How to Build a Customer Success Team for Scale

Scratching your head thinking about how to build a customer success program from nothing? Or how to drive customer success in your organization? Perhaps you've found yourself as the first Customer Success Manager in your company? Download these customer success resources to jump start your customer success strategy.

Having this guide as a model is great...best to get it right from the get go! There's a lot of Customer Success content out there but yours is high-level coming from a background that puts the customer first. Thanks for sharing!

Kris (Downloaded Sep 2019).

Picture this: You're an early senior employee in a fast growing SaaS startup. I mean really early -- as in you know everyone's name and can still send the CTO a direct message in Slack when you need a change in the product. And it get's done in an hour.

 

Now, your job is to build a particular team within the company. A few months in your boss, the CEO, suggests you meet at a bar for a beer. Hey, it's a startup -- beer meetings aren't unusual.

Then he drops it on you: "So, we need to pivot and we want you to stop doing your thing and instead build a global Customer Success team. Any questions?"

Well, that's what happened to me in 2015. I was tasked with building a customer success team in a fast growing startup based in Seattle, Washington.

I wasn't a customer success guru. But, like most people in an early stage startup, I was hungry to learn, eager to take on the challenge and determined to succeed.

I read many customer success 101 guides. I watched all the customer success strategy videos. However, there was no better education than actually doing the work.​

Over three years I built a global customer success team with ten direct reports located across the world. My team went from managing 40 to 400+ enterprise customers representing tens of millions of dollars in recurring revenue.

And yeah, I had some questions! If you're here, you probably do too.

Hi, I'm Clayton

How to build a customer success program:  In the beginning, build for scale but not at scale.

"Huh? What is this guy on about!", you may be thinking.

After all, anyone working in a fast growing startup will tell you everything is about scale, scale, scale.

The trouble with scale is this: It removes you from the nitty-gritty details that are so important in the foundational stages of building a function, team or even company. 

The most important element to understand as you begin to drive customer success in your organization is your customers. No surprise, right?

The best way to deeply understand customers in the beginning is to do a bunch of non-scalable things. Personally onboard customers yourself. Randomly call customers to learn more about how they use your product or what they would improve. Shoot out emails to let customers know you're thinking of them when you see they have a support issue, use a new feature or hit some milestone - you'll be surprised at some of the great feedback and insight which comes back.

But these things aren't particularly scalable - you can't keep doing them forever as you'll simply run out of time or money or both.

That's why my advice for building a new customer success team is this: in the beginning, build for scale but not at scale. That is, adopt frameworks and processes which will support scale, but be ok with doing some heavy lifting. When the time comes to ramp up at scale you'll have some foundational elements in place they make it easier to transition.

That's what I've tried to share in my free introductory guide, "Foundational ideas for customer success teams". In it, I introduce three foundational frameworks you can adopt from the beginning which will set you up to scale more easily as required.

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