What does a high functioning CS organization look like?

Peter Sterkenburg
Peter Sterkenburg Member Posts: 6 Seeker
edited August 16 in CS Org Conversations

Hi all,

I have been in both individual contributor roles and leadership roles, mostly with smaller start-ups/scale-ups. One thing I have a hard time defining for myself is what a truly high functioning CS organization looks like. There are so many opinions out there on how to improve things, that I feel the end goal/vision is missing.

When you look at an organisation of for example 100, or 500, or 1000+ people, what do you look for? What are the must-haves? Where do you start defining what you want, or what you are looking for?

Thanks in advance!


  • Ed Powers
    Ed Powers Member Posts: 167 Expert
    Third Anniversary 100 Comments 25 Insightfuls 25 Likes
    edited February 2021
    Hey @Peter Sterkenburg--

    I had the opportunity to serve as an Examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for five years and for another four at Rocky Mountain Performance Excellence, the Colorado State Baldrige program. This gave me the chance to study how the country's highest performing organizations actually worked. The secret? It's not about what they do, but how they do it. High performance doesn't depend on individuals or luck, but a deeply entrenched set of practices that drive relentless improvement. A study shows that quality award recipients outperformed control group on average by 48% operating revenue, 37% more sales, and 44% higher stock prices. 

    Strategic Management Systems like Baldrige, of course, apply to Customer Success as much as any other function or operation. I distilled Baldrige into something I call The Seven Systems and wrote a blog about it several years back. I 've used it to assess organizational maturity and operating capabilities for many years. The approach is descriptive, not prescriptive, meaning any technology, process, or people-based approach that's systematic, well-deployed, integrated, creates learning opportunities and demonstrates continuous improvement is shown as a strength. Perhaps it's useful for you.

  • Ashton Liu
    Ashton Liu Member Posts: 30 Expert
    Second Anniversary 10 Comments
    edited February 2021
    I don't have the answer, but having come from a very similar background I have often struggled with the exact same question. I've been in small, start up teams and know what to avoid and how to fix some of the pitfalls, but am not as certain about what to strive toward. Should I be benchmarking on certain KPIs like net revenue retention, or should it be more more process driven? Looking forward to the discussion here.
  • Kevin Mitchell Leonor
    Kevin Mitchell Leonor Member Posts: 249 Expert
    100 Comments Second Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited February 2021
    So the challenge to me is that it may be a negative mark in an interview to ask the question that will get the answer I want to know.

    The question is: Are your processes and responsibilities well defined? 

    That can potentially translate to "I can't work in a fluid SaaS environment". I want to know the answer so I know what I am getting into and strategize my 30/60/90.

    So I've rephrased the question: What are your challenges with scalability and how do you envision someone coming into this role help you solve those challenges?

    After all, one element of scalability is repeatable processes. So I get the answer I need while also taking a consultative approach to the interview.
  • Kevin Mitchell Leonor
    Kevin Mitchell Leonor Member Posts: 249 Expert
    100 Comments Second Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited February 2021
    My criteria for defining my wants is based on factors I am looking for in the progression of my career:

    The opportunity for growth - whether that is a title promotion, increase book of business value, or increased responsibilities. Am I able to show a story of evolution as a professional
    Company health - is it in an industry that is growing and where do we stand in the market leaderboard for that.
    Executive alignment - how much do I believe that the executives in place are capable of helping us grow our company
    Business Ideology agreement - do we agree in the approach taken to run the company. Our new CEO at RingCentral is very heavy on customer adoption and we are seeing a shift in business goals. This is great!
    Product maturity - is this an end of life program or is there still areas of expansion?
  • Andreas Knoefel
    Andreas Knoefel Member Posts: 74 Expert
    edited February 2021
    You are correct, there are multiple watered-down versions of CS, depending on the company. 

    If CS is punished for churn, but not able to renew and expand, it will fail, and high turnover is the result. Similar to @Ed Powers, I have my own benchmark study. The companies who "get it" outperform with average NRR of 134 (vs 87).

    Secondly I look at their CS maturity by company age and size to see how effective the leader is in the operational background behind best-in-class performance. 

    Looking at both gives you some indication if this company is worth joining because they are on the way to excellence, or if you are jumping into a nut house.