The Ultimate Guide to Building A Customer Success Team That Drives Revenue

customer success can drive revenue

The best investment you can make right now is in customer success. Revenue will follow but you have to do it right, this guide will show you how.

Bleep. Bloop. Sha-whoop! Ah, the sounds of customer success.

Notifications have a way of piling up but not all are created equally. Those that come from your customers could have a massive impact on your business’ revenue. 

So, how can you continue to grow your business if all you’re doing is maintaining the business and customers you currently have. It’s a problem that many companies have only “14% of marketers say that customer-centricity is a hallmark of their companies, and only 11% believe their customers would agree with that characterization,” says CMO Council.

The right customer success team will not only help you put out more fires and make more sales but take a proactive approach to ensure your customers are successful, earning you more recognition via word of mouth, bigger and better deals, and valuable customer insights. 

After all, when you take a look at the companies that are winning today it’s because they’re’ all-in on the success of their customers and ensuring customer retention is the primary focus of all teams.

To be clear, we’re talking about customer success here. It’s that next-level of customer interaction that goes above providing the expected level of support. It’s a competitive space to be sure because your company is often being compared to companies that have 2-day shipping and machine-learning recommendation algorithms. 

When you realize that you’re actually competing on the experience you provide it can radically change your business for the better. 

At SalesReach we made the commitment early on to give our customers priority attention, solid service, and even include them on our company roadmap to share in our vision. As we grow we’ll need to build a world-class customer success team. So, we’ve done a lot of research and talked to really smart people about what it takes. 

We also believe that all things need to tie back to driving revenue so our goal with this guide was to give managers the keys to unlocking a revenue engine through customer success. 

To ensure your customers don’t leave you for your competition here are the keys to building a customer success team that can drive revenue.

The keys to a revenue-driving customer success team:

  • Start with hiring the right talent 
  • Consider your management structure
  • Implement the correct metrics
  • Create a culture of customer success
  • Define when to automate and when to personalize
  • Extend outwards into a revenue team

Hire as if you were your customer

Customer success reps are not sales reps but they can drive revenue. 

To find the perfect customer success rep you should approach hiring from the perspective of your customer. 

“How customers feel when they interact with an employee determines how they feel about the company itself. “ – Daniel Goleman, author of Working with Emotional Intelligence

Surely your industry has certain practices and shared knowledge that can give your reps a boost in winning the trust and going above and beyond. You’ll need to get a list of those and put them in the ‘nice-to-have’ section of your criteria. 

There are a handful of excellent qualities in a customer success representative. 

To ensure your customers don’t leave you for your competition your team needs to be handpicked and carefully evaluated for. 

The goal of a customer success rep should be to ensure your customers continue to see value throughout their continued partnership with your company. We’ve saved you some trouble and picked out our top characteristics of a great customer success rep. 

Top qualities of a great customer success representative

  • Empathetic
  • High emotional intelligence
  • An unshakeable positive attitude
  • Adaptable and great at multitasking 
  • Passion for helping people

You may also want to consider this great list of customer success skills

You will never see this information listed on resumes. Instead, you will need to be proactive in getting this information. You may ask that instead of submitting a cover letter that the applicant shares a story about a recent customer problem they helped solve and why they want to be a customer success representative. 

Before you hire reps you might want to hire a manager with experience who can take the lead on selecting the right team. 

Create the right management structure

As with the rise of the CMO the future of customer success is coming for the C-suite. 

Research by LinkedIn put ‘customer success manager’ third on their list of the fastest-growing jobs with 91% year-on-year growth.

It’s a big job. They do everything necessary to ensure clients are getting full value from a product or service. They bridge the gap between support with sales and marketing, and they’re available at every stage of the buyer’s journey. 

“The CSM is responsible for ensuring customers get the value they are 100% concerned with customer value,” says Ben Rigby, founder of Sparked.com and now VP of Product at TalkDesk.

SalesHacker has a list of comprehensive qualities for a great customer success manager and you should check it out. Here’s our take below. 

Top qualities of a great Customer Success Manager (CSM) 

  • High emotional intelligence. This is the top of the list for many organizations. It’s a must-have for any salesperson, and it’s a must-have for anyone who’s responsibility will be to help different people solve the same problems.
  • Sales experience or experience working closely with salespeople.  A CSM needs to be a bridge-builder and that first bridge should be with sales because the success of the customer does depend on how they became a customer. Furthermore, CSMs can help salespeople sell better through insights uncovered in the service department.
  • A project management pro. Though providing the maximum level of customer service is the goal, it’s not always possible. CSMs need to think like a manager of a hospital and triage requests as they come in while also finding efficiencies and insights.
  • Passion for improving systems. CSMs need to find the sweet spot between giving customers a great experience and keeping reps efficient. Some things can be automated, some things cannot. They need to think about the big picture and ask of the organization how things could be improved. 
  • Collaborative and cross-functional. Marketing and Sales teams can benefit greatly from insights gathered from a quarter’s worth of talking with customers on the frontlines. Value proposition, product demos, and features can all be improved through a CSMs insight. 
  • Experience leading teams. CSMs must effectively delegate responsibilities and keep morale high during periods of increased workload like the launch of a new service offering or product updates.
  • Bonus: Proven Efficacy Saleshacker suggests a take-home skills test to see how a potential CSM would handle a scenario your company knows well.

