How to Create & Scale a Global CS Team


Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel

The Toronto Customer Success Executive Breakfast is a forum whereby local industry leaders get together over breakfast to discuss the still young and rapidly evolving field of Customer Success.


Organized by DesiredPath, senior executives in the field of Customer Success are invited to share their knowledge and expertise amongst their peer group in an intimate and highly interactive setting.


The breakfast is an opportunity for these leaders in Customer Success to convene, exchange ideas and further define industry best practices.


How to create and grow a global Customer Success team is something executives often grapple with, especially when their companies are growing rapidly due to mergers and acquisitions.


What should the structure of a Global Customer Success team look like when companies with different products and/or services merge?


How does the company continue to invest in its Customer Success Managers (CSMs) to ensure they are properly enabled to handle the new business environment that occurs as a result of a merger?


This was the topic of discussion at the most recent Toronto Customer Success Executive breakfast hosted by DesiredPath and held at the offices of eCompliance.


Star Hofer, VP of Customer Success at eCompliance moderated the group through a very engaged discussion on the topic with the participating executives sharing how their companies are tackling this specific challenge in various ways.


How to Structure Customer Success & Invest in its Development?


The scenario the group noodled over is as follows: a newly acquired company is merged within the larger company ecosystem made of up four different business units. Each business unit has their own software offering but some units are more service oriented than technology focused. The software offerings are complimentary and the business units service all verticals. Some customer contacts overlap but the majority do not. Contracts for each unit are unique, and the CRM data resides in four different systems. How then should Customer Success be structured globally across the business units?


Examples of what various companies did in similar acquisition scenarios were shared amongst the group with the following key themes emerging:


· Review the Go-to-Market Model: with acquisitions comes the need to review the company’s go-to-market approach. The company obviously executed the acquisition to expand upon its go-to-market strategy. Therefore, ensuring that the roles and responsibilities of Sales vs Customer Success are examined in the context of the new strategy is key to help clarify (re-validate) what customers need to derive value from the products and services, and how functions should be organized accordingly.


· “Captain” CSM / Key Account Manager: mergers of companies completed to create a suite of products and services typically means that common customers across the merged companies will not be from the same department or even region. This makes managing a customer account increasingly complex. Assigning a Key Account Manager (KAM) or “Captain” CSM that oversees the entire account and works with the sub-teams managing the various individual sub-accounts is a way to bring some unity and consistency on the account and ensure that the sub-teams are coordinated respectively.


· Account Coverage Model with varying roles: creating senior and junior roles to help support multi-functional, multi-regional teams is also a solution a few members of the group have tried. Senior roles can be used to manage the various teams on a customer account while junior roles can be assigned to sub-accounts and focused on specific responsibilities. This allows for a diverse set of resources to support the account while tying the account strategy together at the senior level.


· Cross-pollinate CSMs wanting to learn about the various products: one company decided to initially let each account team work their accounts as done prior to the merger. Before trying to combine the teams to one, overall account team, they cross-pollinated CSMs onto different accounts to first learn about the other products. This allowed the company to enable more resources across their product portfolio making it easier to consolidate the teams thereafter.


· Develop self-service tools: one challenge that occurs when product and services companies merge is that the service oriented companies may tend to over service customers as compared to their product counterparts. Another idea that helped a newly expanded company evolve over to a SaaS appropriate, service model was to develop self-service tools to augment the customer’s experience and help them adopt in a less labour-intensive manner.


· Competency / Skills Matrix: developing and using a skills matrix specifically for Customer Success is hugely beneficial in aligning the CSM responsibilities to the company’s strategy. Members of the group felt this was an effective way to not only develop their CSMs but also provide them with professional growth opportunities as well.


· Use Customer Journey Map to clarify value delivery: another challenge for CSMs within newly merged companies is knowing what overall value they need to drive for the customer. Mapping out or revising a customer journey map is a powerful way to reassert the value proposition and break-down the subsequent activities the CSM should be executing to support that customer journey framework.


· Customers as the Subject Matter Expert (SME): a clever tactic one company employs in updating the knowledge of CSMs is to bring their customers in to help educate their CSMs in the subject matter they are selling into.


Bottom Line: Be Clear on What Value Customer Success is Driving


There are many ways to structure a global Customer Success team and to continue investing in its development.


Ultimately the best way in guiding the decision of how to structure Customer Success is by understanding the customer’s journey to successful adoption and usage of the products and services and then intelligently aligning the organization accordingly.



If you are responsible for the Customer Success strategy at your company and are interested in joining the group, please contact me at kia@thedesiredpath.com.

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