Scaling a startup is the ultimate balancing act. Both internal and external forces are at work, guiding and influencing the process: funds, investors, staff, customers, your industry, market fluctuations, your own intuition, the list goes on.
Knowing when and how to grow your startup’s customer success team can be just as precarious as navigating the overall scaling process. As we’ve previously discussed, it can be difficult just to calculate the ROI on your customer success startup initiatives.
So how will you know when the time is right to effectively scale your customer success startup team – and how do you do it smoothly so not to disrupt your current customer journey? Some key factors you’ll want to take into account include what stage your startup is at; your access to talent; and what operational hurdles you’ll have to overcome in order to set up your customer success startup team to win.
Here, we’ll look at how to best scale your startup’s customer success offering.
Make moves based on what stage your company is at.
Scaling your customer success efforts should only happen when you have the customers to warrant it. You wouldn’t onboard a full team of designers if your creative department only has enough design work for one person. Approach the growth of your startup’s customer success team the same way.
Let’s look at a breakdown of the common stages of a startup’s growth, and how you can grow a customer success team alongside it.
- Pre-funding stage: When your startup is in its very early fledgling days (maybe you’re still in the metaphorical garage or a basement, or you haven’t quit your day job yet), divide the customer success work amongst your team. If you are your only employee, this means doing all the customer success work yourself. Although customer success is likely not your top priority at this stage (the product-market fit is), and you should be soliciting and using customer feedback as a learning tool to make your product or service better. As your business takes off, and it’s no longer feasible to distribute the work amongst your small team, then it’s time to hire a devoted customer success team member.
- Early funding stages: In this stage of your business’s journey, your focus is likely on growth. Although a customer success staffer or team will ultimately help retain many of your customer who sign on during this period, you will still need to determine the tipping point at which your ability to service them effectively is starting to dip and lowering your customer lifetime value. This is the moment to expand your startup’s customer success offering, whether by adding a small, core team (of roughly 2-5 team members) with a Senior Manager or Director level leader, automating processes, or some combination thereof.
- Later funding stages: Once your company has proven its value and reach – maybe you’re looking at a Series B round or beyond – the focus on growth should be matched by a focus on customer retention and efficiency. This is where a robust customer success team becomes a crucial function of the business. To properly scale, you’ll need to be deliberate in implementing efficiencies both in your operational processes and in your budget. This is the time to consider hiring a seasoned, VP of Customer Success or Chief Customer Officer, and looking closely at way to drive efficiencies as you scale your Customer Success team.
Finding right customer success team at the right time.
A customer success team is nothing without people who are devoted and understanding, and who truly want the best outcomes for your customers. You’ll want to have a cost-of-retention model that helps you understand what your personnel needs are at any given time and then hire accordingly.
At inflection points of fast or exponential growth, or when looking for efficiencies, consider using offshore or remote talent for your startup’s customer success team to scale quickly and effectively. If you ensure that your in-house processes and management are ready to accommodate hiring an offshore or remote team, this can save your business significant time and money.
Know what hurdles you’ll need to overcome to achieve an effective customer success team.
In order to scale successfully and effectively utilize a customer success team, your startup will need a customer success system. This combines human interactions and automation to delineate an entire operational blueprint for a successful customer journey.
Every business will scale differently, so your startup’s customer success system should grow alongside the company. As you discover the necessary touch points to keep your customers satisfied, you’ll find ways to organically tweak and pivot your customer success systems.
Your customer success system should leverage best practices, such as customer training, Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys, and follow-up sequences. Document everything and store data on best practices that work for your business; this will make it quicker and easier to teach newly onboarded customer success team members. Additionally, it will help you scale up your business as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The bottom line: Always be prepared.
No matter what stage your company is in, your customers expect top-notch customer experience. Recognizing that there’s a need to implement a model for customer success that can scale from the get-go will set up your business – and its eventual robust customer success team – for success.
Customers rightfully expect that your service or product will help make their lives better – not more frustrating. So you must always be prepared to scale the right way, at the right time, to keep up with customer demand. Build into your business an initial plan for scaling customer success, along with a customer success system that can grow with you, and you’ll not only have a leg up on the competition, but you’ll also maintain a focus on what really keeps your business running: your customers.
Bolton Remote is an experienced partner to startups at all growth stages who need a cost-effective solution to streamline their customer success capabilities.