Customer Success executives are starting to recognize the need to hire a Customer Success Operations person. The question is, given the relative newness of this role in our industry, how do you explain its value to your CEO in order to secure budget for it?
ROI on Customer Success Operations is significant.
The return-on-investment (ROI) from hiring a Customer Success Operations person is the same as the ROI from hiring a Sales Operations person: the role increases the productivity of your customer-facing team members, so that you can hire fewer people.
Interestingly, most CEOs don’t ask VPs of Sales to justify hiring a Sales Ops lead; they simply assume that they’ll have to hire someone after the sales team reaches a certain size. The question is “when” – not “whether” – the hire should be made.
By contrast, because of the newness of the Customer Success function, VPs of CS are still asked to justify the CS Ops role, even though the value of CS Ops is (at least) equal to the value of Sales Ops.
In fact, a CS Ops lead’s responsibilities parallel those in Sales Ops.
|Responsibility||Sales Operations||Customer Success Operations|
|1. Reporting||Report to executives and the board on past results and sales forecasts, e.g. through dashboards and presentations||Report to executives and the board on past results and renewals and upsell forecasts, e.g. through dashboards and presentations|
|2. Analysis||Track leading indicators of sales, and analyze them to understand what’s going well and what’s not||Track leading indicators of renewals and upsell, and analyze them to understand what’s going well and what’s not|
|3. Customer Engagement Process||Determine the timing and content of meetings with prospects, to optimize conversion of pipeline to opportunities, close rates, and pricing||Determine the timing and content of touch points for CSMs along the customer journey, to drive optimal adoption and high net promoter score|
|4. External Communications||Coordinate with Marketing on email nurture activities for prospects||Coordinate with 1:Many Communications lead (within CSM team) to synchronize email outreaches with CSM touch points|
|5. Risk Management||Give executives visibility into deals that are at risk||Detect early signals of at-risk renewals, design playbooks for CSMs to address them, and provide path to escalation|
|6. Opportunity Identification||Identify top accounts||Identify top candidates for upsell|
|7. Cross-Functional Coordination||Coordinate cross-functional processes that help meet sales targets and deliver on prospects’ needs||Coordinate cross-functional processes (with Product, Engineering, Support, Services, and Sales) that help meet renewal and upsell targets and deliver on customers’ needs|
|8. Team Structure||Create segments of prospects,manage account executives’ territories, and forecast hiring needs||Tier existing customers, assign them to CSMs, re-distribute workload as needed, and forecast hiring needs|
|9. Compensation||Determine commission structure and quotas||Determine the metrics on which bonuses are based, and define targets for those metrics|
|10. Enablement||Sales enablement, including providing materials and data that help account executives work more effectively||CSM enablement, including providing materials and data that help CSMs work more effectively|
|11. Systems||Implement and manage software that facilitates Sales Ops activities||Implement and manage software that facilitates CSM Ops activities|
We take it for granted that these Sales Operations responsibilities are valuable; we should attribute equal value to those same responsibilities in the Customer Success realm.
Even so, it’s not surprising that many Customer Success teams don’t have CS Ops leads yet. Sales Operations is an older (and therefore more trusted) function, having originated when CRM software made it possible to design, manage, and report on processes. Still, given the recent development of Customer Success software, companies now can design, manage, and report on processes in post-sales as well, presenting an opportunity for an Ops lead to drive tremendous value for CS teams.
You should hire a CS ops lead when you have about 5 CSMs.
Now that we’ve answered “whether” you need a CS Ops lead, the question becomes “when”.
Once you have about 5 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.
Once you have about 10 CSMs, your CS Ops lead will want to hire a junior person, perhaps an intern or a recent college graduate. This will allow your Ops lead to spend more time on strategic activities, to thoughtfully manage the workings of a larger organization.
You’ll want to screen candidates based on the following attributes:
- Passion for designing processes that scale
- Ability to break down ambiguous problems into concrete, manageable components and think through optimal solutions
- Enjoys "getting their hands dirty" by digging into complex operations
- Takes high degree of ownership over their work
- Clear communicator with professional presence
- Strong listening skills; open to input from other team members and departments
- Ability to lead through influence
Click here to see a sample CS Ops job description that you can use in your own recruiting.