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Most startups have an eye on growth, but there’s a crucial stage that every startup goes through that can make or break success: scaling from a team into an organization.
As the leader of a global customer success organization, within the last two years, I grew my team from a few dozen employees to a few hundred. While our growth was fast, the leadership team and I focused on how to scale our organization effectively and efficiently to evolve our small customer success team into a global powerhouse.
So, let’s talk about how to scale responsibly and successfully through the lens of a customer success leader. Even if you don’t work in customer success, you can apply these principles broadly to any type of team in hyper-growth.
There are plenty of benefits to small teams – communication channels are short, there’s little red tape, and new processes and features are quick to progress.
Let’s look at the early days of monday.com as an example. Roles were generalized, and there was one customer success manager who was responsible for the entire life cycle of an account, from onboarding through renewal. Because this person was involved in all stages, they became a self-contained knowledge base and were able to move quickly. However, it eventually became unsustainable for one person to manage the entire process.
As our organization grew, we hit a tipping point and realized it was necessary to transition to specializations. Gradually, we created specializations based on where our customers’ needs were the greatest.
We started with a customer success manager who was responsible for an account’s entire life cycle, including tickets, implementation, adoption and more. It became clear that this role required more in-depth expertise, so we divided it into a reactive role and a proactive role.
Reactive role: customer experience managers who are approached by customers to solve technical issues, bugs, etc.
Proactive role: customer success managers who manage the account from a business perspective and build relationships with the customer.
Later, we divided the roles further based on our customers’ needs, creating a separate role for the onboarding phase of the account and another role for the renewal phase. Each role is specialized, allowing people to become experts in the role, which helps us deliver higher quality services.
You can divide specializations in two ways:
Account lifecycle: Different roles are responsible for different stages in an account life cycle. This might include roles like onboarding and renewal managers.
Product maturity and complexity: A complex and mature product means that there is too much information about features and capabilities for any one person to hold. You may want different roles specializing in different areas of the product.
Whichever approach you choose, with deep specializations comes deep responsibility. Before opening a new specialization, consider what types of bureaucracy, barriers or duplicated processes it has the potential to create, and make a plan in advance for how to prevent them.
Challenges that come with scaling and specializations
Here are a few of the key challenges we identified within scaling and specializations that we tackled head-on:
Complex workflows: As the team grew and became more specialized, more complex workflows and processes involving more stakeholders came into play. There can often be a steep learning curve when it comes to creating, implementing and maintaining these complexities.
A key factor in successfully implementing these new workflows was maintaining business continuity to ensure that clients were not negatively impacted during the transition period. For example, we had to manage the handoff from an onboarding manager to a customer success manager while maintaining the same level of trust and continuity with the client.
Organizational efficiency: We took the time to evaluate our new processes to ensure they didn’t create inefficiencies and duplicated work. Though we moved fast, we constantly evaluated our work and relied on data to measure our progress, effectiveness and impact.
Whenever we implemented a new process, we continually tracked our KPIs to see the actual impact of the new process and made adjustments accordingly. For instance, we evaluated how the customer satisfaction score was impacted by the change in workflow.
Onboarding new employees: Investing in an onboarding process for employees could have fallen to the back of our priority list because we were eager to get new hires into the swing quickly. But the onboarding process was crucial in the long run. It promoted efficiency, ensured the new teammates felt like a part of the team and cultivated motivation to succeed in the role.
Now, our onboarding process includes a generic onboarding where they get to know the company’s culture and values to feel more connected to the mission. Then each role participates in a specialized onboarding where they learn about the product and business in a way that’s relevant to their role. The onboarding process has an invaluable role in raising the employee retention rate and creating a soft, welcoming landing in the organization.
Scaling responsibly and with intention are the keys to maintaining business continuity through growth. Creating specializations can help your organization scale tremendously, but you must understand the challenges that come along with this and be ready to tackle them as they arise.