’s about product-led growth. It’s about adoption, analytics, and expansions. Net Revenue Retention is still key, but CS now touches everything.
Grasping the Reach of Customer Success
According to our 2022 Customer Success Index, companies are discovering that “CS responsibilities tie directly to business goals and revenue.” Though churn reduction (indicated by 83% of respondents) and product adoption (stated by 81%) were top priorities for companies during the pandemic, 45% of companies actually let their CS org drive renewals and other expansion efforts.
However, to completely leverage the expanding customer success effects, your CS leader needs an individual or team to help map out the where, when, and how customer success intersects your daily operations and transforms your customers’ journey. This is one of the reasons why we constructed “Gainsight’s Guide to Building a World-Class Customer Success Operations Organization.”
After years of data and observation, we know that customer success has a virtual reach into every part of an organization. We used to say that CS needed to be a top-down, company-wide motion. Well, folks, we might have achieved that. Now, it is time to include CS ops as a full-on part of this process. The return on investment (ROI) of CS is clearly seen and justifies bringing in CS operations to make it more seamless, prescriptive, and proactive. To do that, you need to start with defining a CS Ops team.
Defining a CS Ops Team
Any company embarking on its CS journey should be thinking about CS operations, a CS ops leader, and the team. Gainsight does believe there is a formula for CS ops in the early stages. It is a simple formula to solve for hiring your first CS ops position.
- For every five Customer Success Managers (CSMs), you’ll need to start developing smart processes for running your team. That’s when you’ll want to make your first ops hire.
- For 10 CSMs, your CS ops lead will want to hire a junior person.
However, you need to do what is best for your company. Some CEOs waited until after they had 12 CSMs on their team before they hired their first CS ops staff. But what is solid across the field is that you are looking for a specific type of individual in terms of characteristics, capabilities, and specific traits. Let’s start with your first hire–your CS ops professional.
A CS ops candidate must have specific attributes:
- Passion and curiosity for designing processes that scale
- Problem solver with the ability to break complex issues down into manageable components and solutions
- Excellent communication and listening skills
- Able to take advice from across departments, like marketing, and have influence
- Enjoys getting their hands dirty by digging into complex operations
- Understands the rhythms of the sales cycle and customer journey to help with forecasting, especially around existing business
- Familiar with customer segmentation strategy and actions across those segments
- Ready to provide education for onboarding and customer usage
A CS ops leader must have the above abilities, especially a complete understanding of the customer journey and the experience your company needs them to have. To accomplish this, the leader must combine strategy with technical comprehension of data, systems, analytic tools, workflows, and, of course, excellent knowledge of your product or software and all integrated applications.
CS ops leaders often have project management experience or capabilities, helping them work cross-functionally across the organization. By understanding each role’s responsibility, especially those who are customer-facing, leaders can better organize and orchestrate CS strategies. These tasks are impossible without communication skills that can traverse subject matter, message, and audience.
There are other CS ops roles, such as CS Program Manager, CS Platform Administrator, and Junior Admin. Each is valuable for what they contribute to your organization. But mainly, they design systems and processes that enable and enhance your customer success capabilities.
Designing the Systems and Processes
A Customer Success Operations team is vital to the realization of your business outcomes. They become the choreographers of your operational success. Each role must be understood, along with their responsibilities. Then, the placement of those individuals within the customer journey is calculated, purposeful, and defined. But you first must begin with a strategy.
Every journey begins with a roadmap, and every business motion starts with a strategy. A CS ops professional or leader should be included in strategy discussions regarding a customer success strategy with both CS and business leaders. Their purpose is to align the business goals with strategic CS goals and create a roadmap to make those outcomes possible. That includes metrics to measure your data against and timelines to accomplish your goals.
Like the choreographer, CS ops leaders have a finished event in mind and try to make it come to life with playbooks and other tactical motions. Lastly, their communication skills must be prominently present by leading cross-functional alignment.
Data tracking is a huge part of the process, and that requires a customer success software platform with the capability to reveal actionable insights. By collaborating with subject matter experts (SMEs) and IT personnel, CS ops can cross-collaborate to drive initiatives and bring new data sources into your CS platform. But what good is data without reviewing, reporting, and analyzing it? These duties are core to CS operations and should be well within a CS ops professional’s duties.
One of the best abilities of CS operations is aiding in the area of enablement and change management. CS ops leaders can define the best practices to encourage adoption and enablement. Additionally, a CS Ops team helps teams adopt new methodologies when there are change management initiatives. Change management always begins with pre-launch communication and training. That is one of the areas in which CS Ops can cross-collaborate with company education services to create ongoing release training.
Quality adoption and outcomes are the end result that everyone is aiming for. CS Ops teams help drive adoption performance to attain the predetermined metrics and eventual desired outcomes. They can also run sessions, sometimes called internal Chairsides, to assess if end-users are adopting the platform correctly. If they analyze data usage, then they can begin to pick up lagging customer usage and engagement early on and encourage CSMs to step in before further issues develop and negative sentiment sets in. Of course, they can see and measure the impact of all of these motions on adoption, customer engagement and satisfaction, and outcomes.
Any CS Ops team, professional, or leader worthy of the title must be innately determined to impact your company by solving pain points. Everything that Customer Success Operations does has a purpose. First, they are trying to make the life of your CS leader and CSMs easier by creating operational efficiencies. These efficiencies help save time and money, thus increasing productivity because you are doing more with less.
Standardizing the Playbooks That Win
Detection of customer or end-user issues allows for early intervention. At that point, CS Ops can offer standardized playbooks designed to target common paint points, leaving nothing to chance. Between the CSMs’ abilities to deepen customer relationships and the CS Ops team’s analysis of usage and sentiment data, you can intervene quickly, creating retention and preventing churn. However, there are other pain points to consider:
- Inability to scale
- Lack of customer visibility
- Missed expansion opportunities
- Disconnected customer experience
- Poor product adoption
Solving these contributes to a great Net Revenue Retention (NRR) score. Remember, NRR is a measurement with Gross Revenue Retention or GRR (the number of customers staying as your customers by renewing what they purchased, mainly as a subscription) as its base, or GRR plus upsell. Companies merely existing and keeping their customers will not produce high NRR, meaning they are not expanding their install base.
NRR is the number you want to pay attention to. It is critical to measure CS because it indicates if your customer base is growing. Because NRR includes expansion and revenue churn, it can and should be over 100% for most companies. If it is under 100%, your business is contracting. Numbers well over 100% indicate a healthy customer install base and directly contribute to the valuation of your company.
CS operations advances not only your customer success motions, but also enhances the entire company with cross-collaboration, creating efficiencies and promoting productivity, while contributing to your NRR and company valuation. Your CS Ops team is a silent power that justifies investigation, investment, and respect.
If you want to learn more about the power of CS ops, download “Gainsight’s Guide to Building a World-Class Customer Success Operations Organization.”