For early stage SaaS companies, how early was Customer Success brought into the company?

Kevin Mitchell Leonor
Kevin Mitchell Leonor Member Posts: 248 Expert
First Comment Name Dropper First Anniversary

Also, What was already in place and what were your initial challenges?

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  • Kristi Faltorusso
    Kristi Faltorusso Member Posts: 45 Expert
    First Anniversary
    edited June 2020

    In the 4 companies I have worked in the evolution has looked like this Technical Support > Renewals Management > Account Management > Customer Success > Customer Experience. Usually at the time I come in the organization either has Account Management and they are looking to transform to Customer Success or they have a CS model that they are looking to scale. That said, there are few companies I've seen stand up a formal CS practice prior to Series A/B. Series B is more common in my experience. AS far as challenges go, there are pockets of challenges you have to navigate across people, process and technology. Usually the biggest challenge is funding and the second is organizational alignment around customer success and the value it can and will contribute to the business. 

  • Brian Hartley
    Brian Hartley Member Posts: 185 Expert
    First Comment First Anniversary
    edited June 2020

    Hey @Kristi Faltorusso are there any resources you would recommend which would help me understand the difference between Customer Success and Customer Experience?  I suspect the larger the org. the more opportunity you may have to roll out an Experience team?

  • Kristi Faltorusso
    Kristi Faltorusso Member Posts: 45 Expert
    First Anniversary
    edited June 2020

    So when I see organizations have their entire company focused on Customers that is the final model. Usually you will have a CCO in place; but really the difference is the shift in organizational focus. It's no longer about New Logo Sales, yes that still remains important, but every team, department is focused on delivering for the customer. When that is the operating mindset and model, there is a different outcome for the business. 

  • Gabriel Fallas
    Gabriel Fallas Member Posts: 53 Expert
    First Comment
    edited June 2020

    Only my past two experiences have had designated CSM's and this was the evolution:

    • OfficeSpace Software: Business Development + CS Director > account Executives > Project Managers > Jr. Project Managers > Customer Success
      • The company was 7 years in when the CSM role was created. 
      • It was smooth process in terms of adopting the vision of a CS role. The main struggle is that the first 3 CSM's were previously PM's and so there were some very gray lines as to who owned the relationship and when the transition from PM to CSM took place. 
    • Veyo: Market Director > Market Ops > Call Center Manager > Customer Success.
      • We're 4/5 years when the CSM role was created.
      • The biggest challenge is that leadership hasn't fully adopted a CS approach, so driving the quality that CS is known for and pushing though initiatives that we have in mind while proving the ROI has been challenging. Something I've been struggling with is the simple question of "where to start?" Which projects should I prioritize? I know I have to take things one step at a time and that's a challenge when I see room for improvement in essentially everything we do.
  • Scott Hopper
    Scott Hopper Member Posts: 70 Expert
    First Comment
    edited June 2020

    @Kristi Faltorusso totally agree with your point that there are companies that are starting early with Customer Success some Series A are hiring for it.  If they do, you may need to also do a lot of support as well, because they may not be at a point where they can hire for both.  

  • Andreas Knoefel
    Andreas Knoefel Member Posts: 74 Expert
    First Comment
    edited June 2020

    Luckily CS is getting more and more early attention in startups. Personal experience is with startups at 3-50 people, and after the B round. VC's are now looking more closely at retention, once the first two milestones got accomplished:

    1. Ship MVP ==> Product team are the heroes
    2. First few Sales ==> Sales is King

    As far as challenges, there is the usual startup with fuzzy, overlapping activities by several well-meaning folks in different areas of the company. The collaborative challenge is to push Sales and Product  back and step in.

    Next challenge is by the Sales leader, who is usually clueless about Retention, but doesn't want to let go of the Gorilla seat at the table. FInding an ally in the CEO and the CFO and careful navigation are required so that CS becomes the frontline interface to the customer and their success.

    Third challenge is operationally: You should bring a leader in to set the stage, build the processes, metrics, playbooks, but you may have only budget for a CSM. If you hire a CSM first, they are aimless and powerless, and often fail due to lack of direction and goals. Options are to start with a CS consultant to be the interim CS leader, or find a CS manager who doesn't mind the hands-on until they can scale and mature the team. See this blog post for additional notes: https://cstuners.com/the-journey-to-operational-excellence-customer-success-from-early-teams-to-mature-operations/

  • David Jackson
    David Jackson Member Posts: 36 Expert
    First Comment
    edited June 2020

    Kevin,

    Is your question about when was a CS team introduced or when was CS capability started?  The answer is probably, should be, very different.

     

  • Kevin Mitchell Leonor
    Kevin Mitchell Leonor Member Posts: 248 Expert
    First Comment Name Dropper First Anniversary
    edited June 2020

    It is when was the first CSM hired?

  • Jordan Clark
    Jordan Clark Member Posts: 3 Navigator
    edited July 2020

    Late to the party but wanted to share. The startup I am currently at is at the seed stage and brought me in as a CSM for the first commercial hire. The CEO and myself makeup commercial and the other 90% of the company is product, dev, and data science. Since our team is small, I also have a wider array of responsibilities than what a CSM would have at a later stage company, which is natural based on my startup background.