Implement metrics to measure customer success

Your customer success team should be goal-driven. Your CSM should be held accountable for these goals. 

There are two main focus areas for CSMs and there are two groupings of metrics on either side. Depending on what your business needs you may choose to have your CSM focus on a particular set of metrics or give more attention to others.

Traditionally, CSMs work with support as well as sales. 

Areas of focus  for CSMs when working with support: 

  • Onboarding
  • Adoption
  • Retention and overall satisfaction

Areas of focus for CSMs when working with sales: 

  • Renewals
  • Cross-sells
  • Upsells

Because these functions are interrelated a CSMs role is cross-functional but they should be focused on ensuring the customer continues to see the value over time and that those who are seeing value are also spending money with your business.  

Each area of focus has its own KPI and goal but generally, the CSM should be primarily concerned with measuring the value your customers are getting from your business with two key metrics. 

The most important metrics to a Customer Success Manager (CSM)

  • Customer retention rate
  • Customer support satisfaction

Additional Customer Success Manager’s metrics

  • Customer Lifetime Value (LTV)
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Churn Rate
  • Customer Effort Score

The day-to-day life of a CSM can vary depending on the business need and the organization. To get a great glace of the day in the life of a CSM check out Sujan Patel’s post. 

Define a customer-centric culture

What you’re really trying to do when you’re hiring for customer success is build a culture. A culture that celebrates the success of your customers. 

Denise Lee Yohn, author of FUSION: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World’s Greatest Companies has six recommendations for building a customer-centric culture

Six steps to building a customer-centric culture: 

  • Operationalize customer empathy. 
  • Hire for customer orientation.
  • Democratize customer insights.
  • Facilitate direct interaction with customers.
  • Link employee culture to customer outcomes
  • Tie compensation to the customer.

This is a brilliant setup because it demonstrates end-to-end coverage. There virtually no part of the organization that is not concerned with customer success. 

At SalesReach we think about a customer-centric approach very similarly. All of our brand’s core values tie back to the relationship we want to have to our customers. 

When you take a look at some of the brands with the most loyal customers a few trends start to emerge. 

Check out the mission statements from some of the brands that rank the highest in customer loyalty. 

“Make and serve the freshest, most delicious coffee and donuts quickly and courteously in modern, well-merchandised stores.” — Dunkin’ Donuts

“Our mission is to continually raise the bar of the customer experience by using the internet and technology to help consumers find, discover, and buy anything, and empower businesses and content creators to maximize their success. We aim to be Earth’s most customer-centric company.” — Amazon

“We will devote our human resources and technology to create superior products and services, thereby contributing to a better global society.” — Samsung

“We promise our customers stellar service, our suppliers a valuable partner, our investors the prospects of sustained profitable growth, and our employees the allure of huge impact.” — Netflix

“To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. *If you have a body, you are an athlete.” — Nike

In reading these it’s clear where these companies align their efforts and resources.

Beware: revenue incentives for customer success teams can create toxic habits

You’ve got a good understanding of your team, management structure, your core metrics, and goals, and with that, you’re in a good place to grow a culture of customer success. Now, we can talk about revenue. 

When it comes to customer success, incentives for reps must be different than sales. Accelerators, SPIFFs, and the traditional “speed” oriented sales incentives will more than likely create a toxic support environment where your reps are  Cherry picking tickets looking at support queues just for dollars. 

Remember a customer success team is interested in the retention of your customers and providing value during their continued partnership. Farming and hunting tactics will only get your business so far in a customer success environment and you’re more likely to build a house of cards that will come tumbling down when customers realize they’ve been sold to without their best interest in mind. 

Customer success teams are a great driver for revenue. In the next sections, we’ll go over a few ways you can use great customer success to drive revenue.  

Personalization is the customer success revenue driver

Don’t automate customer success functions. 

New customer success teams and new reps you’ve hired should try to take a hand-to-hand approach. This will scale your learning and provide data to inform your automation strategy. 

To engage hand-to-hand with customers may not seem scalable. However there are tools like video messaging, live-chat, and community forums you can leverage to provide that personalized touch without having to start over with each new interaction.

As your team matures try to automate what you can predict. This often looks like a knowledge base that answers commonly asked questions. 

At SalesReach we use the “collision installation” method creating an early onboarding experience that is incredibly personalized and tailored to the customer. The facetime our team has with customers earns their trust and we have their attention when we show them things. We’ve seen this create a relationship (hey there CLTV!) that endures much longer than if we were to automate the onboarding process altogether as many companies do. 

Without the right technology giving your customers that concierge 1:1 experience can be pretty difficult to accomplish. 

Even so, you need to create and experience that still feels personal. If you are going to automate in your customer success department it should look more like self-service customer support, not an automated “it’s been three months want to upgrade” email campaign. 

To provide a personalized experience at scale you must map out the full customer journey

Out of all your customers, who is your most enthusiastic fan? The one you want in your corner for a lifetime. 

