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Article 7 min read

How customer success operations improves customer service

Customer success operations (CS Ops) can take your customer service—and team performance—to the next level.

By Peter Alig, Contributing Writer

Last updated April 1, 2022

Remember the last time you saw a live concert? You were also witnessing a team working like a well-oiled machine.

The band members face the audience, delivering an experience that creates loyal fans—similar to how your customer success managers (CSMs) work with your customers one-on-one. But the band also depends on a crew to handle sound, lighting, and logistics to ensure their performance is unforgettable. Customer success operations (CS Ops) is the behind-the-scenes crew that helps customer success managers excel at their jobs.

As your company scales, support agents may struggle to keep your growing customer base happy. Avoid the growing pains by creating a customer success operations team to handle the logistics of support.

What is customer success operations?

Customer success operations provides consumer-facing teams with tactics and tools to help them work efficiently as the business grows. CS Ops can consist of an individual or a multi-member team, depending on the size and structure of your company.

Customer success operations responsibilities

CS Ops supports both customer success managers (who proactively ensure buyers are reaching their goals) and customer service teams (whose success depends on solving problems quickly and accurately). Success and support teams rely on CS Ops to handle the following initiatives.

How to structure your customer service department

Learn more about the key steps for structuring your customer service team with this free guide.

Why is customer success operations important?

CS Ops enables support agents and CSMs to do what they do best: connect with customers. Over time, an effective CS Ops team contributes to the following business improvements.

Lower customer retention costs

When CS Ops boosts CSM and agent efficiency, it lowers customer retention costs.

Say CS Ops discovers that an outdated CRM increases the time required for CSMs to enter and retrieve customer data. A new CRM allows one agent to do the work of two, so you no longer need to hire that additional agent. Once CS Ops implements the new software, divide the total annual cost of your success efforts by the number of active customers. More than likely, you’ll see a drop in retention costs.

Higher customer retention

CS Ops wouldn’t improve agent efficiency if it didn’t also improve overall customer retention.

Imagine CS Ops learns that the new CRM tool helps agents resolve inquiries 10-percent faster. To evaluate the impact on customer retention after three months, CS Ops can subtract the number of newly acquired customers from the total number of customers at the end of the time period. That number then gets divided by the total number of customers at the start of the three months. Ideally, the percentage should be higher than the period before you installed the CRM.

When do you need a customer operations manager or team?

customer success operations

If your customer success and/or support staff are too busy managing customer needs to handle any operational tasks, it’s time to consider adding a customer success operations manager or team.

Say you have a director of customer success who manages six CSMs. The director can’t conduct a thorough audit of the CRM because they’re too busy addressing customer complaints. You might hire a CS Ops manager, who can organize a customer survey designed to pinpoint the root cause of the complaints.

A single customer operations manager might be enough to support a team of six CSMs. Larger success and support departments, however, may require additional CS Ops roles.

Begin with one CS Ops employee to start. If your success and support teams still need more operational help, you’ll know it’s time to build out a CS Ops team.

Best practices for customer success operations

A CS Ops manager or team creates success playbooks for CSMs and support agents, but they also need a plan of their own. By following a few best practices, CS Ops can increase its effectiveness and impact.

  • Use separate metrics for customer success and customer support

    When tracking success and performance, it’s best for CS Ops to use different criteria for each department.
    For customer support, you want agents to solve issues quickly and in as few interactions as possible. Customer Effort Score (CES) and CSAT are both great metrics for evaluating the customer service experience.
    Meanwhile, net revenue (which compares business income to expenses) is more relevant to customer success. Say a CSM upsells a customer to a higher software membership tier during a scheduled check-in meeting. The revenue generated by that customer just grew without the company incurring additional expenses.
  • Develop a customer success journey map

    By the time a consumer reaches a CSM, they’ve likely interacted with marketing messages, a sales rep, and—in the case of SaaS—an implementation specialist. CS Ops needs to understand this customer journey because it can influence a CSM’s efficacy.
    Say onboarding times suddenly rise. With the customer success journey map, CS Ops can audit each stage individually as they look for the problem’s root cause. The CS Ops manager might find that a laborious onboarding process is making it more difficult for the CSM to convince certain customers to renew.
  • Establish open feedback channels for CSMs and support agents

    CS Ops must be proactive and reactive. For example, they may need to help agents improve declining CSAT scores while also preventing those scores from dropping in the first place.
    Opening the lines of communication between departments will enable CS Ops to anticipate problems. CS Ops can require success and support teams to submit a weekly report in which they summarize what went well, what didn’t, and how CS Ops can better serve them.
    Say support agents report a surge in angry customers. CS Ops can suggest empathy training to de-escalate situations and improve customer feedback.

Customer success operations keeps agents and customers happy

Rock bands left to their own devices might tour every city that gives them a chance. Their manager protects them from burnout by curating a particular schedule of venues with the most devoted fans.

Similarly, your customer success operations team protects CSMs and support agents from burnout by giving them the resources they need to work efficiently and enhance the customer experience.

Happy employees don’t just stick around longer—they help retain your customers for the long-term, too.

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