Remodeling a Client Success Organization

By: Richard Hopewell

A few years out of college, I was looking to find my professional passion.  I can’t say I knew exactly what industry that passion would lie within, but I knew I wanted to work directly with customers and I love to challenge myself.  While participating in one of my lifelong personal passions, soccer, I ended up playing alongside a guy who was starting a new business.  He asked me if I’d be interested in helping him with his new SaaS startup. Man, this was scary.  No promise, no SaaS experience, low starting salary, but so much reward if we can make it happen.  The growth potential, the challenge, and the opportunity to start solving new problems was everything I wanted in a job. I took the leap.  

Fast forward 3 years.  The company is thriving and was acquired, twice. Little did I know, some of the toughest challenges I’d face still lie ahead.  With this new acquisition, half of the employees from the company that acquired us left for a myriad of reasons within 30 days.  To compound this mass exodus, the CEO looked to me and said: “We need to rebuild this team and make it scalable for the long haul”.  The trust in such an important project was awesome, but my a** is now on the line to prove myself to new leadership, new peers, and lead a new team.  There were two things that were very clear to me immediately. First, we needed to go through a significant reorg, and second, we needed to get rid of some of the team even though we were already depleted.  Catch 22. How could we build a better, leaner team but afford to cut people at the same time in the middle of a resource crisis? We began focusing on hiring good people. I didn’t care if they didn’t have a refined skill set, or a great resume full of experience. We focused on the care and pride they took in their work.  That’s what makes a great employee to me. Ownership and pride of what they do every day. Once we got ourselves back to a stable state in terms of resources, we immediately began to get rid of the drains on the team. We found an interesting theme, although not applicable to all of them, many of the “lifers” from the company were actually “coasting” on a daily basis, and not driving their teams as they should.  No ownership. No pride in their work. Funny story, the most established team member, who everyone told us was a rockstar when we arrived was one of the biggest drains in my opinion. So we said goodbye. His emails were forwarded to me, and I didn’t get a single email for 12 days. 12 whole days! I near lost my mind each day that passed and not a single reply email or new email from a customer arrived. Talk about validation.  It’s never fun letting someone go, but when you find out they were contributing so little to a team it reminds you that you’re doing right by everyone else who is working their butt off.

So now we’ve rejuvenated and reorganized the team for the better. We’re done, right? No way.  We started honing in on the next steps of specializations, efficiencies, and metrics. We needed to start making data-driven decisions and allow our team to make the most of their time through these metrics.  I needed to show my CEO that all these changes, pains, and risks we endured to get here were worth it. Our Net Retention spiked, our incoming support tickets plummeted, and our team morale went through the roof.  All because we put the right people in the right places and let them get to work. We guided them (not micromanaged) to focus on the problem areas through metrics like NPS, CPS (Churn Probablity Scores), and user analytics within our application.  It’s amazing what people can do if you present them with a problem to fix with the proper tools to fix it. It’s even more amazing how employees will take ownership when you don’t tell them exactly how you want it done, but let them make those decisions themselves to get to your desired outcome. Autonomy is a powerful motivator. Trust your people, you put them there for a reason.  Most importantly though, create metrics you can trust, and be ready to tweak them as your environment changes, internal or external. The best way you can support your team is to provide them the support, guidance, and tools they need on a daily basis to work effectively and happily.