Explore the most common ways that companies organize their customer success teams and use our helpful org chart to get started quickly.
December 21, 2021
SaaS companies increasingly move to a customer success model in order to reduce churn rate, increase retention, and improve the customer experience, it’s also becoming increasingly important to think through the org structure of the customer success (CS) team.
These departments continue to grow in size and complexity. And the larger and more complex your customer success team, the more important it is to develop a healthy, optimized organizational structure.
We’ve got you covered. This post provides you with a helpful example customer success org chart to get you started. We’ll also go over a few key CS roles and the different approaches that businesses use to arrange them and achieve top-notch collaboration.
Having a cohesive customer success plan is a great first step in giving direction to your customer success team, but the right organizational structure is equally if not more vital. And building out that structure starts with understanding the key leadership roles within customer success.
Here, we’re focusing on the hierarchy and structure of the team more than the details about each individual role. If you’re looking for an overview of role responsibilities and skill sets, check out our post that dives into customer success team roles.
This person sits at the top of the customer success org chart and reports directly to a member of the C-suite. The head or VP of customer success is the highest-ranking decision-maker in the customer success hierarchy and is tasked with setting vision and crafting direction for the department. He or she is responsible for messaging and culture, as well as developing a strategy for customer satisfaction and customer retention.
Typically, this role reports to the CEO or CRO, though if there is a Chief Customer Officer (a role that oversees both customer service and customer success, along with any other customer-facing work areas), the head of success would typically report to them.
Note that in the chart pictured above, the CEO/CRO/Chief Customer Officer role isn’t listed. It’s off the chart, above all the roles pictured.
Pro tip: By the way, if you’re a founder or CEO at a startup and you’re starting to uncover the value of customer success as a department, you’ll want to read The Startup CEO’s Guide to Customer Success and Onboarding.
The director of customer success typically oversees all CS teams and employees, including customer success managers as their direct reports. Directors also often develop metrics and KPIs to measure the success of the CS team.
If a customer success organization has sufficient size, oversight of the onboarding process might be spun out into a separate unit or subunit, overseen by the director or manager of onboarding. Of course, onboarding and customer success are closely related — we think customer success is impossible without a great onboarding process — but in certain high-touch SaaS companies, a division of labor here can be helpful.
Similarly, a director of professional services might come into the picture if such a role makes sense for your organization. If you have professional services specialists or implementation managers in need of oversight, then a head or director role makes sense.
Each of these director-level roles typically reports to the head or VP of success and has their own manager-level direct reports.
We’re moving down one level in the customer success org chart now to the manager and specialist level. Each of these roles is one step closer to the customer, serving either as the direct point of contact in their respective department, as the direct manager of those points of contact, or as a mix of the two.
Each reports to the director of their department or unit and may or may not have direct reports themselves. These managers have primary oversight of account management, onboarding of new customers, collecting and acting on customer feedback, building customer relationships, and overseeing the customer journey.
We’ve covered some of the most likely leadership roles for a customer success management team, but there’s still plenty to decide about how your specific business should structure things. Consider these tips if you need inspiration or insights.
It’s typical in customer success for the head or VP of success to report directly to the CEO. But this isn’t always the best structure. CEOs have to balance diverse needs across every business area (not to mention the board and shareholders) and may not have the bandwidth to analyze and direct on CS issues.
In recent years, larger companies have created a position called Chief Customer Officer (CCO) that’s gaining traction across industries. If you adopt this role, then the VP of success would report to the CCO, who would then report to the CEO and advocate for their division.
As departments grow in size and complexity, siloing is a persistent threat. To avoid it, the head/VP of success might also report to the VP or head of sales.
SaaS customer success can be highly specialized, especially for more robust SaaS products where it’s not feasible for every CS agent to have encyclopedic knowledge of the tool. As a result, individual contributor roles within customer success may be an option worth exploring.
Individual contributor (IC) roles are for employees who are neither on a management track nor in a pool of employees under a single manager (such as a department). They can be viewed as specialists or as managers of their own one-person teams.
ICs can report to someone within the organization, but not in a traditional manager-employee relationship. Or, in some cases, ICs simply represent a senior, expert, or highly specialized level of a role.
Depending on the size and layout of your company, you might very well have multiple IC roles, such as customer service managers, senior customer service Managers, and principal customer success managers. Each of these would refer to a different level of expertise, experience, or specialization.
Here’s another example of how this might look. If your CS team is less mature and lacks a separate onboarding department, you might start exploring IC roles by promoting a senior CSM to an IC role in onboarding. This “team” of one would be responsible for building out your onboarding-specific efforts, but without the expectation of taking on people-manager responsibilities down the road.
If the onboarding group eventually grows to the level of needing its own manager or director, the IC could continue to work in the existing role while the managerial role is filled by someone else.
Depending on what your industry, products, or services look like, it might make sense to break up various teams into the following categories:
If all of this seems too complex or too advanced for where your customer success team is at the moment, that’s OK. You may even be the first customer success manager your company has hired on. If you’re new to customer success or you’re mapping out what the department will look like for your company, check out our First 100 Days guide for new CSMs.
Above all, it’s important to know that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for a customer success org chart. The right customer success structure for your business is highly dependent on your individual company’s needs and factors like your size/customer base, customer lifecycle, sales process, annual recurring revenue (ARR), product, business model, and overall layout.
As your CS team grows and you build out your customer success organizational structure, you need the right tools and resources to empower those team members to give your customers a great experience from day one.
In your toolkit should be Arrows, the customer onboarding tool built specifically with the needs of SaaS businesses — especially high-touch SaaS companies — in mind. See what Arrows can do for your customer success and onboarding efforts.
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