Apr 5, 2019

Read Time 5 min

Expert Tips from Customer Success Leaders


RYG Customer Success Leadership Hour

This week, we hosted a RYG Leadership Hour in Atlanta. RYG, which stands for red, yellow, green, (health scores) is all about your customers and their success. Wondering how to take your red and yellow customers and transform them into your biggest cheerleaders? Read on! 

Our inaugural Atlanta Leadership Hour featured four discussion topics led by area Customer Success leaders. With the event wrapped up, our participants left with great takeaways to share with their own CS teams. Here are just a few of our favorite tips that we wanted to share with the larger Customer Success community. 

Keep reading to get expert tips and advice on the following topics: 

  1. Customer Success Performance Management (Goals and KPIs) 
  2. Hiring and Scaling a Customer Success Team 
  3. Recommendations for Developing Compensation Plans for CSMs 
  4. Tips for Building Out a Customer Success Playbook 

Customer Success Leaders:

Craig Chiofalo - VP of Customer Experience James Scott - SuccessHacker

1.) Customer Success Performance Management (Goals and KPIs) 

Tips brought to you by:
James Scott, Associate Partner, SuccessHacker 

  • If a customer isn’t engaging in upselling, they are often heading towards churn. When they aren’t seeing enough value to increase their investment over time, it can be a red flag. Oftentimes, they are teetering on the edge of renewal or cancellation and may end up as a churned account. 
  • KPIs need to be easy achievable, clear cut and used in a manner that can predict future activity. It is important for Customer Success teams to adopt a Sales team mentality in this respect. Collecting data is only useful when it can predict future behaviors and be linked together to form an accurate picture of customer health. 

Tips brought to you by: Craig Chiofalo, Vice President of Customer Experience, CallRail 

  • As long as you’re going a good job, retention is not as much of a concern with newer clients. However, retention is essential when it comes to older accounts. CS teams are often caught by surprise by longer-term clients who do their own thing and are left to do so with little intervention. When you do finally hear from this type of account it is often because they are not renewing. 
  • Work to make your KPIs available to whatever applications can consume them. This helps you make your CS data available to every employee across your company. Not only does this help track adoption on an organization wide level but it also puts Customer Success at the forefront of all employee activities. 

2.) Hiring and Scaling a Customer Success Team 

Tips brought to you by:
 James Scott, Associate Partner, SuccessHacker 

  • When scaling a Customer Success team, you have to paint the picture in terms of ‘what is the least they could do.’ This is one way to gain executive buy-in and secure the resources you need to build your team. Oftentimes even if a CSM only has a 1-2 percent impact on retention or upsells, this alone will offset their salary.  
  • Scaling can be extremely difficult when the team is new or has no track record. It can be harder to measure impact when you have less data to provide reference. Always be able to show what impact the last dollar you invested had. Likewise, always be ready to demonstrate what the next dollar you invest is capable of. 
  • Many individuals entering the Customer Success world do not have prior experience. While this may seem daunting, it should be viewed as an exciting opportunity. Focus on transferable skills – candidates that are great with people, have relatable industry experience and drive. Having industry knowledge, product knowledge and understanding your customer’s world is what typically leads to successful CSMs. 

Tips brought to you by: Craig Chiofalo, Vice President of Customer Experience, CallRail  

  • As you build out your team always have discussions about fit. Sometimes an account only stays with your company because of the great relationship they have with your success team. Always take this into consideration when evaluating new team members. 
  • The CS community has done a good job improving the word ‘Customer Success.’ That said when it comes to organizations that are new to CS, things can be quite tough. Above all make sure your CEO understands the value of the Customer Success function. It can be challenging when there are salary and headcount constraints, but you need to prove that CS is a driver for corporate growth. 
  • There’s a lot of confusion when people say cultural fit. It’s great to have people who listen to the same music or eat the same foods, but this shouldn’t be all that you are looking for. What you want are people that have curiosity. You’ve got to find someone that is curious, driven and demonstrates their commitment not only to your organization, but also your customers.  


3.) Recommendations for Developing Compensation Plans for CSMs 

Tips brought to you by:
James Scott, Associate Partner, SuccessHacker 

  • There’s not a one size fit all approach for compensation. It depends on your type of business, what type of investment you can make and the complexity of your product.  
  • When changing your compensation plan, remember that people have difficulty with change. It’s easy to roll out a new plan and not have your CSMs change their behavior. There is an argument to moving towards short term goals versus those that are more long term. By focusing more on shorter term changes, CSMs are better equipped to adjust their behavior. 

Tips brought to you by: 
Craig Chiofalo, Vice President of Customer Experience, CallRail  

  • Revenue growth and certifications are two areas that can be leveraged when developing CSM compensation. These clear-cut goals leave little to the imagination and ensure that all team members are on the same page.  
  • When making changes to compensation plans, having at least a little change is a great idea – oftentimes these small adjustments can take the form of stretch goals. Likewise, it’s a lot easier when CSMs can tie compensation to companywide adoption goals. It’s important for members of a Customer Success team to know how they fit into these goals, and what impact then can make when it comes to achieving these goals.  

4.) Tips for Building Out a Customer Success Playbook 

Tips brought to you by:
James Scott, Associate Partner, SuccessHacker 

  • Oftentimes Customer Success Playbooks fit into two ends of a spectrum – at one end is no playbook – everyone just does the best they can. But at some point, you need automation and consistency. On the other end many organizations create a playbook with too much content that is not easily absorbed. A playbook that leaves CSMs drowning in content is just as harmful as having no playbook.   
  • When building out your playbook, keep it simple! Maintain a select number of workflows that have the biggest impact. This is the best starting point when creating your playbook. Another consideration is where the playbook is hosted – letting it sit in a Google Drive or similar location does not typically encourage use. 

Tips brought to you by: Craig Chiofalo, Vice President of Customer Experience, CallRail  

  • Ensure you really think through your plays when building out a Playbook. This isn’t just a one-time process… you can’t just implement and think you’re done. A successful playbook is one that is future looking and is consistently updated. 
  • Building a Playbook can seem daunting but it’s best to keep things simple. It’s easy to pile in lots of workflows or other criteria. Just remember that these won’t answer every question that your CSM has. Leverage your CSM’s sentiment and instincts. By segmenting each customer group, you can get your team attuned to each account’s needs (product focus, usage etc.)  
  • Build out your Playbook early- it’s so much harder to do so when your team is busy. Always be documenting your processes and tracking events that you may have not tracked prior. A successful Playbook is always thinking towards the future. 

Huge thanks to our co-hosts of the event, Craig and James! We hope you found these expert tips to be as helpful as we did. Stay on the lookout for our next RYG |Leadership Hour in your area! 

Learn More About RYG


Customer Success Around the Web



Subscribe to the newsletter   

Empowering your customer success team through community

Has your customer community lost its spark? Teams are often eager to launch this new initiative, however, sustaining that same enthusiasm in the months ahead can be a challenge. “It's one thing to create excitement and another to keep people’s attention,” says Shauna...