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Building a Customer Success Center of Excellence

Lessons from the launch of Scaling CS: Building the CS Center of Excellence, a book by Chitra Madhwacharyula and Shreesha Ramdas.
April 9, 2023
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Mukundh Krishna

The Preflight Community hosted the authors of the book "Scaling CS: Building the CS Center of Excellence" - Chitra Madhwacharyula, CS and Partner Success leader, and Shreesha Ramdas, successful entrepreneur, investor, and post-sales veteran.

Customer success has become integral to every organization, especially in B2B SaaS and technology companies. To achieve scale, operational processes in CS need to be super-efficient. Chitra and Shreesha wrote a book on how to scale the customer success function to help fellow professionals learn and implement best practices.

Chitra and Shreesha discussed how organizations could audit their post-sales function for scale and maturity. They emphasized the importance of and what it takes to build the CS control tower - building the Customer Success Center of Excellence (CSE). Being trailblazers in ensuring the maturity of the CES practice is of tremendous value not only to the customer success organizations but also to the overall organizational health of the companies. CES plays a pivotal role in the success of an organization by ensuring that customers get the maximum value from their investment and have the best possible experience. The CES practice is critical in ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty. An organization's success relies heavily on customer satisfaction, and the CES function is instrumental in ensuring that customers receive the necessary support and guidance to maximize the value of their investment.

Here are our top ten takeaways from the special event:

  1. Vision and Goals: Creating standardized processes and views of customers' and partners' health metrics is crucial. This involves identifying engagement models, workflows, and dashboards that aid in capturing and flowing information efficiently and cost-effectively at scale. Doing so can expand your customer success footprint while maximizing customer outcomes, growth, and ensuring a great customer experience. Customer Success 3.0 is a big theme that drives the practical and actionable approach that is essentially the tide nudging orgs to operationalize their CS practice. This latest evolution of customer success highlights the need for companies to be proactive, predictive, and prescriptive in their approach, leveraging data and technology to anticipate customer needs and drive value. By adopting these approaches that minimize uncertainty, companies can scale their CS function effectively and ensure their customer's and organization's success. Operationalizing will help orgs expand the CS footprint cost-effectively without impacting quality and maximize customer outcomes, growth, and experience
  2. There is increasing recognition of the value of Customer Success Operations (CS Ops) and the need to operationalize CS functions. Just as Sales Ops or Revenue Ops have been recognized as a vital supporting function, CS Ops is also gaining recognition as a key to standardizing, scaling, optimizing, and expanding CS practices. While there is still some way to go, the focus is not just on why companies should invest in CS Ops but also on how to do it practically. The book provides a roadmap for implementing the necessary operational processes and workflows, considering the maturity of the company's products and customer engagement models. By implementing these, companies can achieve greater cost-effectiveness and maximize customer outcomes, growth, and experience.
  3. Develop standardized processes and metrics to ensure that CS can be scaled by identifying the right engagement models, workflows, and dashboards that aid information capture and flow.  The ultimate goal is to scale the CS function beyond just a team or job title, but rather  integrate it throughout the B2B SaaS business, from the product roadmap to data to internal processes. Customer Success Ops (CS Ops) or COEs are a unification of approaches to putting the customer at the epicenter of a company's operational model.
  4. It is essential to focus on customer retention from the start of onboarding. To do this, you need to have a clear understanding of your CS practice and perform an analysis of where your CS practice stands currently. This analysis should include questions like, "Do I clearly understand how CES and CX integrate with different business units, regions, solutions, or product lines in my company?" Additionally, you should examine whether you have enough information to start defining customer journey maps and playbooks, standardize end-to-end customer success workflows, and use the same workflows and playbooks across all regions. Knowing where you stand and what areas you need to look at will help you to operationalize your CS practice successfully.
  5. It is not enough to simply add more members as the number of customers increases. Instead, it is important to focus on scaling operations by making them more efficient and prioritizing attention to the right customers. Focus on making interactions with customers feel less like a daily fire drill. To achieve this, it is necessary to analyze the current state of the CS practice, standardize workflows, and prioritize attention to the right customers. A helpful rule of thumb to keep in mind is to ask whether every customer interactions feel like dealing with a fire drill, and if so, to make tweaks to the processes to ensure more clarity on where to focus attention.
  6. Leveraging health score data can significantly transform your CSE. Let's take the real example of an analytics company that was continually refining its health score tracking and leveraging analytics, they were able to develop an automated customer health scoring system that became a valuable leading indicator for churn. They started with a scoring system to validate and score churn risks for their bottom 30% of customers. Based on the results of that analysis, they proactively addressed the controllable risks to help reduce churn by about 40%. The data analytics tools company invested in a tool and developed the algorithm, but once they had the formula, they were able to expand it to the rest of the company to great effect. This example highlights the importance of using data and analytics to inform decision-making and drive customer success.
  7. When it comes to customer engagement models, it's essential to think beyond just one-on-one interactions with customers. While personalized interactions can be valuable, developing one-to-many engagement models that can be scaled more easily and efficiently is equally important. The engagement model for different tiers of customers can vary, with more manual and personalized interactions typically reserved for top-tier customers and more automated interactions for lower-tier customers. However, it's important to note that an automated engagement model does not necessarily mean a negative customer experience - when done effectively, automation can improve the overall customer engagement experience.
  8. When working with customers who have global teams, all of the teams must be onboarded into your product. That's why having a repetitive strategy for onboarding is crucial to your COE. Plan recurring webinars and draft a standardized onboarding template for every new team member joining the customer's team. Secondly, people need to be aware that some of these workflows are not one-to-one but are recurring and one-to-many, and a methodology needs to be set up.

The authors dig deep into these points and more in Scaling Customer Success: Building the CS Center of Excellence. They say one word to describe the book would be actionable. When asked why, Chitra M says, "As you're reading this book, we want you to feel that you will be able to implement the concepts, templates, and blueprints available in this book and put them to use immediately. If you're able to do that, we have met our goal! And as someone who has headed this function and in multiple organizations in some capacity, I can speak directly to the value that it brings to the table".

Head to this link to get yourself a copy!

For Authors: Are you an author who has written a fantastic book on topics in the onboarding, implementation, CS, Ops, or PS? Do you want a community of 2600+ leaders and practitioners to know, learn and give you feedback? Collaborate with us!
If you have ideas, suggestions, and questions on creating and building the COE at your org for the larger customer onboarding, implementation, and CS community?

We'd love to have you join the Preflight Community and share it with our members.

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Usha Kalva
Community & Partnerships @ Rocketlane

Usha is a Community Manager at Preflight. She's been an EIR, runs a successful restaurant, and is inclined toward the social sciences. In a parallel universe, she'd have been a wildlife photographer.

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