For those of you who are considering a job in customer success management, you might have also thought about how the future looks like once you start. You don’t want to start in the role only to realize that it’s a dead end. That’s why in this blog, I’ll talk a bit about how customer success hierarchies look like in different organizations. Let’s get straight into it.
To do it, let’s pretend we’re in fast food (stay with me here). When you’re looking up at the menu and have decided what you want, what’s the next thing you need to make up your mind about?… the size!
CS hierarchies in smaller tech companies tend to only have the CSM on their own. Their starting to get traction and need someone to look after all the customers who are coming on. The JD will often read something like:
- fast-paced culture,
- will need to wear many hats,
- likes getting their hands dirty.
Some people may see these things as warning signs, but I find that that’s not always necessarily true. If it’s your first foray into the world of CS, doing customer success for a smaller tech company – maybe pre-Series A – is a great way to get your foot in the door.
There’s a good chance you will be reporting directly to the CEO/founder. If you’re not reporting to her, you might be reporting to someone one below, who possibly isn’t a CS leader (remember, you’re likely to be the first CS hire). It might be:
- Head of Sales/Business Development,
- Head of Product,
- Head of IT.
Don’t let this deter you too much. They might not know as much CS as you do, but they will have their perspective that will give you a look into the business from a different angle.
You might eventually join a team that has an established Customer Success department, that is, the person you report to is Head of Customer Success, Customer Experience, Customer Solutions or something similar.
They oversee the strategy, execution and tracking of the CS function and need good people to see their plans come to fruition. The great thing about joining a company with someone like this is that depending on the timing, you might find that you’re in the right position to become that leader’s 2IC (2nd In Command) that they rely on, meaning that you’re next in line for promotion.
They have probably done the hard yards themselves as CSMs and know a bit about how to make it work in tech companies. You might be part of a team of two to three or even more, depending on the maturity of your product.
At the time of writing this article, I’m part of a team that has nearly 20 CSMs. I’d consider that pretty large. We have three layers in our hierarchy:
- CS Team Leaders,
- Director of CS
Within the CSM function we also have:
- standard CSMs,
- enterprise CSMs,
- tech-touch CSMs
So you can see that there is a level of maturity in the organization that necessitates this breakdown of role. There are quite a few things we do in the organization that you probably wouldn’t see in smaller tech companies:
- have internal wikis to democratize information so that everyone can learn from everyone’s knowledge,
- have a CRM (Gainsight) specific for tracking and managing CS activities,
- roundtables every two weeks to open the floor to all CSMs so that we can ask questions of one another and spread the knowledge.
In terms of career growth, I feel that there’s the most opportunity in larger organizations like mine now, but that doesn’t mean that you should turn your nose up at opportunities at smaller ones. They might eventually end up becoming the bigger ones that everyone wants to work at – and you might end up being the CS leader at the top by then!