This week we’re featuring a Q&A with three CS leaders, all who are in or are leading CS Ops teams. CS Operations is an up-and-coming role, so here are some tips and advice from Lea, Jeff, and Matt on how to approach building out this function.
What are some signs that it's time to hire CS Ops?
“Hiring for CS ops should be done early on in the process of building a team. Many teams lead with people resources to reach out to the largest customers, but with a CS Ops team you can leverage your tech stack to reach out to many more customers and drive success with those customers with minimal human resources. The CS Ops team is also able to help show the impact that your CS org is making with its customers which is always useful to help with funding and getting additional budget.”
“Ultimately it comes down to scalability. We started building out our CS Ops function when we noticed a few dynamics happening in the team:
- The team was nearly maxed out in terms of bandwidth. They needed enablement help, and there wasn’t anyone responsible for transferring best practices across the team.
- We started building out more of a tech-touch model, and needed resources to help manage those programs and campaigns.
- And we got to a point where we couldn’t manage our reporting in excel anymore, and couldn’t rely on PowerPoint and Google Slides to organize and share all our decks. We needed help switching to a more formalized system.
“Those were all things we felt that encouraged us to invest in building a CS Ops function. Now that we’ve experienced what it’s like to have this function embedded in Customer Success, I can say that CS Ops is the glue for the Customer Success team. They’re focused on making sure we can scale both our team and our customer experience, and they’re helping make everyone’s life easier.”
How is your Ops team structured, and what is the team responsible for?
“Customer Success Operations reports to the VP of Customer Success, and works alongside the Director of Customer Success as well as our Account Management Team Leads. When I first joined Quorum, the directive was ‘we want to scale our customer success team.’ Part of the project was figuring out what the role of CS Ops was in manifesting that.
“To scale, you need efficient processes; to develop efficient processes, you need good data; to get good data, you have to build the system that delivers it to you. It’s very hard to have one of those functions without the other — for example, it’s difficult to productively analyze data without having a part in selecting the data that’s available. CS Ops bundles those three functions: systems integration, business analytics, and process improvement.”
“The CS Ops team should be responsible for reporting on the CS Organization’s metrics. They should drive the tech stack decisions and make sure that there’s consistency across the team in terms of tools and practices. I also feel that the CS Ops team should be in charge of the content that’s sent out, so an embedded marketing communications resource is very useful to have on the team.”
What skill sets, experience, or traits are important to excel in this role?
“When hiring for CS Ops, the first aptitude I would look for is empathy. By definition, as a full-time CS ops professional, you are usually trying to solve problems that you’re at least one degree removed from. Empathy is the quickest way to overcome that information asymmetry.
“The second aptitude is an ability to hack software workflows. This is an underrated skill in the year 2020, when every business is utilizing 10+ software tools, usually at least somewhat inefficiently. As an Ops Manager, when you figure out which team processes you should improve or design, you then have to manifest the ideal solution in tools you likely did not purpose-build from scratch for this endeavor. There are always going to be deliverables, be it a process or a report or a dashboard, that you cannot easily produce given the constraints of the tools you have at your disposal (ex., Salesforce, ChurnZero). Can you get creative with what a software gives you?
“Beyond that, I am a big believer that skills can almost always be developed on the job. I was a liberal arts major; as a CS Ops professional I spent 50-70% of my time building models and analyzing data.
“The skill sets and focus of an Ops function will depend on your business model — if your company serves tech-touch and medium-touch market segments, where you have tens of thousands of customers, you’re going to need Ops people that are good at analyzing a lot of data to see where process improvements can be made. If you’re serving enterprise customers, that skill set is less important. You might need someone that’s good at listening to customer calls and identifying points of friction, creating onboarding plans, and transferring that knowledge across the team.
“No matter the business model, I’d say the ability to wire up and manage Customer Success software is necessary, and the ability to report on metrics is critical too. Other than that, having experience running drip campaigns and email nurtures, or building out training programs, are all bonuses when hiring in CS Ops.”
Any resources, courses, or tips that you'd recommend to help CS Ops professionals ramp up in their roles?
“My first tip is that if you are already working in Customer Success, there are always problems that you can start solving right away. A big one that is usually present at midsize companies is that customer information can and should be a virtuous feedback loop that improves all parts of a business, and CS ops can be the role that leads that information-sharing. A valuable task for those who want to ramp into the role is to figure out how to do this without even having the title. What information does sales, product, and finance want to know about your customers that customer success knows? How can you get them that information, such that it will improve their ability to make decisions?
“Secondly, from a capabilities standpoint, build the skills so that you can successfully liaise between sales, sales ops, finance, and product. Learn about SaaS financial metrics, basic data science tactics, and (probably the single most important business skill I have ever learned) the FILTER command in google sheets. Learn how to use your company CRM very well — take a few Salesforce classes, if that is helpful.
“That all said, CS Ops is a brand new business function. My advice to new Ops Managers is: make your own toolkit. Ask yourself what your team really needs to know and do, and build the tools that will help you answer those questions.”
Top resources this week:
This week's newsletter features posts on:
- Speak the Language of the CFO When Setting 2021 Budget
- Debugging Distributed Teamwork
- A Success Planning Framework
- Okta's CEO on What Goes Into Making Decisions
Speak the Language of the CFO When Setting 2021 Budget
Why does Customer Success always get its budget slashed compared to other teams? It’s time to flip the script and make the case for investing more heavily in CS. For this article, we interviewed and collaborated with a handful of CFOs and CS leaders to cover 1. What the CFO wants to hear from CS, 2. How to quantitatively show how increasing budget will increase efficiency, and 3. How to handle common “steering” questions CFOs will ask.
How to Debug Distributed Teamwork, As Suggested by New Research
Atlassian’s Head of Research & Insights, Leisa Reichelt, shares a list of insights from their study on how people have been affected by the sudden shift to working from home. The graphic on that illustrates why people are experiencing remote work differently due to their “household complexity,” “role complexity,” and “network quality” was especially insightful.
A Success Planning Framework
Here’s a framework by CS Leaders Irit Eizips and Disha Gosalia that’s used to scale Success Plans.
Okta's CEO on What Goes Into Making Decisions
“Before I was a CEO, I made decisions faster. But now, I have the final call so I find myself pondering things more.” Here, Todd McKinnon breaks down his decision making process into a few elements.
Success Happy Hour is a weekly newsletter for Customer Success leaders. Each week we feature one digestible piece of advice or a framework from top Success leaders, plus four of the best resources from that week. Subscribe here.