How Customer Success Works: Aligning Teams and Tactics

Learn about customer success—roles, strategies and hiring best practices for driving long-term customer value and retention.


Closing the deal is just the beginning. What truly sustains a business is keeping customers happy and engaged long after that initial purchase. That's why you should invest in customer success.

Customer success ensures customers achieve their desired outcomes using your product or service. Companies that prioritize customer success don't just make one-time sales—they cultivate lasting relationships with satisfied users.

Let’s talk about what it entails, the main players, and how businesses can develop an effective customer success strategy that keeps users engaged and invested in their products for years.

What Is Customer Success?

A satisfied customer celebrating customer success, How Customer Success Works

Customer success ensures your customers achieve their desired outcomes and experience maximum value from your products or services. This includes proactively providing solutions and answers even before the customer asks.

No matter your industry, if you have customers, you should invest in their success. This has never been truer than now, as acquiring new customers keeps getting more expensive. 

Smart companies are shifting their focus to keeping existing customers happy and engaged—because happy customers don't just stick around; they become powerful advocates for your brand.

Some of today's most successful emerging and growing companies already invest heavily in customer success initiatives. Research shows that high-growth companies are 21% more likely than their stagnant counterparts to prioritize customer success.

Customer success helps you drive retention, loyalty, and long-term revenue growth. When you ensure users continually achieve their goals, you increase the likelihood that they'll renew subscriptions, make repeat purchases, and recommend your offerings to others.

Who Is Responsible for Customer Success?

While customer success should be a company-wide effort involving all teams, some roles are more directly focused on it than others. Here are the most valuable players in customer success and their responsibilities:

1. Customer Support (CS)

New customers or users haven't mastered your solution yet. Many of them may encounter problems as they start using your product or service. 

Without a dedicated support team, these users will struggle to succeed and achieve their desired outcomes.

Customer support teams are typically reactive, responding to customer inquiries and issues as they arise. They operate support channels like phone hotlines, email inboxes, or chat platforms. 

Customer support professionals assist customers who need help troubleshooting problems, have how-to questions, or require guidance on using products/services.

They cater to different customer segments:

  • Self-service: Handling inquiries from individuals using low-cost/free products
  • Transactional: Assisting customers making one-off purchases
  • Enterprise: Supporting large organizations with dedicated account teams

2. Implementation and Onboarding Specialist

An onboarding Specialist is guiding a new customer on product use, How Customer Success Works

Even after making a purchase decision, many customers need guidance to implement solutions and realize their value properly. A smooth onboarding experience is crucial for long-term success and preventing fallout.

These specialists take a proactive approach by ensuring new customers get properly set up and trained to use offerings effectively from the very start.

They aim to make customers self-sufficient by providing a solid implementation and onboarding experience.

They typically work with transactional and enterprise customers who need more high-touch assistance during initial deployment phases. After onboarding, customers transition to working with support teams or customer success managers.

3. Customer Success Manager (CSM)/Account Manager (AM)

Acquiring new customers is expensive, so maximizing revenue from existing accounts is wise. A customer success manager helps customers by ensuring they have everything they need to reach their goals. 

They’re customer success leaders who proactively manage the end-to-end customer journey. They guide individual and enterprise customers to achieve their goals and desired outcomes.

Common CSM/AM activities include: 

  • Conducting regular check-ins
  • Quarterly business reviews
  • Identifying upsell/cross-sell opportunities
  • Developing tailored success plans. 

Major enterprise accounts often operate as extensions of the customer's team.

These managers understand what customers want and share their insights with the sales, marketing, and product teams. So basically, they're the ones who speak up for the customers in your company, making sure their needs are heard and met

How Does Customer Success Work?

You'll need three essential components to drive effective customer success initiatives: the right technology solution, a dedicated customer success team, and a well-defined strategy. Let’s discuss them one by one.

1. Customer Service Solution

First, you need a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. A CRM is a centralized database containing all customer information, interactions, and data across your organization. 

