The 5 Key Areas of Responsibility for Customer Success Operations

August 25, 2023

ESG Customer Success

Category: Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Operations, Customer Success Resources, Customer Success Strategy, Customer Success Tools, Our Knowledge, Outcomes


The 5 Key Areas of Responsibility for Customer Success Operations

Customer Success Operations is a hot topic these days for good reason. Teams are learning to do more with less as economic challenges clash with new opportunities in the digital space. Having a CS Ops team is no longer the exception; it’s the rule. As of last year, nearly 60% of Customer Success organizations had dedicated operations personnel, and 64.1% of those teams collaborated better with their company’s broader operations department. CS Operations is so much more than just CS tool administration. They are the supporting foundation for Customer Success capabilities, and we know they are essential for making progress toward digitalization and CS maturity and growth.

That’s a lot sitting on the shoulders of one organization!

Because they have so many different responsibilities (which only broaden as CS evolves) and interact with other organizations across the business, it’s hard to nail down everything they do. But it’s important for Customer Success leaders to fully grasp the five key areas of responsibility of Customer Success Operations so that we can better understand how to leverage their extraordinary capabilities and help them thrive in the future.

But first…who’s in charge of data?

One of the issues that Customer Success Operations teams face is that they are often tasked with the gargantuan responsibility of tackling all of their entire organization’s data woes. Not just CS’s but everybody’s. This could entail searching out, cleaning, and decluttering all customer data. Or, they might have to connect disparate systems’ data into streamlined, easy-to-understand tools. It’s common for CS Ops to step into the role of researching, deploying, and integrating a platform that incorporates every department’s data – Marketing, Sales, Product, Support, and so on – and making it easy for all of them to access and use it. Frequently, all of this and more gets heaped onto the plate of CS Ops. Talk about data overload. These are difficult to near-impossible tasks on a good day, let alone in a business that hasn’t cleaned or organized its customer data in decades.

CS Operations does have a role to play with data. A pretty important one. It’s in Customer Success’s nature to pull together every moment of the customer journey into a cohesive roadmap of progress and momentum. Data – having it generally speaking and having the right data, specifically – is integral to this whole process. We task CS Ops with gathering all customer touchpoints across departments, unifying everything and anything that could impact the customer, and bringing it all into one place. But too many times, this work puts them in the difficult position of being the first (and likely only) team or individual who has ever tried to unify all this customer information across business units. They are forced to lead the drive to fix the whole business’s data problems, usually from the backseat.

The result is that CS Ops becomes a junk drawer of data issues. They end up having to do a lot of scrappy, manual labor, jury-rigging different tools to get systems to talk to each other. Everybody relies on them to fix things that they don’t have the bandwidth or highly technical skillsets to fix. A better solution is to have a designated data and telemetry team manage it for the business. They could fall under global operations, a data governance team, IT, or whatever makes the most sense for the company. Then, a CS Ops representative would work closely with a representative of that team to pull the data they need to do what they do best. (More on that below!)

Of course, Customer Success doesn’t get to define company-wide structure, but it’s something that all CS leaders need to keep in mind as they build their operational capabilities. Customer Success Operations simply cannot own all the data and still be free to focus on the CS organization’s mission of championing and fostering the growth of the customer base.

The five cornerstones of CS Ops expertise

Speaking of the CS organization’s mission, Customer Success Operations sure does a lot of behind-the-scenes work to support it. So much that it’s easy to forget all the amazing things they do. It can look like magic when they pull exactly the right numbers to support a CSM on a call or tweak the CRM just so, making reports clearer and more actionable for the team. But it’s not magic. It’s seriously talented people who know what it takes to drive organizational efficiency.

Our friends at ChurnZero divided the role of CS Ops into five key components to help categorize and conceptualize all this incredible work. It’s a great start to understanding all the pieces and parts that makeup CS Ops, but we can take this even further. Let’s look at these areas more closely to understand what each role and responsibility demands in more detail.


ChurnZero mentions a few examples that fall into this category for CS Ops: renewal forecasting, account health, NPS, and adoption. It’s a mix of elements that seem pretty straightforward at face value. But what Customer Success Operations does with data is much more complex and critical. We’re talking about CS analytics, which is a subcategory of CS Operations. It’s not about simply collecting facts and figures, sticking them into a few reports, and handing them over to the CSMs. It’s about enabling the Customer Success organization to make data-driven decisions with meaningful, actionable metrics.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of collecting data for data’s sake rather than documenting and defining KPIs proven to improve customer outcomes. Part of CS Operation’s role is to think about the information CSMs genuinely need and why they need it (in some cases if they even need it at all). Then, they turn that data into predictive models so that CSMs can leverage them in their day-to-day activities. When done well, CSMs don’t need to know about all the work going on in the background – the data governance, the controlled charts, the test experiments – they just receive timely, accurate information that makes their lives easier.

CS leaders benefit too. Not only does proactive, predictive data empower your team with insights into the best ways to optimize the customer experience, but it also gives you insights into your team’s performance, which initiatives to prioritize, and your impact on revenue across the business.


