In the last two decades, SaaS (Software as a Service) has become an extremely popular business model. It has been a common practice to sell software to customers, help them with basic installation, and then hurriedly move on to the next customer. Unfortunately, most customers who needed help weren’t given much more than a paper user manual. Back then, software support options were limited and expensive for both users and the businesses who provided them.
Luckily for us, the 2020s are very different. Cloud technology has evolved, paving the way for cost-effective software development and deployment. As consumer demands skyrocket, so do the incentives for businesses to develop and offer even more software. And they did. SaaS offerings for every possible corporate function imaginable are now available. This effectively gives consumers countless options to pick the software tool they prefer best. This shift marks a point of inflection where demand for customer success became no longer a luxury but rather a necessity. With a shift to subscription-based models, it is almost impossible for businesses to maintain healthy customer relationships without a dedicated Customer Success Team.
What is Customer Success?
According to Hubspot, “Customer success is defined as the anticipation of customer challenges or questions and proactively providing solutions and answers. This process will help businesses boost their customer happiness and retention, thus increasing their revenue and customer loyalty.”
Hence, as an individual starting their career in Customer Success, it’s very important to ask yourself why is customer success important and where might this career lead you? And if you are an entrepreneur who is starting their SAAS business, it is important to question what is it that most high-growth businesses get wrong in Customer Success? Also important is to be aware of all the different roles in a CS team so you can structure one of your own. Yes, a team that not only brings in Customer Success but ‘creates scalable customer love’. So, here is a sneak peek into the different roles in the CS space.
Customer Success Manager (CSM):
Their key responsibilities are to predict and solve issues for customers before they happen and ensure all stakeholders are successful. They not only support the customers when they transition from prospective sales to active users of your products but also work towards building healthy customer relationships. No doubt the job can be challenging, but the intrepid and hard-working CSMs are critical to a customers’ lifetime value. One of the best parts of being a CSM is hearing gratitude from customers for helping them in a time of need, and landing a solid renewal because the customer says, “I can’t live without you”.
Customer Success Leader (CSL):
Usually, the next step after a CSM has demonstrated consistent success and enough experience to handle even the most eccentric customer requests. When a business is growing rapidly, just one or two CSMs won’t be capable of meeting the scaling demands of a growing customer base. A CSL supervises the growing number of CSMs in an organization, provides training, consistency, and can anticipate needs in advance. Some CSLs have budget or revenue responsibilities ensuring financial goals are met. One of the best parts of being a CSL is seeing your teammates grow and thrive in their roles from your direct advice and tutorship.
Director of Customer Success:
A proven team leader with an expansive tool kit, this role can live and die by activity metrics, financial objectives, team morale, and execution. A great Director will inspire distressed teammates with pragmatic solutions to even the most difficult situations, while also ensuring strategic department goals are being looked after. Depending upon the size of the organization the Director may be the primary liaison between executive vision and the day-to-day execution. One of the best parts of being a Director of Customer Service is when everything is working as intended while closing out a financial quarter. Teammates are cohesive and operating at top capacity, all the metrics are ‘up and to the right’, budgets are inline, and you know you can sleep easy for a few days (until the next quarter begins).
VP of Customer Success:
It is a critical role that needs competency, strategy, and vision. For competency, a VP of Customer Success must have immediate answers to anything escalated that far up. Having played every role on the team before, they know all the inner machinations (good and bad) of a CS department. The VP is the department strategy leader, often responsible for the most ambitious or most difficult initiatives. The VP must support their teams but also generate more business through retention and recurring revenues. Customer Retention is an outcome of data and listening. Often it’s not enough to just ensure the customers’ optimal value from their products and services, but also include consistent upsell revenue. So how does one ensure that they don’t miss that opportunity to upsell?
All of these questions are the responsibility of a VP of Customer Success. They need to be involved with the data-driven management of their team as well as fill any qualitative gaps. The VPs ultimate metric is Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), now more closely measured by the CEO and investors than ever before. The long-term vision of this role must include CLV. One of the best parts of being a VP of Customer Success is seeing a bold or ambitious plan pay off better than anyone else expected. A new sizable investment or a radically different approach installed and soundly delivering results towards the CS department mission… properly done is music.
But is that it? Are these your only career options in Customer Success? Is this the possible roadmap for growth in the CS space? The answer to this question is a big NO!
Customer Success is not just about CSMs, CSLs, and the VP of CS. It involves a Chief Customer Officer (COO), Customer Marketers, Sales, Product Marketers, and most importantly CS Ops who work consistently together alongside many more roles to create the best possible customer relationship. But to get a more clear picture as to how these new roles fit into this puzzle of Customer Success and complete the picture, please stay tuned for the next blog i.e. All the Roles to Pursue and Grow in Customer Success: Part 2.