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Customer Success Operations Manager: Does Your Team Need One?

Customer Success teams are expanding – not just in size, but in scope. New roles are emerging as CS is maturing as a specialty, specifically roles like Customer Success Operations (CS Ops).

At early-stage startups, Customer Success Managers will find themselves covering this function, but as the company grows, it can be extremely valuable to separate this function into a dedicated role within CS to help scale up.

What does a Success Operations Manager do?

Think of “Success Operations” as a product that promises to optimize processes for its customers, i.e. the Customer Success Managers.

CS Ops managers establish a baseline of productivity using metrics like net MMR churn and how difficult it is to learn about new product features. They talk to CSMs to learn what pain points they face in their day-to-day responsibilities and observe how processes currently work.

They segment the current customer base to distribute the workload effectively among CSMs. CS Ops managers look for consistent issues across the whole Success team, break the issues down into manageable components, and create solutions with measurable results.

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” – Peter F. Drucker

Using the information they’ve gathered, CS Ops managers may build tools like custom dashboards, or establish automatic workflows among software platforms to make the CSM’s job easier and help them be more productive.

A CS Ops manager will “onboard” CSMs, teaching them how to use the new tools at their disposal, and check in frequently with their “customers”. In this sense, they are CSMs to the CSMs.

In short, Customer Success Operations managers are responsible for providing tactical support to the rest of the Success team, helping them improve their KPIs and their efficiency.

What does a CS Operations Manager need to know?

Customer Success Operations Managers should be familiar with:

  • Customer Relationship Management Software (e.g. Salesforce, Gainsight, Totango)
  • In-app messaging Software (e.g. Intercom)
  • Support platforms (e.g. Zendesk, FreshService)
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Customer Success

Each company will have a unique suite of different platforms that it uses, and CS Ops managers need to be quick to become fluent in most, if not all of them. This is crucial for the role since data silos are a major hindrance to organizational efficiency and detract from your customers’ experience.

Additionally, Success Operations Managers will need many of the same ‘soft skills’ that CSMs use. For example, CS Ops managers need to be able to actively listen to the struggles of the CSMs to come up with valuable solutions.

What does this role look like in real life?

For Feedvisor Customer Success Operations Manager Shachar Avrahami, he came into the company as the first “Professional Services team member.” As the team grew from a one-man operation to a multi-person team (and the company scaled up), Shachar’s manager asked him to create his own role – Customer Success Operations Manager, “and I became the first person to assume this new position and help define it.”

He says, “I am the owner of our team’s processes on a macro level, making sure all teams are aligned with the strategy for each part of the customer’s journey.”

How do you know if you need a Success Operations Manager?

Giving a concrete number at which you need to hire a CS Ops manager is difficult. It depends on the capacity of your current CSM team. As a rule of thumb, you will want to look into hiring a Success Operations manager after you’ve hired your fourth or fifth CSM.

For some organizations, the new role may be an internal promotion of a CSM. For other companies, it may be wise to bring in an individual with experience in a ‘project manager’-like position to help streamline Customer Success processes, aligning everyone under the common vision that is handed down from the C-suite and creating a more consistent experience for customers.

Like Robert S. Kaplan, co-creator of The Balanced Scorecard, says, “consistent alignment of capabilities and internal processes with the customer value proposition is the core of any strategy execution.”

How do you advocate for a CS Operations Manager role?

Understand that a CS Operations Manager’s responsibilities are nearly the same as those of a Sales Operations Manager. The justifications for the CS Ops role are similar.

The operations role increases the productivity of your customer-facing Success team members, who carry the weight of recurring revenue on their shoulders. Not only does this mean management can hire fewer individuals for the customer-facing roles, but each CSM’s key performance indicators will improve at rates that were impossible before this specialized role.

Having a CS Ops role also improves visibility into the Success team’s business outcomes, places for improvement, and what projects need to be prioritized for Customer Success.

For an excellent breakdown and comparison of the Sales and CS Ops positions, click here.

Operations For Smooth Scaling

There will always be growing pains as a start-up matures and finds success. Operations experts specialize in finding technical solutions for when people are stretched beyond their limits. Creating a Customer Success Operations position is an effective way to proactively combat capacity issues for the Success team and deliver a consistently positive experience for your customers.

Access Voice of the Customer insight in your system of record with InMoment’s native integrations, including Salesforce, Gainsight, & Totango.

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