It allows teams to document issues, access conversation histories, and manage renewals/upsells.

47% of CRM users have seen a massive improvement in customer satisfaction after implementation. The tool provides transparency into the customer journey and enables seamless handoffs between teams for a unified experience.

2. Customer Success Team

Customer success team working together, How Customer Success Works

While technology is an enabler, you also need a team of professionals dedicated to customer success. 

Depending on your company size and customer base, this could range from a few team members to a full-fledged department with different roles like support agents, onboarding specialists, and customer success managers.

A formalized customer success team ensures your clients receive the proactive guidance, strategic advice, and hands-on support required to stay successful long-term. As your business scales, you must continuously hire, train, and grow this team.

3. A Winning Customer Success Strategy

Technology and team aside, you need a clearly defined customer success strategy and roadmap to execute against. While plans may vary, some common steps include:

1. Make Customer Success a Company-Wide Priority

Customer success can't be siloed under one team. It requires cross-functional commitment and clear roles across departments like sales, support, product, etc. Everyone must be aligned to drive successful customer outcomes.

2. Implement a Robust CRM

A CRM system is the central hub for all customer data, allowing visibility into past purchases, conversation history, and more. This transparency allows seamless handoffs between teams for consistent customer experiences.

3. Identify Desired Customer Outcomes

You should understand exactly what your customers want to achieve using your product/service. With clear goals defined, you can map out a pathway and take systematic steps to ensure they realize their intended outcomes.

4. Get Company-Wide Adoption

Implement your customer success strategy across your organization. Ensure all customer-facing teams understand the processes, their roles/responsibilities, and how their work impacts the overall customer experience.

5. Track Performance Metrics

Identify and consistently measure success metrics like product usage, user adoption, support tickets, etc. This data provides insight into how well you're driving successful outcomes.

6. Optimize Through Continuous Improvement

Customer success is an iterative process. Regularly review your performance metrics, gather voice-of-customer feedback, and optimize your strategy, processes, and resources for better results over time.

When Should You Make a Customer Success Hire?

As a general benchmark, an average Customer Success Manager in SaaS can effectively manage a $1-1.5M annual recurring revenue book of business. However, you'll want to hire your first dedicated customer success professional much earlier.

Ideally, bring on your first CSM when you have around ten smaller customers or land your first large enterprise account. Having a CSM ensures initial customers achieve successful outcomes at this stage.

A few reasons to hire a CSM early:

  1. They'll own the end-to-end success process for your first customers, developing a deep understanding of their goals, challenges, and what it takes to drive adoption.
  2. While working with this initial customer base, the CSM can start documenting repeatable success processes, milestones, and playbooks.
  3. They'll provide valuable voice-of-customer insights by being closest to the user experience, which can feed back into your product roadmap.

However, customer success would still be a founder-led initiative in the earliest days. As the founder, you would join customer calls, listen to the CSM's interactions, and directly facilitate the product feedback loop. 

Your hands-on involvement sets the tone and helps you understand what customers need to succeed with your solution.

As you scale beyond those first cohorts of customers, you can build a larger customer success team and organization around your initial hire and their foundational work.

How to Hire an Effective Customer Success Team

An Effective Customer Success Team, How Customer Success Works

With demand for customer success roles growing by 80% year over year, attracting and vetting top talent is becoming increasingly competitive. To make the best hiring choices, you need a systematic approach that evaluates candidates holistically.

The 30/30/30/10 Model: What It Is and How to Use It

One proven methodology is the 30/30/30/10 model, which weighs four criteria:

  • 30% Predictive Assessment Results: Utilize assessment tools that provide insights into a candidate's talents, behavioral traits, motivators, and likelihood to thrive in a customer success role.
  • 30% Interview Performance: Conduct structured interviews that consistently evaluate skills such as communication, problem-solving, stakeholder management, and more.
  • 30% Practical Skills Tests: Include simulations, roleplays, or work samples that allow candidates to demonstrate their abilities in realistic customer scenarios.
  • 10% Cultural Fit: Assess how well candidates align with your company values and whether their work style complements your existing team dynamics.

