What is CS Ops?
Customer Success as a profession is a young field (and a wonderful one!), and if CS is young and still fairly immature, then CS Ops really is the new kid on the block, in many ways.

It’s a crucial role though, as CS teams across the world are growing and evolving, and in need of support to keep delivering high value. There is only so far you can keep massive spreadsheets going, right?

For me CS Operations is both the grease and the backbone of a healthy CS team. The CS lead(s) can set direction, the CS Ops team implements it, and the CSMs execute.

What does CS Ops do?
1) Supporting any efforts to truly scale an organisation

2) Helping the CSMs and CS leadership by providing a solid foundation for focus & productivity

3) A CS team is nowhere without the right data to work from. Data & Insights are crucial elements and a neverending story to get right

4) Automation is key. Take away as much manual work as possible from the CSMs, in order for them to focus on providing value to your customers

5) As an extension of 4, or maybe rather a drive of, the CS Ops team ensures ‘repeatable processes’, making life easier for the CSMs and lowering their stress levels. Yes, all customers are different, but no customer is unique: there is always common ground to find, to build smart processes on.

When do you start with CS Ops?
The only ‘theory’ I have come across in my many years in CS comes from this article from Gainsight.

“You should hire a CS ops lead when you have about 5 CSMs”

With no other basis than my own experience, I think it’s a good rule of thumb to work from: once the team hits 5-10 people you have to start focusing more, without it CSMs become the embodiment of what Rav Dhaliwal calls the ‘Everything Department’.

CSMs are by nature people who should be able to handle a lot of balls in the air, but to truly scale and keep focus, it’s good to have someone owning all the practicalities around CS in your organisation.

A plea to all CS leaders
I speak from experience when I say that an Ops person/team is essential. CSMs will be too busy handling clients (and that’s how it should be), but will have great qualitative insights into clients. The Ops manager will be able to organise the data to make sure the insights are there to confirm the qualitative or help bring focus on other areas.

The Ops manager should also together with the CS leadership find the right toolstack and processes, without drowning the team in “new and shiny tools of the week” and “we are going to do this now” every week/month/quarter. This will help avoid tool fatigue and employee disconnects (growing fast is always a challenge, but let’s not burden employees more than necessary), but rather strengthen the focus for everyone, making handling clients much easier as everyone will have the right data to work from.

A crucial role in any CS team, as the person/team based on real (usage and general) data can help identify potential churn early, and provide insights in creating a solid metric framework that can be fed back as well to the Sales and Marketing team: thus avoiding getting non-relevant clients on board.

I have seen Sales Ops teams deliver huge value, taking away a lot of needless friction for Sales teams: I want to ensure the same for the CS team. They deserve it!

In conclusion:

“CS Ops managers look for consistent issues across the whole Success team, break the issues down into manageable components, and create solutions with measurable results”

Peter Sterkenburg