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Customer Success Department Scaled

How to build a great SaaS customer success department

In this blog, we’re going to explore how you can build and staff your B2B SaaS customer success department in the best way.

Most Nordic B2B SaaS companies know that customer success is critical to long-term growth. But few are truly great at it.

That’s understandable – it’s a relatively recent discipline. Not too long ago, building incredible software was enough to win. The good news is that whatever your maturity, customer success is a huge opportunity to deepen your relationships and upsell and cross-sell to your existing customer base.

Let’s dive in.

Define your SaaS customer success department

While the fundamentals of customer success are universal, not all customer success departments are the same (nor should they be). Start by asking why you’re building this department. The answer will reveal the type of customer success department you’re looking to establish. For example, if you’re building this department because you have a high churn rate, a support-leaning approach is best. If you have high retention but are not hitting upsell and cross-sell goals, you might want a more sales-driven department.

Draw up your ideal scenario

When you’re starting out, draw up your ideal scenario of where you want the department to be in three years’ time. If you have the resources to make that happen now – great! If not, distill it into its core elements and hire to cover those. Your department can grow overtime towards your ideal.

Hire for mindset

A good customer success persona has a “farmer” mindset – but don’t forget they’ll also need to close deals and hit targets. Set KPIs for upsell and cross-sell. Striking this balance is especially important when you have a small department, as each team member will cover a range of responsibilities.

Map out how you’re going to do it

It’s important you map out the responsibilities you’ll need to cover before you rush into hiring. Make sure it includes an extremely clear division of responsibilities between the sales team and customer success team, e.g. who is responsible for upsell/cross-sell. Ensure that this culture of transparency and accountability permeates the entire organisation — and don’t let sales think their job is finished once the implementation phase is underway or you can be left with a big accountability gap.

Build it the right way

If you’re building a SaaS customer department from the ground up, start with generalists who can handle all elements of customer success. Key skills needed: domain expertise, multitasking, and shared job experiences for the customers they’re serving.

As your customer success department develops, you’ll need to get even more targeted on how you cover each step of the process. That means ensuring you’re getting the most out of your team’s skillsets by making their roles focused across three key areas:

  • Implementation/onboarding/professional services

What: Ensure customers actually use your software after signing.

Why: Customers are required to change their behavior when they use your software – an often underestimated consideration. Strong adoption is vital to ensure your product actually gets its foot in the door and has staying power.

Who: Project managers, integration architects (if appropriate), and end-user training folks.

  • Technical support

What: Act as your customers’ point of contact via email, chat or calls. Deal with feature or product function issues and contribute to learning resources.

Why: Strong customer support channels and an effective ticketing system improve customer loyalty. Learning resources also increase internal efficiency and customer self-support outcomes.

Who: Dedicated support teams, product managers, and engineers.

  • Customer success management

What: Drive retention and renewals. Work proactively with customers after go-live to ensure they continue to use the product, help customers understand new features, and guide them towards desired outcomes.

Why: The SaaS business model relies on retention and renewals. This team develops customer intimacy which helps identify upsell opportunities alongside.

Who: Dedicated customer success teams (lead by customer success manager), account executives, sales.

Create a customer health score

This is a metric used to assess your customer’s satisfaction level: are they a churn risk? Or prime for up-sell?

The score includes everything from anecdotal feedback on individual customer interactions, through to specific usage metrics and log-in rates can be used as input.  The score should also link to action. E.g. if a customer drops below your minimum threshold, it should trigger a response soon enough to have a chance of retaining them.

Learn more on customer success metrics in one of our blog posts.

If you want to get the full lowdown on Customer Success (including a checklist of the metrics you need to measure it effectively) we strongly recommend reading our field guide to customer success for SaaS companies.