Take this balanced approach to increase confidence in your hiring decisions.

You should resist making offers based too heavily on fleeting interview impressions alone. Combining these four elements provides a more comprehensive view of each candidate's capabilities.

6 Steps to Hire Your Customer Success Team

With the increasing demand for customer success talent, you need a consistent, data-driven hiring strategy to effectively attract and assess top candidates. To make the hiring process smoother and more successful, we've created a step-by-step guide:

1. Understand Your Team's Mission

It's difficult to identify the right people without a clear understanding of the team's core purpose. Before anything else, define the customer success team's functions and responsibilities. 

Think about the specific tasks they need to own. Is it renewals? Adoption? Expansion/upsells? Outline their exact role, as it will be distinct from sales, marketing, or support.

They can have various functions like:

  • Regular check-ins with customers
  • Guiding customers with the use and adoption of purchases
  • Follow up on renewals

2. Conduct Background Research

Don't start hiring blindly. Draw insights from your existing customer data, such as feedback, churn rates, satisfaction scores, etc. 

This historical context can help you determine which team members succeeded in making customers happy and forging strong relationships. Even if you're not hiring those individuals, you can analyze what made them effective and use those qualities to shape the job description.

These metrics can also help you see where your team has been excelling and where you need to sharpen up.

3. Establish Success Profiles

When hiring, it's easy to get caught up in qualities that seem important but might not translate to success on the job. 

Avoid this by using data-driven validation studies to create criteria that reliably predict successful on-the-job performance for each role. 

Analyze performance data to identify the specific skills, traits, and attributes that lead to desired customer outcomes. With those insights, you can build accurate success profiles.

4. Follow a Consistent Process

Before diving into interviews, take the time to standardize your process and the tools you'll use. You should establish a uniform approach that can be applied to every candidate vying for a spot on your customer success team.

Your hiring workflow should be rigorous, repeatable, and driven by data. Convene with your hiring panel to establish clear standards for evaluating candidates. Decide on how assessment results, interviews, and simulations will be weighed.

5. Monitor Results

You're already adept at collecting customer data, but are you doing the same for your hiring process? Evaluating the effectiveness of your hiring decisions refines your approach. 

It helps pinpoint areas for improvement in your selection criteria, leading to better choices for your customer success team.

Track relevant hiring metrics like cost-per-hire, time-to-hire, quality-of-hire, ramp time, performance, retention rates, etc.

You don't need to track and master all these metrics at once. Start with a couple most relevant to your goals and processes, then expand your tracking as your hiring process evolves. Analyzing this data lets you optimize your hiring criteria over time.

6. Collect Annual Reflections

Don't consider your hiring process complete after making a hire. Your work isn't finished once you've established a consistent hiring process for your customer success roles.

Customer success hinges on your team's ability to empathize with your customers. As their needs evolve, your success profiles should, too. 

Review hiring criteria annually to ensure they align with your growth strategies and customer expectations. Adapt processes as needed to attract talent that meshes with your future roadmap.

Build Your Thriving Customer Success Strategy

Customer success is pivotal for sustainable business growth, especially when buyers have endless options. 

Invest in the right technology, teams, and strategies to guide customers to achieve their desired outcomes and get maximum value from your solutions.

This creates satisfied, loyal users who stay longer, generate more revenue through upsells/expansions, and become passionate brand advocates. 

Committing to customer success rewards you with high retention and growth. Make customer success a cornerstone of your operating model, and you'll be positioned to win long-term.

Learn More about Customer Success with Lunas

Deepen your knowledge of customer success strategies with Lunas' expert resources. Our comprehensive blogs and downloadable guides empower businesses to deliver exceptional customer experiences, drive loyalty, and accelerate growth. 

Lunas provides the insights and tools you need to succeed, whether you're looking to improve your customer success program, uplevel your team's skills, or align sales and marketing for a seamless handoff.

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