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How to Streamline and Scale With Customer Operations

If customer success managers are the lead singers in the band, then customer success operations are the drummers. 

In this metaphor, CSMs are focused on engaging and delighting the audience (the customers). And CS ops are focused on the core of the experience, keeping everyone in rhythm and on beat.   

While customer operations is not a brand new segment of customer success, it is still fresh. Before we discuss streamlining and scaling, let’s talk about what customer operations is. 

What is customer operations? 

While CSMs are focused on growing and retaining customers, CS ops supports by focusing on processes, systems, data, tools, and people. 

They set the operational foundation for the entire customer success unit. This approach increases efficiency and effectiveness for the whole team. And there is an undeniable impact on retention, churn, and the overall customer experience.

And, of course, an impact on the entire health and growth of the business! 

Why is customer operations necessary? 

Harkening back to our musical metaphor, a singer (or a CSM) can function solo. But with a full band — a complete account and customer team — and a drummer (a CS ops manager) keeping everyone on the same beat, they’re able to perform on a whole new level. 

This “whole new level” looks like: 

  • An improved customer journey 
  • A refined focus on being proactive > reactive 
  • Effectively coordinating cross-functional processes
  • Increased productivity of every CSM
  • Better equipped to drive higher adoption rates

And honestly, that list could be three times longer. 

There are many benefits customer operations can bring. But the biggest of which is the namesake of this article.

How to streamline and scale 

If you want to create order and simplification while you are scaling your team and processes, the answer is simple: Hire a CS ops manager.

1. Hire a CS Ops lead

Once your organization is in a place to begin streamlining and scaling your CS team, start with finding the right person for your CS operations role. 

Depending on your CSM team’s size, you may want to build out a CS operations team. 

Gainsight recommends you’re ready for a CS ops manager when you have five CSMs. Once you have 10 CSMs, you’re ready to start growing your operations team. You may also need to base this decision on your organization’s overall revenue. 

When looking for the right candidate, they don’t necessarily need customer success experience to be a good fit. 

However, some background in a customer-facing role builds empathy for the customer and they’re able to create better solutions that serve the customer, not just the CS team.

We love this breakdown from Gainsight about what skills to look for: 

You’ll want to consider what repeatable processes you’ll want a CS ops lead to create, manage, measure, and grow. 

We’re talking about processes like:

  • NPS and CSAT metrics
  • Customer retention 
  • Customer communications
  • Revenue forecasting
  • Customer health
  • Adoption monitoring
  • Customer onboarding
  • Systems implementation
  • Customer advocacy 
  • Upsell and renewal 
  • Customer health scoring

Will this candidate be building any of these processes from scratch? What is your ideal state of each, and can candidate X bring that to life?

We recommend having a clear picture of what you’d like this role to accomplish when searching for your ideal candidate. 

Some considerations to make:

  • Do you want this role to find, implement, and maintain new software? Look for someone with high technical skills. 
  • Do you want them to build customer-facing materials to support the customer journey? Look for someone with strong writing and design skills. 
  • Do you want someone who is focused on the numbers and projections? Look for someone with a data or finance background. 

We love this hypothetical structure from ChurnZero for how CS ops could sit within your organization. This chart is one scenario, but it should help you think through how your team works. 

“As its own function, Customer Success Operations can advance strategy initiatives around the customer experience as well as manage renewal forecasts, data analytic systems, and process implementation,” according to ChurnZero.

2. Select the right CS software 

If you haven’t noticed by now, a vast bulk of CS ops time is spent working with different tools and software. 

What’s currently in your tech stack? What are you missing that your CS ops lead may need? 

You may not know these answers until they begin, and you may even want them to help in the software selection process. But even before your ideal candidate starts, you’re likely aware of the gaps you’re facing in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, and customer activities. 

We recommend mapping these gaps out. Create a framework that mirrors your current customer journey flow, from handoff to renewals.

The journey mapping process will be unique to each organization. But here’s a template to get you started. 

After you’ve created your journey map, you’ll want to assess the current state of each stage. What’s working, what’s not working, improvement opportunities, and what new aspects need implemented?

This is a starting point to assessing your current state, which will be critical when you begin searching for CS software. 

There are many options out there for customer success tools, from engagement platforms to scheduling solutions.

The right CS platform will give you granular insight into customer activities and account health. It’ll also highlight each touchpoint so you can assess who is more high or low profile, who needs more or less attention, and who might be a churn risk. All of these elements coupled together will enable you to scale better. 

Additionally, the right CS scheduling tool will help you streamline your meeting processes. When you automate the many types of meetings that are necessary across the entire customer journey, your team can:

  • Connect with customers quickly
  • Save time when eliminating manual tasks
  • Stay up to date and out of their inbox
  • Make the most of every meeting 
  • Control their calendar while being readily accessible

All of these roles and tools together will enable you to better streamline and scale your customer operations.

Bottom line 

Customer success operations is a critical function in nearly all SaaS industries today. 

If you aren’t taking care of your customers, your business is sure to suffer. And if you aren’t taking care of your customer-facing team … well, you get the picture. 

If you have the right tools in your tech stack, the synchronicity of software plus your CS operations role is sure to set you up for success. Get ready to rock out with increased productivity and your new path for creating happier customers. 

 

About the Author

Chelsea Castle is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at Chili Piper. A journalist turned empathy-driven marketer, she's also a concert junkie who can often be found #doingthings outside and crafting creative ways to be sustainable.

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