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Why Its Time to Build a CS Ops Role - Q&A Part 2

By Jason Conrad

Much like the evolution within the Sales team and the creation of “Sales Ops”, Customer Success is on a similar trajectory. It is becoming vitally important to drive successful outcomes for your customers (i.e. Customer Success) and it is even more critical to build out “Customer Success Operations”.

This is a continuation of our partnership with ChurnZero, where we hosted a webinar and helped build Part 1 of the Q&A.

Let’s dive into Part 2 of the Q&A coming out of the webinar…

Q: How would you approach revising a customer process or updating a process? Is there a rollout cadence you follow?

A: Yes, great question. Customer Imperative likes to help our clients setup what we call Customer Strategy Teams (CST) and Customer Initiative Teams (CIT). A CST is cross-functional in nature and is tasked with evolving the customer strategy and customer experience for your company. Initiative teams are created based on the strategy, with investments reviewed at least quarterly. Process improvement should be agile and focus on making a list of items ranked by effort and also impact. You want to go after low effort, high impact items - review the high effort, high impact items with your CST to get buy-in from senior leaders. 

Q: I may have misunderstood a previous slide.  Were you advocating to combine CS, Marketing, & Sales Ops within a single function?

A: Yes, precisely.  If you've worked in sales, marketing or CS ops - you know the struggles. Who owns account data? Prospect data? Customer data? At times, it's a miracle if we can even look in Salesforce to see what products our customers are subscribed to. 

Getting customer-impacting initiatives like automating engagement through the customer journey, or account triggers based on product data, are next to impossible when you're working in silos. 

People within these functions have near similar skillsets from a technical perspective. The only difference is in the outcomes they're trying to drive through the customer journey.

Why not centralize them to reduce conflicting initiatives, tighten up data governance and get customer-impacting work done faster? 

Q: If CS Ops is owned by the Revenue leader, doesn’t this lend to being #2 behind Sales/Revenue Ops needs?

A: The difference between a Chief Sales Officer and a Chief Revenue Officer would create a different set of priorities here. If you’re responsible for sales but don’t own all of the revenue retention for the company, there will be a clear bias towards new logo growth needs. A Chief Revenue Officer knows that it’s exponentially more expensive to replace churning customers with new customers, and will prioritize CS operations appropriately. They can’t afford otherwise.

Q: Would a CS Ops role typically have any customer contact or purely internal? Would they execute a renewal or just flag it to the CSM for them to execute?

A: CS ops roles should have good customer context, but focus on enabling the team, process, and technology. Keeping customers happy and guiding them to value is a lot of work! Working a renewal should be owned by the CSM, with CS operations guiding through dashboards, renewal process playbooks and managing risk indicators. 

Q: How embedded should CS Ops individuals be in the technology design and implementation process? Any examples would be great!

A: I’d go beyond embedded and say they should actually own technology strategy, design and implementation. Most CS operations teams are just a few people, at max - until you get into a certain revenue stage. The only way to scale the team is through technology, and a deep understanding of customer needs, customer journey, and CSM enablement are needed. 

Q: I report to the CRO (who used to be the VP of Sales), the Sales ops reports to him, does it make sense for the CS Ops to fall under them or the VP of CS?

A: This totally depends on the needs of your organization. When a CRO is involved, most companies I’ve seen have a VP of Customer Success who is focused on renewal and adoption. The CRO usually likes to have a centralized sales, revenue and CS ops function since that’s a separate and discrete need. It’s difficult to be a VP of Customer Success and also lead an operations function - so better for the CRO to own this and elevate it strategically. 

Q: What are the pros and cons of Best In Class CS systems vs. platform systems (combined system, e.g. Salesforce)?

A: Love this question! We’ve seen clients start with Salesforce for managing CS functions, have a ton of success, and stay there for a while. What they’re missing out on is the specific use cases, personas, and context that point solutions (e.g. ChurnZero) are focused on building for. While Salesforce is extremely customer and growth-focused, they don’t think about CS leaders every day as their primary buyer, and CSMs as their primary user. 

Q: How am I supposed to build a business case to justify a CS Ops role?  My boss would probably say...isn’t that what we pay our CSMs for?

A: First, you would say that you pay your CSMs to manage customer relationships, manage renewals and help drive growth opportunities. You do not pay your CSMs to design process, technology, structure, and talent strategy. Do we know any sales reps that are also responsible for sales enablement, territory and comp planning and training the team? Definitely not. To start a business case, start with assessing your CS organization. Create a blueprint of where you’d need to invest in CS, and CS ops, in order to achieve the retention, customer experience and growth goals you need. Working backward from an increase in revenue retention, or achievement of a growth goal, the business case should be a no brainer. 

Q: We have a project manager whose role I'd like to evolve into a CS Operations Manager, would you recommend we invest in training, or hire a Director of Ops that this person will report into?

A: I believe in giving growth opportunities like this to people that will obsess over learning the job. You can’t train intrinsic motivation. Be sure the person has a fundamental skillset around analytics, comfort level with data, technology prowess and a desire to improve the process. If that exists, evolve this person. At some stage, you may need a director, or even a VP, of CS operations. It depends on your growth and organizational maturity. 

Q: Do you have any tips for a more mature organization that's distributed many of the CS operations functions across multiple directors and leadership roles within the company? 

A: Create a Customer Strategy Team to assess the current state of your customer journey. Include these leaders, plus other cross-functional people. Drive consensus around reporting lines and org charts not being the reality of how work gets done and is far from the reality of how great customer experience is formed. The customer journey, and even doing a customer journey workshop, can really unite teams! 

Thanks for your questions, everyone!

Published September 20, 2019
About the Author

Jason Conrad is an Associate Partner responsible for overseeing Customer Imperative’s strategic consulting business, working closely with our consulting teams to ensure that our clients succeed at gaining, growing and retaining customers. See full bio ›

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