Best Practices for Sourcing Your Customer Success Team Internally

July 5, 2019

Irit Eizips

Guest Author

Blog post author Irit Eizips is an innovative, passionate customer success thought leader. As Founder and CEO of CSM Practice, she helps high-growth organizations shape and scale their teams to place customer success as a top priority. Irit has been in the customer success space for over 25 years and is an expert in accelerating customer success strategies. Here, she shares her unparalleled insight into how customer success leaders can look internally for new customer success team members. 

“One of the most common mistakes I see with companies who are deciding to expand their customer success team (or if they are building a new team from scratch)? Too often, they start by looking to existing support team managers or account managers and simply slap a CSM label on their role.”

There is always going to be a risk here because these people will enter their new role with the mindset of their own role. They’re going to bring their past experience with them into this new role. Unfortunately, many companies do this because it’s so easy. 

Step 1: Start With the End in Mind

The trick to avoiding this all-too-common mistake is to know exactly what you’re trying to accomplish as a customer success team before looking for new CSMs. What does the end goal look like? Once you have your goals outlined, then it’s time to fill the gaps in your strategy – not the other way around. 

One way to approach this is to consider what your customer success team as a whole is working towards. What are their top business priorities? What skills are needed for the various roles? This comes down to segmentation. Many times, customer success teams don’t segment their customers and instead hand out new customer accounts to CSMs based on their capacity. While this approach may be a short term fix, it will cause long-term issues. 

To be scalable and successful in the long term, you must segment your customers based on the type of engagement they’ll need from your team (aka high-touch, low-touch, etc.) and then align these customers to specific CSMs that are well-versed in that kind of engagement model.

Step 2: Segment Your Customers  

Segmenting your customers into engagement models starts with, of course, a grid. You can visually plot your customers based on the various points in the customer journey, such as on-boarding, major milestones, and renewals. Each of these stages has different skills that are required to reach the end goal, whether that’s completing training or closing an up-sell. Once you have these skills laid out, it’s time to create a customer success team that holistically has all of the variable skill sets necessary. 

Only very large enterprise organizations have the ability to dedicate an entire team to every single stage. Instead, growing teams can bring in personnel who specialize in certain areas – such as sales or analytics or marketing – so that there are subject-matter experts to go around. 

Three Most Common Types of Customer Engagement Models for Mid-Sized Organizations

In this article, we’ll deep-dive into three of the most common types of customer engagement models for mid-size organizations and discuss the various internal departments that customer success leaders can pull new CSMs from. 

Type #1 – Tech-Touch Accounts: Marketing

Tech-touch accounts encompass a variety of size customers and can be mid-touch or high-touch. Tech-touch accounts require resources, education, and plenty of opportunities to learn more about how to use the product and how to grow. For this reason, tech-touch accounts need someone with the skills and experience to create one-to-many programs, such as webinars, email campaigns, and more. This is why marketing professionals make such good tech-touch CSMs: they know how to manage a community, they understand the technology, and they have strong project management skills. 

Hiring Tip: Tech-touch CSMs should be resourceful, promotion-focused, and creative. They should be able to look at the health of customer accounts, identify the issues, and then execute a plan to solve these problems. Tech-touch accounts are at the base of the customer engagement pyramid because there is so much potential.

Type #2  – Mid-Touch Customers: Solution Consulting

Mid-touch accounts are customers who are experiencing a high level of growth and have the potential to grow with your product as well. While they’re more complex business-wise than low-touch accounts, they still don’t warrant the hands-on care of high-touch clients. 

Solution consultants are really successful as mid-touch CSMs because they know how to talk to customers, they understand the market space, and they can make customers realize the value of a product as it relates to their goals. While solution consultants might not have account management experience, they do have the tactical knowledge that is so important. Solution consultants can accurately showcase how a product can help achieve the goals of mid-touch customers while uncovering other areas of potential for up-sells. 

Hiring Tip: When you’re looking for mid-touch CSMs, look for people who can get the value of a product across to their audience quickly and efficiently while articulating how this value connects back to the business needs of a customer. 

Type #3 – High-Touch Customers: Sales

Customers that have a huge investment in your business and have significant up-sell value are considered high-touch customers. The growth potential and overall opportunity of these accounts are huge. CSMs in charge of these accounts must be able to work with the account owners across an organization to expand the relationship and maximize the opportunity. This is why salespeople work so well with high-touch customers: they’re well-versed in up-sells, can articulate complex business values back to a solution, and know how to outsource additional resources from other departments if they need it. 

Also under the high-touch customer umbrella are mega-accounts, which are white-glove, multi-million dollar accounts at enterprise organizations. These customers often require one or more FTEs assigned directly to the account or onsite. 

Hiring Tip: Mega-account CSMs act as more of a consultant to their customers, which makes professional services a good fit here along with sales. They need to be able to talk to the customer as a peer, so looking for past system admins or users is also a good idea. 

Growing towards engagement

While having the resources to handpick your CSM team from your internal departments is ideal, scaling and growing companies might not have the size or resources available to make this a reality. In this case, it’s okay to look at CSM skills not from an engagement perspective but from a business perspective. For example, you could hire someone to be over on-boarding with a professional services or superuser background, someone to be over customer adoption with a marketing background to grow accounts, and then someone to be over renewals from the sales side. 

Once you have this team built from the ground-up and have employees with different skills and background, they can help build playbooks and share their knowledge. Building a well-rounded customer success team from the inside can be easy, regardless of size, if you know where to start.

You can learn more about Customer Success hiring best practices by requesting a quick demo of the ClientSuccess platform or by checking out some of these educational resources:

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