Our performance as professionals in the Customer Success field heavily involves being able to adjust our strategies to our client’s perspective. It’s not easy by any means; we need all the help we can get when it comes to delighting customers. Luckily, there is a function within Customer Success whose job is to equip us with the right tools, processes and data to achieve just that.
Research by Forrester shows that companies investing in customer success operations see a significant increase in customer retention and revenue growth. Their study found that companies with a dedicated customer success operations team in place saw a 30% increase in customer retention rates and a 20% increase in revenue growth.
In this article, we’ll discuss:
- the key responsibilities of a customer success operations team
- how you know it's time to introduce CS ops
- what to look for when hiring your first CS ops team member
What is customer success operations?
A customer success operations team works behind the scenes to analyze data, automating tedious processes, and draft efficient workflows for the customer-facing part of your Customer Success team. In essence, it’s the backbone upon which your company’s success lies.
One of the key ways that customer success operations impacts the customer success function is by providing the necessary data and insights to help the customer success team better understand their customers. This can be done through data on things like:
- customer behavior
- product usage patterns
- customer feedback
- churn reasons
...which can then be used to identify areas where customers need more support or assistance.
Depending on the business niche and product offering, CS ops can mean slightly different things to different company structures but the core of its functionality remains the same. The main purpose it serves is to support the Customer Success Team by optimizing and simplifying various aspects of their daily tasks.
At scale, CS ops plays a critical role in the effectiveness of a CS team in improving retention & driving revenue growth.
8 areas a CS operations team are responsible for
1. Keep track of the CRM tool
This involves regularly reviewing customer data stored in the CRM system to identify patterns, trends and potential issues. For example, tracking a customer's engagement level over time to anticipate potential churn.
2. Scaling CS processes
This involves using specific software or customer success platforms to manage and track customer interactions, progress, and outcomes. For example, using a platform like Gainsight or an alternative to automate customer health scores and success plans.
3. Analyzing data from marketing tools
This includes analyzing data from marketing automation tools such as email campaigns, website visitor behavior, and social media engagement to understand customer behavior and preferences. For example, using Marketo to track email open rates and click-through rates to improve email marketing strategies.
4. Providing training courses and certifications
This includes providing training and certification programs to help customers effectively use and benefit from the product or service. For example, providing a certification program for Salesforce administrators to help them effectively manage and customize the platform.
5. Offer insights during client and internal meetings
This includes conducting regular video calls with customers and team members to discuss progress, address any concerns or issues, and ensure a high level of customer satisfaction. For example, jumping into weekly check-in calls with customers to review their progress and address any issues.
6. Promoting brand advocacy
The CS ops team constantly monitors customer feedback metrics such as NPS, CSAT, and CET. If there are any problems with any customers regarding these metrics, they report to their superiors and take action to improve the feedback in the long term. Each issue is carefully analyzed and addressed in order to ultimately achieve brand advocacy.
This also includes creating opportunities and incentives for customers to promote the brand and product to others. For example, implementing a referral program that rewards customers for referring friends and family to the service or to try out the product.
7. Drawing up the customer journey and experience
CS ops is also responsible for the process of mapping out the various stages and touch points that a customer goes through when interacting with a company or product, from initial awareness to post-purchase engagement. In terms of customer success, understanding the customer journey and experience is crucial for identifying areas where the customer may struggle or have pain points, and then creating targeted solutions to improve their experience.
8. Gathering information from customer queries
This involves regularly reviewing customer support tickets and feedback to identify common issues and areas for improvement. For example, using a service desk tool like Zendesk to track customer inquiries and feedback, and then using that information to improve the product or service.
All of these activities and more are carried out by various employees or the customer success operations manager. The data and insights gathered from these tasks are then used by executive teams to improve operations, troubleshoot issues, and develop more effective strategies and workflows. Overall, the customer success operations team defines and tracks key performance indicators for all daily customer success activities.
When is it time to introduce CS operations to your business?
How do you know it's the right time to create a CS ops branch of your CS team?
When customer satisfaction levels drop
Some indicators that you may need to introduce CS operations to your business are when you start to see a pattern of customer dissatisfaction, high churn rates, or low renewal rates. These are all signs that something is not working in the customer journey and that additional resources are needed to address the problem. If customer satisfaction levels begin to drop, it means that your current customer success structure is not meeting the needs of your customers. Introducing a CS operations team can help you address these issues and improve all related KPIs.
When your business is expanding
It is common for B2B SaaS businesses to begin investing in CS Operations once they reach around $10 million in revenue. At this stage, the CS manager realizes the importance of implementing repeatable processes across various CS areas. Introducing a CS Operations team can bring efficiency to the customer success team, which can be a valuable investment. However, it's important to not limit the hiring of new resources to improve customer success operations alone.
As your business grows, so does the number of customers, and this can create new challenges for customer support and success. Introducing a CS operations team can help you manage the increased volume of customer inquiries by a applying workflow optimization strategy and ensuring that your customers are getting the support they need.
When team efficiency is compromised
A CS manager may invest in various tools to improve the productivity of their team, but if these tools are not being used correctly, it can be difficult for the manager to justify the investment. If you find this to be true, it’s time to invest in CS ops to get you out of this situation as soon as possible. A CS Operations manager can assist by organizing training to ensure that the CS team is able to effectively use the technology.
5 tips for hiring your first CS ops team member
When hiring your first CS ops team member, it is important to look for candidates with a combination of software and soft skills. On the software side, they should have experience with customer relationship management (CRM) systems and analytics tools. They should also be familiar with the software or service that your company offers.
Define the role and responsibilities of your CS ops team
Before you start the hiring process, it is important to have a clear understanding of what the role of your CS ops team will be and what responsibilities they will have. This will help you to identify the specific qualifications and experience that you are looking for in a candidate.
Look for a combination of software and soft skills
When hiring a CS ops team member, it is important to look for a combination of software and soft skills. They should have experience with customer relationship management (CRM) systems, analytics tools and be familiar with the software or service your company offers. They should also be excellent communicators, problem-solvers, and have a strong customer-centric mindset.
Consider prior experience in a customer-facing role
Prior experience in a customer-facing role is a great indicator of a candidate's ability to succeed in a CS ops role. Candidates who have experience dealing with customers directly of 3 years or more, whether it be in sales, customer service or support, are likely to have the necessary communication and problem-solving skills to excel in a CS ops role.
Look for candidates who are proactive and self-motivated
The CS ops role requires a high degree of self-motivation and proactivity. Candidates who can demonstrate the ability to take initiative, identify issues and come up with solutions on their own are perfect for this team.
Test the candidate's skills and abilities
Before making a final hiring decision, it's important to test the candidate's skills and abilities. This can be done through a series of interviews, skills assessments, or even mock case studies. This will give you a better understanding of the candidate's strengths and weaknesses, and help you to make an informed decision.
Customer success operations is a vital component of any customer success strategy for scale-ups. Companies that invest early on in this function are more likely to see a positive impact on customer retention and revenue growth.
By providing valuable data insights and implementing processes that support the main CS function, CS ops aim to bring alignment.
It is important to note, and I cannot stress this enough, that customer success operations not only impact the customer success function but the organization as a whole. In order to see your business thrive, everyone needs to be working together towards customer success; this includes product development, marketing, sales, and support.
The key takeaway is to let the CS Ops team inspire you, allow room for them to leverage customer data and technology and give them room to streamline your collective efforts. Their only passion is keeping customers satisfied, engaged, and coming back for more. As far as “win-win” goes, it doesn’t get any better than that!