Invest 👏🏼 In 👏🏼 Your 👏🏼People!

I was excited to receive the prompt to provide my thoughts on team building and what it means to be part of a successful team. If you’ve checked out my bio, you know I’m a strong believer in the power of the individual–but that doesn’t mean I discount working as a team. It’s a well-known fact there’s power in numbers!

It goes without saying that when it comes to building a Customer Success team, you should seek individuals with customer service and support experience or experience that can easily translate into the field.

However, you’ll also want to identify whether or not perfecting the customer journey & providing world class service is where your team members’ passion lies. When we think of Customer Success, we know the overall goal of the department is to retain and grow the customer base. But while Customer Success can be accredited with the big wins, they’ll also be the first to assume the responsibility for the big losses. As a leader or Individual Contributor (IC) in a Customer Success team, you’ll need to make sure the team is ready to champion your brand even when the going gets tough – that takes passion and grit.

So where do we begin when it comes to instilling passion for your brand, your business goals, and your Customer Success team in the individual contributor? Well, it seems straightforward: start with the Individual.

If you want your IC’s to feel empowered, they need to feel supported – to believe that their company cares about their personal AND professional development. That means your company needs to start investing.

So it’s time to pay up, but where do you start? Here are some ideas to keep in mind at each stage of your relationship (courting through securing the marriage) with your individual contributors:

Stage: Interview process

    • Transparency into the role responsibilities the person will be accepting as it currently stands. You never want for your team to feel like they’ve been duped in terms of the expectations of the role when they were applying vs. what the role actually is when they’re in.  
  • Share with your candidates what your future vision is for the team. Sure, it’s ideal for appropriate expectations to be set before accepting the role, but your team also has to buy into where you see the role expanding in the future.
    • Let them know about the current state of Team morale. In order to feel like part of the team vision, the team will need to know where everyone’s mindset is. If there are hurdles, let them buy into overcoming them as a group.
  • Be open about current or potential roadblocks you see the team facing. It’s good to be realistic about any adversity the team may face during transitions within the organization. This will help your IC’s come to the table ready with the problem-solving mindset.

Stage: New Hire

    • Invest heavily in the appropriate onboarding process. Keep in mind that in addition to providing the appropriate training resources, you’ll also want to ensure you set aside time to introduce your new teammates to the rest of the team and department.
      • Schedule intro coffee sessions for your new hires with other members of the Success org.
  • Ramp, slowly. Much like your first days of school, your first days of joining a new company and new team can be mentally exhausting. Allow your new hire time to acclimate to the office culture and their workload. As with many things in life: moderation is key.
  • Offer mentorship programs. Some of my best experiences being onboarded into new teams were those in which I had appropriate mentorship resources. Identify the natural leaders within your team, and allow them the opportunity to excel by leading your new hire.
  • Offer networking opportunities.
    • Interdepartmental Communication & Collaboration. Have your new hires meet with members of other teams to learn more about the ways in which they will be working together.
  • Collect feedback and do it often. Your new hires have the opportunity to provide you with feedback regarding any holes in your current process. While your process is likely great, it can always be better. Encourage and establish early on an environment that applauds fosters feedback and allow yourself ample time to answer.
  • Take action with the feedback you’ve been provided. Humble yourself and implement feedback and change when appropriate. Ego shouldn’t exist when it comes to fine-tuning process in the best interest of the team, the company, and most importantly: the customer.

Stage: Ramped Up

  • Leadership should be accessible.
    • 1:1 sessions & office hours are imperative. Your team should feel heard and valued on an individual level.
    • Team and department meetings. You should be meeting with your team on a regular basis to ensure your processes and approach to problem-solving are still relevant and efficient.
    • Champion your team with senior level leadership and your C Suite. (does everyone know what a C suite is?)
  • Set the team up for success. I cannot say this enough, folks: Clear and appropriate KPIs.
  • Coaching. Continue to support and help your team grow on personal and professional levels by offering clear and approachable feedback on their performance. Make sure any tips or advice being given can be easily implemented and make sure your people have the resources they need.

Now that we’ve focused on best practices to keep in mind in terms of team culture and success, you’ll also want to keep in mind that your main goal is to ensure your customers are nurtured and valued by your team. While the goal is to do this as efficiently as possible, all decisions on process and policy should be made on the basis of what is right for your customers.

It’s easy for teams to get in the mindset of reactively servicing their customers in light of trending issues/problems that may arise, but it’s important to never lose the mindset of proactively seeking solutions and process improvements to prevent an unsatisfying customer experience.

A wise manager once told me that you can never go wrong when you consider:

Customer > Company > Team > Individual

Putting the customer and their success into every decision you make will put you on the fast track to making all the right moves.


Jenn Arevalo is one of the co-founders of the Chicago Customer Success Podcast. She is currently a Team Lead on the Account Management team with Sprout Social.

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