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Scaling customer success: how a RACI matrix can take you from chaos to seamless coordination

By Jeff Breunsbach

There’s an old saying that “a camel is a horse made by a committee,” suggesting that teams make a mess of things that individuals could handle just fine.

Click here to download the RACI Matrix template.

Chaos and confusion can happen as a Customer Success (CS) initiative grows, but once you’ve moved past the startup phase you, you have no choice but to go big. After all, one or two scrappy CS Managers can’t keep an army of customers happy on their own—so once you’re managing a dozen accounts or more, you’ve got to scale your efforts. 

At some point in your business’s lifecycle, customer success becomes a company-wide initiative. How you organize that transition could make or break you in the years to come.

The good news? Even if a camel is a “horse made by a committee,” you can build one strong, robust camel with the right planning and intelligent systems in place.

One tool for successfully scaling a CS initiative is the RACI matrix—a chart that clearly defines the roles each employee plays in reducing churn and ensuring long-term growth.

What is a RACI matrix and how does it work?

RACI is an acronym that identifies the four different roles employees can play in accomplishing specific tasks related to customer success. RACI stands for: Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed.

The easiest way to explain how these roles work is to tie them to a specific example, so I’ll talk about how each role might be assigned in the task of end-user training—an important step in the customer onboarding process.

Example: RACI roles in end-user training

The four roles in the RACI model will define who is involved in creating and implementing end-user training. Successful end-user training increases the odds that customers will adopt your software, which in turn should increase retention rates.

R = Responsible

The Responsible (R) employee rolls up their sleeves, gets the work done, and makes key decisions along the way. As a rule, there’s usually only one person in the “Responsible” role because multiple R’s could create conflict and slow progress.

  • Role in end-user training: The Responsible stakeholder would do things like designing the training and creating systems to evaluate its effectiveness.
  • Good candidates for the Responsible (R) role: Education Specialist or Trainer.

A = Accountable

The buck stops here. The Accountable (A) employee oversees the project, and the “Responsible” role answers directly to them. Just as with the R role, there’s usually only one A because you don’t want too many chefs in the kitchen.

  • Role in end-user training: The Accountable person would typically oversee the training’s creation and implementation, keep the task on track, and communicate progress to executives.
  • Good candidates for the Accountable (A) role: Project Manager.

C = Consulted

Consulted (C) employees are the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who can help the Responsibles achieve their goals. The R engages in regular two-way communication with the C’s, relying on their expertise when needed. Assign as many C’s as necessary to a task—but no more than is necessary!

  • Role in end-user training: Consulted employees might help ensure that the information in the training is accurate and that online trainings integrate seamlessly with the current platform.
  • Good candidates for the Accountable (C) role: Solution Architect, Implementation Consultant, Technical Consultant

I = Informed

Informed (I) employees receive regular updates on the status of the project. Unlike C’s, they require only one-way communication. I’s include anyone who is affected by the project and its completion.

  • Role in end-user training: Informed employees do not have an active responsibility but rather should stay close to the process to be able to adequately cover any gaps
  • Good candidates for the Informed (I) role: Customer Service Managers, Technical Account Managers

RACI matrix: seeing the big picture

End-user training is just one line in the RACI matrix. The magic of RACI is that gives you a complete map of the CS plan for entire customer journey, starting the moment you acquire a new customer and moving all the way through to renewal, expanding (upsells), and advocating (where your best customers promote your products to their friends and colleagues).

 A full RACI matrix sequentially follows every step in the customer journey, and it allows every stakeholder to review their roles and either accept or question their assign responsibilities.

Click here to download the RACI Matrix template.

What makes for a good RACI matrix?

As you and your team evaluate your RACI matrix, ask yourselves the following questions:

·  Is everyone committed to their assigned tasks? If something doesn’t fit into someone’s job role or some stakeholders are overloaded with responsibilities, don’t be afraid to re-evaluate.

·  Are all the C’s necessary? Sometimes we list stakeholders as C’s when we really don’t need their time and expertise. You can often move C’s to I’s without sacrificing the project’s success.

·  Did you leave most squares blank? If so, that’s a good thing. Resist the temptation to fill up all the squares. Lean project teams tend to be more efficient.

·  Are all the stakeholder included? On the flip side, you don’t want to forget anyone essential to the project. Make sure everyone affected by the projected is at least listed as an Informed stakeholder.

Adapting RACI to your own business model

The approach you take will depend on a number of factors, including whether you’re selling high-value/high-touch products with low volume products vs. low-value/low-touch products high-volume sales.

Here’s a bird’s-eye view of the departments involved in each business model:

Feel free to edit our downloadable RACI template to make it work with your business model and current stage of development. Just be sure you don’t leave out any of the following six key stages in the customer lifecycle:

  • Booking new logos
  • Onboarding new customers
  • Driving adoption and value
  • Harvesting brand advocates
  • Renewal
  • Upselling

Using the RACI model, and continually adjusting the matrix as your business scales, will allow you to take a simple, ad hoc approach to customer success and turn it into a well-designed initiative that spans your organization and engages the right employees for the right tasks.

In the end, your company-wide CS initiative may still look more like a camel than a horse— but is that really such a bad thing? After all, camels are impressive creatures, uniquely suited to survive and thrive in a harsh, unforgiving environment. 

I say, forget the horse! Embrace your camel, keep it strong and nourished, and let it take you to the promised land of steady growth and negative net churn.

Published May 5, 2020
About the Author

Jeff serves as the Director of Accounts, overseeing business operations and ensuring the delivery and quality of all client engagements with numerous B2B SaaS clients to drive revenue growth through customer success strategy and execution. See full bio ›

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