Customer success for startups — how to get started

Customer success is a critical function within B2B software companies. It is typically staffed by customer success managers who are tasked with managing the experience of existing customers throughout their journey with the product, with the assistance of automation. Every B2B software startup eventually finds itself in need of a customer success function, but most struggle to spin one up without a few hurdles and misfires. This is because the focus of customer success is very broad, with diverse goals and roles required to succeed.

The best way to think about the customer success function is through the lens of the diverse goals this department is usually aligned to:

If you’ve made it through the wall of text above, you’re probably thinking “that is a lot for one team to take on,” and you’re right. Customer success is a diverse function and the primary reason most startups initially fail to roll it out is that they don’t have a clear idea of what they actually need from their first customer success hires. When establishing your customer success team, it’s important to consider what problems you are trying to solve:

Most startups will kick off their first foray into customer success through just one or two hires. Unfortunately, most of the time, just two people can’t handle all of the responsibilities for customer success. This is why it’s important to be very specific about what problems you are initially trying to solve and to keep your first hires focused in these areas until the team grows and you can better spread your resources across the various responsibilities of customer success. Similarly, it is also important to know what type of employee(s) you need when establishing your team:

Like all teams, customer success is best resourced as a patchwork of people with diverse specialties and experience. The type of candidate I would hire for the typical revenue expansion role is different to the type of candidate I’d typically hire for technical account management. By focusing on just the most important customer success responsibilities when you are making your first hires, you have a much greater chance of success. As you expand the responsibilities of your success team, you can hire people with other specialities, and eventually cover all bases.

16 March, 2022

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