Preflight Conversations

Should CS and PS org teams report to the same leader?

Explore best practices, leadership insights on customer success and professional services for effective organizational structure
October 27, 2023
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Mukundh Krishna

Long onboarding and implementation cycles raise questions on whether the customer success and professional services teams are sufficiently aligned with the larger objective of making customers successful.

Should PS and CS report to the same leader or different leaders? What are the pros and cons? The Preflight Community discusses!

Professional Services and Customer Success teams find themselves at a crossroads in customizable SaaS platform implementations. In instances where they have a dedicated team leading services, each led by different tactical leaders, the PS team's primary focus is timely delivery, ensuring that clients receive what they've paid for promptly. On the other hand, the CS team is solely devoted to customer retention, putting their efforts into keeping sight of retention, engagement, and solution upsell that can ensure customers are successful with our product. 

While the PS team focuses only on delivery, they lose sight of shipping quality and long-term solutions that can ensure customer retention. A similar concern arises with the CS org, i.e., in their pursuit of retention, they may overlook the opportunity to provide quality solutions that can lead to upselling and ultimately ensure our customers are not just satisfied but truly successful with our product. This specialization in retention might inadvertently limit their ability to spot these growth opportunities.

One of the questions that frequently arises in such scenarios is whether it makes sense for PS and CS teams to report to the same leader. Could this alignment under a common leader help us harmonize our goals and strategies, ultimately ensuring our customers' success? Could this lead to a more holistic approach to post-sales success? 

In the ever-evolving landscape of customer-centric businesses, achieving customer success is a strategic imperative. PS and CS teams play vital roles in this journey, and their collaboration can be the key to unlocking the full potential post-sales experience.

Preflighters discuss if this approach to addressing the challenge will result in a better, more streamlined flow of information between teams, enabling the CS team to provide valuable feedback to the PS team about customer expectations and concerns.

Conversely, the PS team can share insights into their challenges during implementation, helping the CS team proactively address potential customer issues. In essence, this unity can lead to a well-rounded approach that combines the strengths of both teams, ultimately resulting in a more successful and satisfied customer base.

We delve deeper and discuss the benefits and challenges of having PS and CS teams report to the same leader, exploring real-world examples and best practices from their professional experience to decide whether this approach fits your organization’s goals.

Mikael Blaisdell 

In many SaaS companies, the PS org is a component of the CS org. It keeps everybody on the same page in terms of messaging and focus.  It might be beneficial to have the  CS org own everything post-sale and be accountable for the results.

Mahesh Motiramani

One way to diagnose this is to see if this is an alignment problem or perhaps a symptom of  poor culture. Putting the CS and PS orgs under the same leader may not solve the issue. In my experience, successful teams have had the Customer Success and Professional Services report to different leaders yet successfully delivered customer outcomes and business growth with the assurance of retention. One question to ask ourselves is, ‘Have we looked into why the teams have different goals, and what higher-order goal can they align to?’

Rachel Johnston

I've seen that they roll up under one at the top while under different leaders. Regardless of the leader, this stems from the PS and CS goals that must be aligned. Shorter TTV is extremely important, but not if that value they are seeing is only short-term. I would recommend looking into which customers were implemented that didn't have long-term success and why, was it something that was configured incorrectly, incorrectly set expectations, assumptions, etc., and then be able to extract the next course of action from all this information on what could be the areas of improvement. This is not an ARR problem, but more about whether PS  is engaged in the long-term success of customers and the company. If customer churn is high, it is just as bad as if the sales weren't high. If you wanted to tie a goal to PS, I would think about six months post-go-live NPS/CSAT score or something similar.

Saurabh Guru

This is a fairly common challenge across orgs these days. While being under a single umbrella helps a ton, it is not directly the solution and will need KPI/OKR alignment to ensure all Objectives are tied.  Here are a few ideas:

  1. Bigger Picture Onboarding: Rather than only focusing on TTV, measure an outcome with value. This will require the CS, PS, and sales to work closely to understand the objectives and create tools for better discovery. 
  2. Build Feedback loops: Ensure there are feedback loops with retrospective feedback for critical accounts to review engagements together.
  3. Build Quality Gates: The onboarding process should have quality gates and sign-off processes to ensure they measure this quality. With our org, we have done this through standardizations and checklists. Easier if you have a tool or platform to help.
  4. Adopt customer centricity: Measure onboarding/PS feedback through NPS/ other surveys to improve processes continuously.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? Do you have questions or challenges in the customer onboarding and value-delivery domains?

Join the Preflight Community to find the answers, learn about best practices implemented in some of the best companies around the world, and contribute to the conversation. Preflight is a community of 3000+ leaders and practitioners in customer onboarding, implementations, and PS. 

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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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