Data is one piece of the CS Ops puzzle. Once it’s spun up into practical motions, those motions need to be incorporated into the greater framework of your Customer Success practice. As your operational capabilities mature, so too do your CS processes. CS Ops is who you depend on to build structures around CSMs’ activity so that everything they do is repeatable, measurable, and scalable. In other words, Customer Success Operations takes all that valuable, actionable data and puts it to work.

Looking at the Customer Success Operations Maturity Model, we see that a lot of these processes are part of the second stage of CS growth. You’re adding capabilities like customer journey maps and health scores based on a foundation of metrics and reporting functionality. CS Ops is essential for revving up the effectiveness of your team’s performance and steering their momentum in the right direction as you evolve. Something as simple as figuring out that specific subclasses of customers behave differently than others, allowing the team to tailor their engagement approach to specific customer needs, can be a game changer. Journey maps enable you to elevate customer engagement. System workflows streamline activity, making CSMs more productive. Playbooks boost results during critical stages of the customer lifecycle.

Another aspect of the process piece is asking the right questions when something doesn’t fit into current systems or serve greater goals. Your CS Ops Manager understands the user story in ways no one else does. They help guide CS leaders by understanding both the big picture and day-to-day activity so decisions don’t have unexpected consequences down the road.

Lastly, I can’t overstate how vital it is to build cross-organizational bridges with these processes. CS Operations coordinates across functions and departments to engineer the processes that support the best customer experience possible.


Your people are the backbone of your Customer Success organization, and you’ve got to take care of them. It’s no surprise that CS Ops facilitates this too. If your organization has metrics to hit (hint: you should have revenue-based goals!), you need insight into the leading and lagging indicators that can help drive you to success. If individual CSMs have targets, you need a good idea of what’s fair for each team member. If your CSMs seem overloaded with accounts, you’ll need help figuring out why and ideas for better ways to balance their books of business. Again and again, it’s CS Operations to the rescue.

Capacity headcount planning helps Customer Success leaders decide when to assign CSMs new accounts and at what thresholds accounts require coverage. Even in a pooled CSM model, CS leaders need to model scenarios to determine how many CSMs to hire based on how fast the customer base is growing, how many touchpoints they need, and the role automation plays in the overarching strategy. Forecasting and team performance metrics often come into play when there are upsell, cross-sell, and renewal goals. Customer Success Operations enables the CS organization to drive growth and scalability within the team as well as with the customer base.


I kept systems towards the bottom of this list because it tends to be the first thing everybody thinks of when they think of CS Ops, but it shouldn’t be. Tool administration may be a sizable component of their everyday tasks, but as you can see from everything above, it’s hardly the only thing they do. And systems as an area of responsibility involves a lot more than administering a CRM or CSP. Before a new technology is introduced, CS Operations is there testing it and defining all the processes around it. They have to ensure it will work with everything else the CS organization has in place, along with any systems or processes connected with other departments. They also continuously monitor systems to ensure your tools and technologies are still meeting the organization’s needs.

When a new tool is introduced, everyone often expects CS Ops to simply load data, press a button, and, magically, a shiny, new platform is live and seamlessly adopted. But it takes time and effort to build out the actual functions involved with new systems. Someone needs to think about how it will fit into the bigger picture. Even after implementation, if an organization is underutilizing a tool, company leaders want to know why. And who you gonna call? Hint: it’s not the Ghostbusters.

CS Ops is on the frontlines of making systems work together. They are continually assessing the current tech stack and researching emerging technologies. They flag leadership when something new could make a difference for the organization and when older tools become outdated or start causing issues. They understand your systems from end to end, and they administer them too.

Strategic Initiatives

Customer Success Operations is the true advocate for Customer Success across the business. As such, brainstorming, launching, and supporting strategic initiatives absolutely falls within their purview. ChurnZero lists product, customer experience, marketing, and engagement as types of initiatives CS Ops contributes to, and that list could go on and on. They are a continuous learning organization, constantly identifying best practices and supporting CSMs so they can spend more of their time relationship-building with their customers and less of their time managing backend systems and running reports. CS Ops explores new features and functionalities. They predict outcomes and advise on the best courses of action for the organization. They are the driving force behind strategic planning, and CS leaders count on them to help take the organization to the next level.

At the (bustling and occasionally chaotic) intersection of enablement and innovation

Each pillar of Customer Success Operations contains a whole host of duties and challenges that can quickly become overwhelming if expectations aren’t realistic. CS Ops is uniquely positioned to drive results for the Customer Success organization and, in turn, the entire business. Their work is so valuable, they are so capable, and they can do such a myriad of things that they tend to get buried under an avalanche of daily work, must-have requests, and big-picture wish lists.

Customer Success leaders can combat the potential for burnout by developing an engagement strategy between CS Ops and the rest of the organization. Put processes in place to handle requests from various departments and internal teams. Work with your CS Ops Manager to determine levels of priority. Have a roadmap in place so they can plan their sprint cycles accordingly. This way, if someone submits a ticket with a request, everyone has set expectations for how CS Operations will handle it and where it will fall in the queue.

All the logistical effort is worth it in the long run, given how much Customer Success Operations helps CS accomplish. Just look at everything I’ve laid out in these five key areas of responsibility! And this article is far from inclusive. Now that we’ve examined their role more carefully, I hope that you’ve come to the same conclusion I have over the years: CS Operations does a great deal to increase the value and impact of Customer Success.

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