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22 April 2021

The Top 7 Qualities To Look For In A First-Rate Customer Success Operations Leader

by Rida Ahmed Reading time: 6 mins

Customer Success Operations is the Backbone of your Customer Success Organization

In today’s high-velocity subscription-based economy, a solid Customer Success Operations motion is imperative to driving sustainable and scalable growth. As a function, CS Operations ensures that your strategy, technology, data and processes are implemented efficiently and at scale. A strong and technically-savvy CS Operations leader will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your customer success team by providing tactical and strategic cross-functional support.

Approximately 1/3 of enterprise leaders state that they plan on increasing investments by more than 10 percent in hiring customer success talent (Deloitte, 2019). As you search for a Customer Success Operations leader that will steer your CS team to success, what key qualities should you be looking for in an ideal candidate?

While the specific roles and responsibilities of your CS Operations lead will depend on the maturity and function of your business, there are certain qualities endemic to all of the best and brightest CS Operations that will help you select the right candidate to build and scale your customer success organization. Here are the 7 key attributes to look for in your next Customer Success Operations leader.

1) Technical Knowledge

A deep knowledge of the technological ecosystem that supports customer success is the most important skill for any Operations leader. While the specific suite of tools may differ across organizations, each company should have an extensive CRM, CS technology and Support Ticketing apparatus. Mastery of these platforms is essential; understanding the specific features will allow leaders to leverage platforms to deploy a CS strategy and roadmap successfully while understanding each platforms’ limitations will allow the team to pivot and reshape strategy if necessary.

When evaluating potential CS Operations candidates, you can test their technical knowledge by asking: What platforms have you worked with in the past and how do you stay up-to-date with the ever-evolving SaaS and Customer Success applications market?

2) Data and Business Intelligence

Customer Success Operations lives and breathes data and you need a leader who does that for the entire CS organization. While there are a plethora of data sources available across the organization, the CS Operations leader is responsible for aggregating, compiling and analyzing how this data can be used to operationalize and optimize customer success strategy within technology.

In addition to understanding customers and its impact on strategy, data is also important to understanding the health of your business. CS Operations leaders need to be able to analyze key KPIs and spot potential opportunities or issues within the Customer Success organization. They also need to be able to communicate and show CS Operations’ overall value in helping the company meet their strategic objectives and goals.

At Valuize, we evaluate a CS Operations expert’s level of business intelligence by looking at a combination of their experience and vision. Important questions to ask include: Have you worked with new leading cloud-based applications like Snowflake? Where do you think cloud-data offering is headed in the future?

3) Domain Knowledge

The role of Operations is to operationalize customer success strategy. CS Operation leads need to understand customer success methodologies in order to be able to operationalize these procedures successfully across the organization. These standardized procedures include processes like customer onboarding and offboarding that need to be documented and communicated to the Customer Success team. Knowledge of trends and best practices in customer success, therefore, is crucial.

Understanding a candidate’s domain knowledge often comes through when asking specific technical questions about customer success operations such as: Can you give us an example of a playbook you created to ensure higher revenue retention?

4) Agile + Risk Taker

Customer success as a whole is quickly embracing agility, but for CS Operations’ precarious nature in particular, this quality is especially important. CS Operations leaders are faced with changing technology, new data and evolving strategy on an almost daily basis and they need to be flexible and adapt to these changes quickly. The best CS Operations leaders take this one step further by taking risks and implementing innovations before problems arise.

While agility is one of the most important qualities for a CS Ops leader, it is also one of the most challenging to identify. During the interview process, we recommend asking behavioural or situational questions such as: Can you describe a situation in which you had to pivot the direction of an initiative because of unforeseen changes, challenges or new information?

5) Constant Learner

In order to adapt and stay ahead of the curve, CS Operations leaders also need to be constant and lifelong learners. They need to keep up with the ever-changing features of the CS industry and technology, communicate those changes to the business, adjust strategy and rebuild the customer success roadmap if necessary.

You can assess a candidate’s willingness to learn by asking specific questions around new technology or data. For example; What do you think about the newly released feature from CS technology and how do you think this can be used in your Customer Success’ Operations?

6) Problem Solver

Problem solving is a critical skill for CS Operations leaders who have to deal with complex and often disconnected elements such as cross-functional teams, processes, data and technology. These leaders need to be thoughtful in their response to issues by gathering relevant data, laying out possible solutions, making a decision and taking action. They also need to be proactive in their approach to problem solving and reconstructing roadmaps based on new information.

One of the best ways to determine a candidate’s problem solving skills is to ask them to draw from their previous leadership experiences, such as: Describe a situation where there was no out-of-the-box functionality to support one of your CS processes and how you solved this using technology.

7) Communication + The Power of Persuasion

CS Operations leaders work cross-functionally and collaborate with teams from across the organization. They need to be able to translate complex technical terms and issues into clear and simple concepts, reset expectations with various teams based on technological capabilities and showcase the value of their team to top executives. All of this requires a careful mix of effective communication and persuasion.

Test a candidate’s cross-functional communication skills by asking situational questions and evaluating their confidence in their approach. For example: What do you think the best practice and best features are when it comes to implementing a renewals process in CS technology?

Supercharge your Customer Success Organization with a Strong Operations Leader

Customer success is an outcome-driven function and a Customer Success Operations leader ensures those outcomes are being met and exceeded for your customers. A strong CS Operations leader will operationalize your customer success strategy and optimize it through standardized and streamlined processes, technology and data. Selecting a strong leader for your Operations arm is the key to the success and scalable growth of your Customer Success organization.

Want to further help your CSMs drive sustainable growth in the subscription economy? Read our article for two powerful exercises to empower your Customer Success Managers to lead recurring revenue growth.

Rida Ahmed

Rida is Valuize's Content Specialist. With a multi-channel marketing approach, Rida works to share Valuize's story as well as that of its team, clients and partners.