This is Digital Customer Success 10 min read

Structuring your Customer Success team

Jo Johansson • September 10, 2021

We’re back! It’s time for another post in our series, This is Digital Customer Success, where we set out to get clarity on all things Digital CS. In our last post, we talked about the metrics that matter in your digital-led approach. This week, it’s time to talk more about the people behind those metrics – it’s time to talk about team structure. Because your digital-led team might just look a little different from your “traditional” team. Let’s dive in!

Here we are.

You’ve mapped out the customer journey, set your goals, you’ve created a channel strategy – it’s almost time to get to work. But before you can do that effectively, you need to define roles and responsibilities in your team.

Now, back in the day, Customer Success teams were formed as a result of a need to provide high-touch guidance to your most valuable customers (read: highest paying customers). But as your customer base grows, so does the demand for CSM’s time and expertise. Plus, in the age of digital-led, customer needs are different, and, as a result – so is your CS team structure.

But before we dive into the team structure, let’s take a look at why team structure poses such a challenge for Customer Success teams.

No common structure in place for Customer Success teams

There’s no one-size-fits-all structure for Customer Success teams. It depends on size, maturity, and even industry. But the main issue isn’t necessarily the lack of a common structure. The lack of common structure is simply a symptom of a bigger issue, one that the Customer Success industry is struggling with as a whole.

In a recent webinar, Cognite’s Alex Farmer stressed that “Customer Success can mean so many different things to so many different organizations. We don't have that one common structure of KPIs or an accepted way of demonstrating value. As a result, it drives discord between the different teams within the organization.”

It’s not just about Customer Success

How does a function that’s comparatively young, find its footing when it comes to building a team? Well, it’s not just about the Customer Success team, is it? The entire company should rally around customer success, from the top-down.

  • It’s not just about the Customer Success function. The entire company needs to have a top-down customer-centric philosophy.
  • Customer Success has to be a priority. Because if not, you’ll struggle when it comes to structure, responsibilities, and KPIs.
  • Make a conscious choice about the role of Customer Success at your company, and make sure that’s accepted across the board.

Now, we recognize that the above isn’t always easy to get to, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Ultimately, the entire company needs to adopt a customer-centric philosophy and with that, a customer success mindset.

So, what can you do in the meantime?

Work backward

Try working backward by looking at how Customer Success could drive the company's overall goal. Close’s Director of Customer Success, Liz Stephany, suggests “taking three steps back and not just focus on what the ‘accepted’ KPIs for a CS team are, but instead look at the particular things that your team can do to drive the company's overall vision and value.”

Because if you start by looking at the overall goal and your strategy, you can then start thinking about how you can connect the dots all the way to the top, and what the team should look like to help you get there.

That said, let’s start by assessing your existing Customer Success team structure.

Assess your existing Customer Success team structure

Assigning roles and responsibilities is a big part of your digital-led model. It’s where the divide and conquer aspect of your strategy really starts. It’s time to execute your plan. In order to do so, you need to make sure you not only have the right people in place, but also the right resources at hand.

So once you’ve identified the activities that will make up your digital-led program, ask yourself this:

  • Does my team have the expertise and know-how to implement the strategy?
  • Does my team have the right tools to implement the strategy?
  • Does my team have access to the data they need to implement the strategy?

Now, the structure of a digital-led Customer Success team isn’t necessarily that different from any other structure. Often you’ll find that it’s a matter of redefining structures and assigning clear ownership based on your strategy, rather than reinventing the wheel.

Creating a winning structure for your Customer Success team

The structure of your CS team will look different depending on the size of your organization. As mentioned, when you reach a certain volume of customers, your CSMs won’t be able to effectively deliver value on a personal level. Instead, that same value will be delivered through a digital-led approach.

Now that you have a good idea of how your CS team evolves as your business grows, let’s take a look at what your ideal CS team setup could look like and what the responsibilities might be.

Roles and responsibilities

VP of Customer Success
The role of a VP of Customer Success is to drive efficiencies for the CS team by empowering them through technology and data to make their lives easier.

