Customer Success Organizational Design


Customer Success Organizational Design

Consistent with my philosophy on Customer Success, I believe a company should take a customer-centric approach in designing the optimal organization structure.


That is, they should first know what customers need in order to be successful with the product and then design the organization and its roles accordingly.


Too often business modelling starts the other way around.


Organization charts are drawn up first, role responsibilities are then outlined, and finally the playbook and metrics are defined.


The problem with this is that the customer perspective is not considered until execution, when the organization is forced to reactively respond to customer needs that were otherwise neglected in the design of the business model.


How can an organization know how to operate if it does not understand what customers need to be successful?


Know Thy Customer


Only after a true understanding of what customers require for success, can a company be in a position to setup the organizational structure that best aligns to customer needs.


Companies can follow this straightforward, 3-step process to accomplish this first:

  1. Map out your customer journey: know what the customer’s journey with your product, in their corporate environment, with their business objectives in mind is.

  2. Define the playbook (i.e. set of plays): that the company will need to execute to support that customer journey and experience.

  3. Define the metrics that will be used to measure customer progress through the journey.


Once a company is clear on customer requirements to achieve success - it knows what activities and roles are appropriate to service those needs - then it is in the best position to design the most appropriate organizational structure to support that customer journey.


World-Leading Customer Success Design


In designing the correct organizational structure, executives will want to consider including the following key functional elements appropriately within the company (driving customer success is a company-wide responsibility, not the sole duty of Customer Success) in order to effectively drive customer success in the most efficient, sustainable and scalable manner:

  • Leadership: Chief Customer Officer, VP or Director of CS to head up the organization

  • Customer Success/AM: to manage customer relationships (success and/or commercial)

  • SME expertise: deep expertise in the subject matter that your product sells into (this is especially important if your product is complex in which case customer management may be split up into a commercial and adoption component, the latter of which is handled by this SME expert as the CSM), either pooled or dedicated resources

  • Services: Implementation Services for onboarding and (paid for) Professional Services for bespoke or custom engagements 

  • Education: to develop programs that facilitate product adoption and expanded usage

  • Support: Standard to answer queue of one-off product inquires, Premier to engage more regularly and consistently (i.e. dedicated representative) with customer accounts regarding their product strategy and inquiries

  • Interface to Product: aggregate customer concerns/issues with product to directly impact and influence product roadmap direction for improved customer adoption and support

  • Solution engineering: post-sales equivalent to offer product application overviews but from a deeper, execution stand-point; removing drag on support for harder-to-solve technical issues

  • Customer Enablement: develops and manages customer community, events, NPS and advocates program, knowledge base (and education if this department is combined)

  • Customer Marketing / Communications: customer communications at scale to virtually help with product adoption and nurture expansion; key for tech- and low-touch models and to scale the organization

  • Operations: responsible for post-sales revenue management and program development; oversee CS finances, manage tools, run reports, monitor/review customer funnel (journey progress), drive continuous improvement of playbook to improve customer adoption velocity and ongoing usage

  • Data science/analysts: review data, look at customer health and customer funnel (journey) metrics, understand trends, recommend changes to playbook, identify at-risk accounts


Where the functional boxes and people fit within an organization chart is very specific to the company itself and is fairly straightforward to determine after the customer-centric business model is created.


Bottom Line


To create the most effective, sustainable and scalable organization structure a company must first understand what its customers require in order to achieve success with the product.


To do this, companies will want to map out their customer journey and define the corresponding playbook and metrics.


Armed with the insight as to what customers need, executives can then create and align the organization structure to those needs accordingly for the most effective model that drives customer success.

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