The Anatomy of Customer Success: Team Structure, Metrics, and Goals

Customer success has come a long way in a short amount of time. Just a few years ago, many companies were still focused on reactive customer support, but now, thanks in part to the continued rise of SaaS, proactive customer success is a well-established top priority, and it’s become increasingly rare to find a SaaS company without a dedicated customer success leader or team.

That said, customer success is also still a new field that is rapidly evolving. There are a lot of questions around what exactly it should include, what metrics should be used to track its impact, and how it should be structured within an organization.

To help answer those questions, we had the opportunity to interview Boaz Maor, VP Customer Success at Mashery (disclosure: an OpenView portfolio company acquired by Intel). Since founding Mashery’s Customer Success team Maor has grown it to over 60 professionals, instilling a customer-centric culture within the organization and reducing the company’s churn rate to under 0.9% (the industry best practice is considered to be 1.6%) along the way.

For insight into how Baor has organized his team and optimized its performance, watch the videos and see the transcripts below:

“If the customer gets [exactly] what the sales team sold…then you don’t need a customer success team. Everything works, and life is beautiful. The reality is that there is always some work that needs to be done to help the customer maximize the value, and that’s where we come in.”

Tips on Customer Success Team Structure

“Customer success at Mashery is responsible for everything that happens with the customers once they become customers,” Maor explains. “Sales bring them in, we take over.”

“Essentially, we are all about making the customer successful, which is a fundamental, primary objective for the entire team — help the customer maximize the value of whatever it is they acquired from us.”

If that happens, then there are two things Maor and his team want to do on top of that:

  1. Monetize on it: maximize the value we can get monetarily from that.
  2. Capture or maximize the non-monetary value from the customer engagement: These can be things like references, referrals, case studies, etc.

To achieve those things, Maor has divided his group up into three distinct teams:

  • Professional Services: Responsibilities include developing projects, initial implementation, and any kind of add-on afterwards. In Mashery’s case this team is global, and therefore structured regionally to support customers that they’re close to.
  • Technical Support: Maintains the stability or the ability of the software’s performance — basically, all the technical relations between Mashery and its customers on an ongoing basis. For Mashery, this team is divided into a fairly traditional structure by levels of support — tier one, tier two, tier three, etc.
  • Customer Program Success Management: Maintains the business relations between Mashery and its customers. This team is structured with the objective of enabling about 20 customers for every Customer Program Success Manager. That ratio was found to be the right number for Mashery’s high-touch model.

To launch the Customer Program Success Managment team, Maor explains that they started by selecting the most customer-centric people they could find regardless of what department they were in. As the company grew, the team evolved into a more vertically oriented, industry-specific organizational structure (ex: media, health care, travel, retail, information management, technology, etc.), and the focus shifted to hiring people with lots of expertise in those sectors.

“The more you know about your customers, the better you can serve them,” Maor says.

Tips on Customer Success Metrics & Goals

For Maor, the importance of closely monitoring and measuring results can’t be overstated. “We’re very metrics-driven,” he says. “I believe if you can’t measure it, it’s not worth doing.”

Essentially, Maor’s teams have four fundamental goals they are tracking:

  1. The value for the customer: Metrics include the time it takes for successful implementation and growth of the program for the customer, whether the customer is capturing and maximizing value or not.
  2. The value for the company: This means breaking down the commercial value of customer service via metrics like monthly recurring revenue (MRR), bookings, referrals and references, etc.
  3. The value for other teams: Quantifying how the Customer Success organization helps the product team, the sales team, the marketing team, etc. “This is important because the Customer Success team maintains the interface with the customer, which is so valuable to so many other teams,” Maor explains. “It only makes sense that we don’t only measure our own goals, but also how we help other teams to achieve and deliver value with a customer.”
  4. Practice improvement: In addition, Maor also believes it’s important to encourage continuous, rapid improvement. “We want to make sure that on an every day, every week, every month basis we not only do things, we also invest in our people, invest in our process, and improve the way we do what we do,” he says. “So we have a set of criteria we look to and initiatives for improvement and training for our people.”

Setting up goals through a customer success team to a large extent depends on your business. So there’s no one-size-fits-all. But there are some categories that are generally the same:

  • You want to measure the value the customer gets from your solution.
  • You want to measure the monetary value you get from your solution.
  • You want to measure the non-monetary value you get from the solution and the customer.

Maor also believes there is one additional important thing to keep in mind when establishing goals and metrics to track: striking a balance between leading and lagging indicators.

“Revenue is a lagging indicator. It’s perfect to tell you what happened last quarter — it tells you nothing about what’s going to happen the next quarter. So when we look at our success criteria in every group we make sure that we have the right mixture of leading and lagging indicators,” Maor explains. “We structure goals on an ongoing basis, quarter after quarter, so people don’t just look at what happens today. They look to the horizon for the long term and can plan ahead.”

Tips on Cross-Team Alignment

Since customer success typically owns the post-sale customer relationship, it often serves as the central intersection or point of contact between each customer and all the other departments within the company. That makes cross-team alignment a key priority.

For Maor, the most crucial intersection is with sales on side and engineering on the other.

“Of all the interfaces we have as a customer success team, that one is the most important one,” he says. “Because we sit between what sales sells the customer and what the product enables. In between is us. If everything is exactly the same, then you don’t need a customer success team. The customer gets what the sales team sold. Everything works, and life is beautiful. The reality is that there is always some work that needs to be done to help the customer maximize the value, and that’s where we come in.”

To maintain those interfaces between the teams, Maor organized weekly calls and reviews of pipeline as well as monthly calls to review the product roadmap, what support cases are in the system and how much time it takes to resolve them, etc. It’s admittedly a lot of effort, but the result is a cohesive front and a productive feedback loop that helps ensure the company is constantly improving and providing the best service it can for its customers.

Photo by: Steve Corey

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