Key responsibilities:

  • Oversees the development and implementation of customer success strategies
  • Responsible for the growth and management of the CS team
  • Advocates for a customer-centric org

Director of Customer Success
The Director of Customer Success helps hire, onboard and mentor the CSM team to expand existing customer relationships by understanding client goals. Alongside the VP of Customer Success, they develop strategies focusing on client satisfaction and value realization.

Key responsibilities:

  • Builds and maintains customer relations
  • Anticipates and advocates for customer needs
  • Oversees the management and support of internal team members.

Director of Customer Success Operations
The Director of CS Ops manages team workflow and internal processes to ensure efficiency while supporting team members in improving their individual impact and progress toward goals.

Key responsibilities:

  • Manages team workflow and internal processes to ensure efficiency
  • Supports team members in improving the individual impact and goal progress

Want to learn more about the role of CS Ops in a digital-led program? Register for our upcoming webinar.

Digital CSM
The primary function of a Digital CSM is to analyze and understand the customer journey. With the customer journey in mind, a Digital CSM creates a proactive communication plan that helps customers achieve their goals based on their needs, maturity, and personas.

Key responsibilities:

  • Addresses the volume segment of customers.
  • Specializes in virtual aspects of the CS team’s operations.
  • Works with a lot of data points to understand how you can create a digital-led narrative that not only answers questions your customers have – but anticipates what’s next.

Learn more about the Digital CSM role in this on-demand webinar, where Elisabeth Courland shares all her knowledge around the role. 

Customer Success Manager
CSMs will play an important role in supporting your digital-led strategy. Unlike the Digital CSM, they will be in direct contact with customers and will step in where needed to provide help and guidance.

Key responsibilities:

  • Works one-on-one with customers, guiding them through the customer journey
  • Advocates for the business goals of customers and anticipates how to meet those goals – and how they change over time.

Customer Success Analyst
Data is the lifeblood of a digital-led program. A dedicated Customer Success Analyst helps analyze the behavior of customers across the customer journey and works with data to identify patterns to help reach customer journey milestones.

Key responsibilities:

  • Works with CSMs to identify patterns in behavioral data and to inform strategy.
  • Identifies opportunities and areas of improvement in terms of both customer retention initiatives and identifies trends in customers to help determine improvements to strategy and process.

Voice of the Customer Manager
A Voice of the Customer Manager is a strategic relationship builder who balances the needs of stakeholders with the needs of customers.

Key responsibilities:

  • Works with CSMs, Product, Engineering, and Design teams to create and manage mechanisms that connect teams to the voice of customers.
  • Uses quantitative and qualitative data to identify opportunities for new customer-facing features.
  • Scales existing customer insight processes to create a cycle of continuous improvement for products.

Content Creator
A digital-led strategy is fuelled by content. It comes down to getting the right content to your customers at the right time. Having a CS Content Creator on the team that can produce, maintain, and repurpose content will help your content production cycle and you won’t have to rely on content from eg marketing.

Key responsibilities:

  • Works with the Digital CSM to help develop a content strategy across all channels
  • Creates content pieces for the community, knowledge base, and blog
  • Interviews customers, team members, and other stakeholders to create content

Structure starts with ownership

Many CS teams still find themselves trying to justify what exactly it is that you do for the company. And the challenge often is that if you haven’t defined this for the CS function and on a company level – someone else within your organization will (or perhaps they already have). That's when you start running into issues. Because if you didn't take ownership of the opportunity to define your own KPIs, that will snowball into other issues, such as defining your team structure. Because how do you define your team structure without clear goals? 

Find the KPIs that align with revenue and align with growth. Because if CS can demonstrate that it’s a growth engine, not just a cost center, then it will immediately become more clear not only what your actions are, but what your team should look like to achieve those goals.

But with all this said, one question remains: what technology does a CS team? We’ll answer that in our next post. Subscribe to our blog to make sure you don’t miss it!

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By Jo Johansson

Head of Content at inSided. Passionate about content ops, words and horses.

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