Who Should Own Customer Success

One of the challenges of being in Customer Success is it often gets lost inside an organization in terms of who it should report into. In a recent survey I conducted, I found no dominant area

Your Customer Success Team Reports Into

CEO or CCO                                        23.81%

VP of Sales or CRO                            33.33%

VP of Customer Support or Services                                                                           33.33%

VP of Engineering                                4.76%

Other                                                       4.76%

(Survey results from August 2019, Customer Success Professionals in the Boston area)

One other concern is that Customer Success was more frequently part of a reorganization, moving from one group to another. While the goals and objectives of the Customer Success team may stay the same, the goals and objectives of the larger organization may influence how its mission is carried out. For example, when Customer Success is part of a support organization it is highly unlikely CSM’s compensation will be tied to revenue goals, but when that same team moves into sales and the VP of Sales wants to drive a renewal number, you’re more likely to see comp plans change. While I don’t see a right or wrong side to this, an organization has to build historical evidence to understand what is effective and what is not.

The other area that is important is responsibility. When a team is involved in an outcome but is not responsible for that outcome it gets difficult to model behavior. Two areas that come to mind are expansion sales and renewals. I see more Customer Success teams owning renewals, but in many cases, another team will own the goal. Expansion I tend to see more organizations treat Customer Success like a lead generation engine and still look to sales to own the goal. I am not saying this is wrong, but the challenge is fostering behaviors that drive outcomes when Customer Success does not own that outcome.

From the survey I found a majority of Customer Success organizations focused on onboarding and adoption (more services or support-based functions) while a lower percentage focused on the more sales-oriented functions of expansion/up-sell and renewal.

Functional Area Customer Success is Involved In

On-boarding – helping customers get started                                                 76.19%

Adoption – helping customers achieve business goals                                   90.48%

Expansion/up-sell – helping customers explore new capabilities                  47.62%

Renewal – ensure customers see

value                                                   66.67%

Other                                                   14.29%

(Survey results from August 2019, Customer Success Professionals in the Boston area)


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