Lasting Results: Five Tips for Building a Strong Customer Success Team


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There’s a difference between customer service and customer success.

Service is about reacting to an inbound problem from a customer; it’s most often an immediate support function meant to resolve a specific issue. Customer success, on the other hand, is about leveraging such “touches” to grow a long-term relationship. Its goal is to get customers to renew or buy more over time, as well as refer friends and family. It can generate loyalty, reduce churn and increase profits.

Customer service, as we know it, has been around for a quarter of a century. Customer success is a newer, evolving function, roughly a decade old. It’s been embraced by industries with complex, higher-end products and services requiring more hand-holding. Tech companies, particularly software as a service (SaaS) companies, were early adopters, driven by the rapid growth of the cloud and new opportunities for demand.

Since, the benefits of cultivating longer term relationships have led all types of organizations to recognize the value of customer success. If you want to take your company to the next level, it should be on your radar, too. Here are five tips to help you develop a winning customer success team.

1. Hire right

Understand that customer service and customer success roles differ. Service responsibilities are specific and often scripted. Customer success goes deeper and is more intimate. It requires problem-solving, social and interpersonal skills, and subject matter expertise.

Look for these traits when you’re hiring personnel. If you see customer service reps with potential, cultivate them. They’re already familiar with your offerings and company, so they might ramp up quicker and be more effective.

2. Develop a sound structure

Understand this is a hybrid role that involves both sales and support. When customer success first emerged, it was actually linked to sales. Now it leans toward support. After all, knowledge sharing about customer issues does lead to better outcomes and operational efficiency.

Still, a customer success team serves a distinct function. So commit to it, structure the entire process, establish best practices, and provide the right training, tools and oversite.

3. Understand timing is everything

Everyone prefers dealing with a trusted source – it makes life simpler. For example, if your customer is already a satisfied customer and has a new related need, you’re naturally first in line to provide the solution.

With customer success, upselling and cross-selling deepens the value a customer receives from your company. It’s truly a win-win. At the same time, a sales push when they’re frustrated with a problem can backfire. As such, you need to be aware of how satisfied they are with your product and service, so there should always be a constant and transparent line of communication.

4. Think big picture and be patient

Customer support is a necessary cost to running a business. Customer success is different: When customers return, your return is greater. C-level execs sometimes make the mistake of overlooking total value and instead focus on hard-and-fast ROI. They consider what is lost if a function goes away without taking into account the big picture.

Studies overwhelmingly show it’s more cost-efficient and profitable to sell to satisfied customers than find new ones. So, it’s important to ensure customers understand the value of your product or service when onboarding as well as throughout the life of your solution.

If they fail to do so, the result is churn – when customers end their paid relationship and the corresponding revenue goes with it. A high churn rate hurts all companies, but those with complex, more expensive products are particularly hurt due to great loss of revenue and the time and cost invested in getting a customer up and running.

So think big picture; remember this is about more than immediate sales and factor in the benefits of decreased churn. You’ll find it makes a massive difference.

5. Find the right tools for the right job

This final tip can be particularly useful for those selling B2B software and services.

Buyers have become more demanding. A study from Forrester Consulting and FPX showed 92 percent of B2B companies surveyed felt it important or very important to deliver a consistent, high-quality customer experience as part of their sales strategy. Further, 70 percent said customers today have higher expectations of the buying process experience.

Customer success is a different job than simply customer service – success teams provide that experience. Support your team with the right technology and they’ll deliver the right results.

Regardless of industry, customer success has become key to business success. According to a survey of marketers conducted by Gartner, 81 percent of respondents said they expect to be competing mostly or completely on the basis of customer experience in less than two years.

So, as you’re building a team, understand it’ll take time. They’ll need support. It will require investment. But it’ll deliver lasting returns that will sustain your success for a long time to come.

Annie Reiss
Annie Reiss is VP of marketing for CloudShare, where she brings more than 20 years of B2B and B2C marketing experience to her position. With proven expertise in digital marketing strategy and lead generation, she is the driving force behind CloudShare’s global marketing activities. Annie holds a BA in Political Science from Bar-Ilan University.


  1. Thanks for this piece, Annie. Sound advice and well thought out. Do you have additional tips for onboarding a customer success team/strategy? It’s never too early to get started, even if there are some early failures, right? But you need to make sure you don’t lose buy-in from the company executives.

  2. Hi Valerie, you are right. The secret to success in SaaS is not only acquiring customers but holding onto them. Churns Burns! We recently wrote a piece about that:
    As to execs buy in, I recently read an HBR article about leadership. There was a sentence that struck me: “Here’s what’s important to remember: our struggles do not define us any more than our successes do. You are not weak; you have weaknesses. There is a difference.” – A recommended article on why best leaders aren’t afraid to ask for help:


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