Customer Success Team Setups: Pros & Cons

Burke Alder

Customer Success Strategist

customer-success-team-setups-best-practices

In the previous post we explored the 4 types of customer engagement models. We covered a high touch onboarding approach to a low touch post onboarding approach and three other engagement models to drive customer success and a positive customer experience.

As you segment your customer account base by size, revenue, and vertical—you’ll also need to put in place various combinations of the customer engagement models. The variations will depend on the revenue size of each segment or vertical.

After you’ve determined the right onboarding and post onboarding engagement model for your segments or verticals, it’s time to evaluate how your customer success team should be set up to execute these engagement model strategies with efficiency and success.

7 Popular Customer Success Team Structures

While there are countless different ways to organize a customer success team, we’ve curated a list of some of the most popular ways to structure a CSM team, including pros and cons for each.

1. Sales to Implementation to Customer Success

In this scenario, a member of the sales team works through the sales cycle with the prospective customer until a contract is signed. Once the contract is signed, the sales team member hands off the customer account to an implementation team who works with the customer to ensure all systems are integrated, configured, and tailored to achieve goals. In this scenario, the implementation team owns the account for 90 days (or less depending on your implementation strategy) to ensure there are no issues, and then hands off to a CSM who manages the customer going forward and closes the renewal.

  • Pros: Allows each team to excel in their particular area of focus and “own” the success or failure of a certain aspect of the customer journey
  • Cons: Usually unnecessary for small or mid-market level deals and can be confusing if there are too many handoffs involved

2. Sales to Implementation to Customer Success to Sales

In this customer success team setup, there are multiple teams involved in the process. First, the sales team works with the prospective customer to close the deal. Then, the sales team member hands the newly won customer to an implementation team member who ensures all systems are integrated and sets the product up for success, working through all of the technical aspects. After implementation, a CSM then takes over the account and works with the company to train and educate on the various areas and components of the product. However, rather than the CSM closing the renewal and managing the upsell, that is conducted by a sales team member.

  • Pros: Allows your customer success team to be seen as a trusted advisor, focused on adoption, value realization, and ROI
  • Cons: Depending on comp structure and quota alignment, sales teams can focus more on current customer book of business then driving new business.

3. Sales to Customer Success (Immediate handoff)

In this plain and simple example, the sales team works through the sales cycle with the prospective customer and once the contract is won, a CSM team member does all of the onboarding and also manages the account going forward, including managing renewals and upsells.

  • Pros: Very streamlined process that is ideal for small or medium-sized customers; allows sales to focus on selling new business and the CSM to focus on growing the existing base; very clear cut in terms of goals and metrics for success
  • Cons: Not ideal for large and complex enterprise deals as the CSM would have a very difficult time also conducting implementation while focusing on other customer accounts

4. Sales to Implementation to Customer Success to Account Management

There are multiple teams involved in the process. First, the sales team works with the prospective customer to close the deal. Then, the sales team member hands the newly won customer to an implementation team member who ensures implementation success. After implementation, a CSM then takes over the account and works with the company to train and educate on the various areas and components of the product. However, rather than the CSM closing the renewal and managing the upsell, that is conducted by an account manager team member.

  • Pros: Gives each team finite goals and responsibilities; can be beneficial for large, complex enterprise customers.
  • Cons: Many moving parts and multiple points of contacts can be very confusing to the end customer; in addition, with so many involved in the process, there is a greater chance of oversight

5. Sales to Implementation to Sales

For this team setup, the sales team also works through the sales cycle with the prospective customer and ensures that the customer is set for success. Once the contract is signed, the sales team hands the account over to implementation who works with the customer to ensure all systems are integrated and that the product is setup for success. Rather than moving from implementation to a CSM, the customer is again managed by the sales team member who will close the renewal and work with the customer to grow the account.

  • Pros: Very few team members involved makes for a straightforward game plan; this scenario can be ideal for small or medium-sized customers
  • Cons: Takes focus away from sales so they are not only responsible for winning new business, but growing existing customers; can lead to mediocre performance on both sides

6. Sales to Customer Success (Year 1 handoff)

In this scenario, the sales team works through the sales cycle with the prospective customer, but rather than handing over the deal to a CSM immediately, the sales team owns the account for up to a year to ensure that the customer sees success in the products and/or services that they purchased. After year 1 concludes, the CSM owns the account and is responsible for growth of the customer as well as closing renewals and upsells.

  • Pros: Ensures that sales sells exactly what the customer needs, and not more or less; since the sales team is responsible for year one, it ensures a level of care that may not always be present otherwise since he or she has to handle the customer onboarding and questions throughout the first year
  • Cons: Takes focus away from selling; the CSM also comes in later, so they are unaware of any potential issues that the customer may have experienced in year one; can create issues when transitioning the account so late

7. Sales + Customer Success (Co-manage)

In this scenario, the sales team member manages the sales cycle with the prospective customer, but the CSM is introduced early on in the sales cycle and helps the sales rep to co-manage the sale, as well throughout year one. After the first year concludes, the CSM handles the customer account going forward, also closing renewals and upsells.

  • Pros: Both are responsible for the success (or failure) of the customer account and can tag-team to ensure the customer always has a point of contact; both parties work through the implementation process in tandem
  • Cons: Proves difficult when looking at metrics and determining which individual accounted for the success (or failure) of the customer; one individual may end up doing significantly more work than the other

How does your organization manage your customer engagement model, as well as your team handoff process? What lessons have you learned over the years, and how have you had to scale and change your practices to evolve with your customers?

Check out our resources below for more customer success best practices and insights for how your organization can build strong customer relationships:

eBooks:

5 Ways to Surprise & Delight Your Customers

3 Steps to Putting Customers First

Customer Success Leaders Share Best Practices

Blog Posts:

4 Personalities of Great CSMs

6 Listening Techniques of Great Customer Success Leaders

4 Customer Success Engagement Models

Learn more about how ClientSuccess can help your company develop a strong customer success methodology and strategy with easy-to-use customer success software by requesting a 30-minute demo.

New posts each Tuesday and Thursday.

Customer success best practices delivered to your inbox.

Also worth reading

Customer Success Webinar: How to Nail Onboarding and Adoption - Learn 3 Fresh Perspectives from Peers Like You

This customer success best practices webinar hosted by ClientSuccess will share with you three fresh perspectives on customer onboarding and adoption. Join three exceptional customer success leaders: Erica Newell from Marketware, McKayl Bergman from Lucid Software, and Sam Feil from ClientSuccess, as they present best practices to succeed with customer onboarding and adoption. This customer [...]

Burke Alder

Customer Success Strategist

CSM from the Trenches: Mentors – McKayl Bergman; Head of Lucidpress Customer Success

For those just joining our blog series CSM from the Trenches, welcome. This series, now a community for frontline Customer Success Managers (CSMs), discusses trends, best practices, and advice that can help the frontline. Being on the CSM frontline allows us to directly influence the success of our clients. I love that; as our clients [...]

Sam Feil

Customer Success Manager

A Customer Success Conversation with CS Veteran Mark Pecoraro

At ClientSuccess, we value candid conversations with Customer Success leaders that have unique experiences and varying viewpoints on the world of Customer Success. This week, we’ll showcase one such conversation with expert Mark Pecoraro, advisor to many B2B SaaS companies all of which have cultures of Customer Success. What led Mark into Customer Success? Since [...]

Burke Alder

Customer Success Strategist