This customer is your north star for all future customer relationships. Get to know how this customer got to know your company and why they’re so thrilled to be your customer. Document and work backward from there and you have the scaffolding of customer success’ portion of the buyer journey. 

You have to map out the customer journey. From the point of sale onward towards becoming your best customer, write down all the steps.  

This will give you the superpower of foresight. You’ll know when customers are likely to churn when they’re going to ask you for support, and when the best time to approach them for an upsell. 

If you can be proactive about knowing where customers are within your map you will unlock revenue. 

A great way to leverage your customer roadmap is through content. We’ve seen our customers get pretty creative with our portal technology. They create one place to manage a customer relationship or group of customers and use content to guide them through the customer journey. 

Deploying content, check-ins, and workshops at various stages of your customer’s journey in order to guide them towards greater success is a great strategy. Your customers will appreciate this more than being sold to and this will ultimately mean more revenue for your business. 

Customer success makes your revenue team

The backbone of your revenue team is the customer success unit. 

You’ve seen in the section about the role of the CSM in how insights gathered in the customer success department fuel marketing and sales teams to better connect with customers. 

70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated according to a study by McKinsey & Company.

Real customer stories, testimonials, case studies, documented ways to overcome objections, and accelerated product roadmap backed by qualitative customer feedback, not just opinions—these are all great ways customer success fuels revenue in a cross-functional way. How does customer success drive revenue 

It’s a concept called support driven growth and it was developed by the people at Help Scout. They define it as such:

Support-driven growth is a business approach aimed at shifting the customer support channel from cost center to critical revenue driver. It’s a way of thinking about customer success that helps provide CSM’s and business leaders a data-driven approach to scaling. 

With a support-driven growth strategy, it’s all about getting close to customers and knowing when there’s the opportunity to monetize a situation. You need to pay close attention to the behavior of your customers to get here. 

This is the next evolution of your customer-centric strategy is about checking your assumptions about how much certain groups of customers are worth to your business. 

You don’t need to be a data scientist to gather data on three key areas: 

  • Support channels – when does this segment typically ask for support, how often does this segment ask for support, and what is the experience like for them?
  • Product adoption or purchase frequency – how many touchpoints does your customer have with your service? How does this compare to customers who are paying more?
  • Revenue drivers – what activities actually lead to revenue? 

You’ll know when you have a support-driven growth model when you know what behaviors can you incentivize from your customers to get to more revenue. 

Think about that customer journey roadmap. If you know a customer is approaching the point at which several other customers made a purchase, would it hurt to reach out and ask with the appropriate care and attention you’ve done so previously?

That’s why getting your customer success culture down first and in the right way is so important. Too many companies start with something like the support-driven growth model but miss the main point about what makes it work in the first place. 

It’s important to point out that your company needs to be customer-centric and then develop a support-driven growth model. 

Customer success should own support-driven growth

Just because there’s a sale to be made does not mean a salesperson needs to make it. 

Mo Mckibbon, who started to evangelize the support-driven growth revenue model while she was at Help Scout asserts that customer success needs to own the model. Since then she has gone on to coach other companies on this model through her own company named after the model. 

She asserts that customer success should own this contribution to revenue growth because if sales or marketing owns it, things can essentially fall apart. It’s a delicate approach that only the specialists should handle. She offers the warning that if BDR’s are tasked with this model they’ll use the same playbook they’re used to using. 

Support-driven growth is a new concept but it’s an old idea. The renaissance that customer success is experiencing has more to do with the data you’re able to collect than it has to do with the principles of customer service and customer-centricity. 

In fact, your support-driven growth model is all about taking your customer-centric approach seriously and creating a revenue model on top of it. 

At SalesReach we believe that the customer experience is the key driving force in their decision-making process. Before they make a purchase buyer ask themselves whether or not they like what’s being offered. The experience in which they lead to the moment of purchase matters. 

Brands with superior customer experience bring in 5.7 times more revenue than competitors that lag in customer experience.

Forbes

Personalization enables the best experience. When the support representative is looking at a customer record and tracing back when that person decided to become a paying customer or pay more to your company they’re essentially taking on the first step of support driven growth strategy. 

A simple way to get started with incentives would be to offer reps incentives on account growth or support interaction to account creation conversion. 

If you’ve mapped out the customer journey you can tie compensation to customer growth instead of an individual number of tickets closed, emails sent, NPS surveys filled out, or other things that do not actually provide testimony to increased customer value. 

Your customer’s success is the success of your business

When the pings and bleeps and sha-woops find you and you’re not feeling a little hit of dopamine then you’re probably in need of a dedicated customer success function at your company. 

With so many companies struggling to keep up you’ll be glad you put the right people, process, and technology in place to keep customers happy and to keep them coming back. 

The competitive advantage is clear, get the right people, process, and technology in place and your customers will notice. 

When your customers are successful they’ll spend more money over time, consider additional products and services from your company, and serve as enthusiastic brand advocates that reduce the Cost to Acquire new customers (CAC). 

Knowing that what wouldn’t you do to make sure your customers are successful and your team has everything they need to make that happen?