The Essential Guide: Customer Success Team Roles

Review our guide to the different types of customer success roles getting the job done and team segmentation methods used by companies.

Shareil Nariman

November 30, 2021

9 minutes

It takes a team — a customer success team, that is — to provide your customers with a top-notch experience, drive retention and revenue, and manage internal workflows. But how companies choose to structure their customer success team varies widely.

In this post, we'll dive into common customer success team roles and responsibilities, as well as different ways to segment your team so that everyone is aligned toward the right goals.

The Size of Your Company Will Play a Large Part in Which Roles Are Most Appropriate

When deciding how to build out your customer success team and which roles you really need, company size is a good starting place.

Small SaaS companies and startups might only have one customer success role, like a customer success manager (CSM), who owns and oversees the entire program. At this stage, team members from sales or marketing often jump in to assist.

As your company grows, you can start adding more niche and specialized positions. This might include an implementation specialist, customer training specialist, or a customer onboarding manager.

The key here is to weigh what each new role will bring to the table while monitoring workload. You want to be mindful not to overshoot and have a team of 10 when you're just starting out, while also avoiding giving a single CSM more customers than they can guide, support, and excite. It's all about finding a balance and continuously evaluating the stage your company is at.

Customer Success Team Roles You'll See in the Industry and their Responsibilities

VP of Customer Success or Head of Customer Success

The vice president of customer success, also called the head of customer success, is the team lead. They can create your customer success strategy from scratch or build on your vision. They're responsible for leading your customer success, onboarding, and support teams.

This includes continuously thinking about big-picture strategies to improve your company's customer experience; ensuring customer success principles and processes are being upheld; and collaborating with senior leadership on the company's broader strategies.

Customer Success Director

One step down from the VP of customer success is the customer success director. Your company may have a few people in this role, or may only have the need for one.

Either way, the person in this role oversees the customer success team, similar to the VP, but has more of an eye towards managing relations with customers to ensure their continued growth as well as increasing your company's retention rate.

Additionally, the customer success director works closely with the VP on new initiatives and campaigns to execute on revenue and retention opportunities. Think of the customer success director as the bridge between middle management and upper management, depending on the size and structure of your company.

Customer Onboarding Director or Manager

As the name suggests, customer onboarding directors and managers focus mainly on the onboarding process — in other words, one of the most important elements of customer success. They work to ensure new customers are educated about your product and reach their time to value quickly, usually by developing great onboarding flows and training resources.

Individuals in this role may work with sales as well as customer training specialists. To measure the success of a customer onboarding director, you can assess onboarding metrics around churn rate and customer satisfaction.

Director of Professional Services

Another role in the mid-to-upper management area is the director of professional services. This role is largely responsible for identifying gaps related to your customer success systems and planning and executing improvement projects. They often oversee resource management and policy and tool implementation.

Project budgets and timelines are also a major focus for directors of professional services. For example, if the customer success team is rolling out a new onboarding feature, this individual would provide project management support and make sure the new feature is ready to go on time and without breaking the bank. They need to be skilled at cross-functional collaboration so they can set and drive realistic goals.

Customer Success Manager (CSMs)

Perhaps one of the better-known roles within a customer success team is the customer success manager. Oftentimes, this role is the first hire for new startups. If you've recently hired a CSM, they've probably got lots of questions on where to begin. Have them check out our blog: What to do during your first 100 days as aCSM.

In a nutshell, customer success managers support your company's customers as they transition from pre-sale to post-sale so they become loyal, long-term customers, and ultimately help to increase customer retention. CSMs tend to work closely with the sales team to ensure there's a smooth handoff, and focus on proactively solving customer needs throughout the customer lifecycle. They may manage customer onboarding, hold regular check-ins, strategize with their clients to reach goals, and more.

Learn more about hiring your first CSM. And if you're in a leadership role, we have more tips on hiring your first customer success person — in any role — here.

Implementation Manager or Specialist

Implementation managers or specialists develop strategies to carry out upgrades, new systems, programs, and technologies for your company. This may sound similar to a director of professional services, and in some ways, it is. Both roles require good collaboration and project management skills.

However, implementation managers focus only on the implementation part of things; they aren't identifying the issues that create the need for new processes or tools, like a director of professional service does.

Customer Training Specialist

Customer training specialists work one-on-one with customers to educate them and aim to turn new users and teams into self-sufficient pros. Training is a vital aspect of product adoption and customer success, so carving out space for this role can be extremely helpful, especially if you have a complex product.

The individual in this role may work closely with a customer onboarding director, but they're the one doing the actual training on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, customer training specialists work with all customers who need training on the product, not just new customers.

Renewal Manager

Individuals in a renewal manager role lead and manage the renewals process. As we've written about before, customer acquisition gets a lot of the attention in the SaaS world, but customer retentioncan be even more beneficial from a revenue perspective. Renewal managers are laser-focused on making the retention and renewals process seamless and can be a key hire for SaaS businesses.

This includes working with other team members to find ways to keep and/or upsell customers, reporting on applicable KPIs, and forecasting trends. Renewal managers also communicate with customers a lot, so developing good, trusting relationships with customers is also part of this role.

Customer Support Representative

Depending on your organization, customer support reps may make up a large part of your customer success team. These support team members are focused on helping customers on a daily basis by answering questions, providing updates about your product or service, responding to complaints, and addressing general customer feedback.

Success in a customer support representative role will require great customer service skills, as well as the ability to work and collaborate with everyone else at the company.

Customer Support Consultant

Similar to customer support representatives, customer support consultants mainly work with customers to resolve questions and issues. The main difference comes down to collaboration with the rest of the company.

Customer support consultants often take on short- and long-term projects to address areas of need within customer success, often identified through customer interactions. These projects might involve conducting customer interviews or sending customer surveys, and then compiling and analyzing that customer data to draw out ways to improve the customer experience.

Most Common Customer Success Manager Team Segmentation Options

As you bring on more customer success staff, you'll need to think about organizational structure. Specifically, you may want to group team members based on common goals or factors. This gives each team segment clear responsibilities, and can be helpful if you have market segments with unique needs or requirements. Here are three common approaches:

Based on the Account Size

This approach isn't just for sales teams. Customer success teams can also be segmented by account size. You could break your team into one segment focused on small- or mid-sized accounts and another focused on enterprise accounts, allowing each CSM or rep to become experts on their respective pain points, goals, opportunities, and more.

Based on the Industry Niche

Another way to segment your customer success team is by niche. If your company caters to a number of distinct audiences, it may be best to have certain team members narrow their sights and focus on these niche markets.

For example, if your product is health tracking software, you may have niche markets including experienced personal trainers, people recovering from injuries or health issues, and everyday exercisers. A broader example would be if your payroll software is used by a range of industries — SaaS businesses, e-commerce businesses, etc. The better your CS team gets to know each niche, the better they can nurture the customer relationship.

Based on the Stage of the Customer Journey

A third option for segmenting your customer success team is to have each group focus on customers in different stages of the customer journey. If you don't yet have a journey map for your company, read more about how to create one here.

For instance, divide your CS team members into the following segments:

  • Sales to service hand-off
  • Onboarding
  • Training
  • Education
  • Renewals and upsells

Now that we've covered the essentials of customer success team roles, we hope you can more easily envision how your team will start out or evolve with time You may not ultimately need to hire for every role or use one of the above segmentation approaches. Keep your overall company goals, size, and customer base in mind and you'll be on the right path.

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