Building My First Customer Success Team


One of our customers, Russ Olsen, has joined us as a guest blogger this week to share his perspective on starting up a customer success team. Enjoy!


By Russ Olsen

I recently had the wonderful, and challenging, opportunity of building a new customer success (CS) team from scratch. Earlier in my career I was involved in a similar project, but not as the manager and therefore not responsible for navigating all of the complexities of such an endeavor. Throughout both projects I learned valuable lessons that I hope will help you as you build your new team.

1.  Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept it

When my manager approached me with the opportunity to create a CS team, I immediately accepted and started down the path of learning everything I could about the CS movement. That being said, the opportunity may not always be right due to any number of conflicts. If you do accept, however, get ready for a wild ride! I found that building out a new team requires intense effort, dedication, and perseverance. There were times I felt lost or stuck, and my initial commitment to the mission was the guiding force that helped me break through the proverbial brick wall.  

2.  Prepare for Victory!

I had a manager who would walk in each day at 7:00am and shout, to no one in particular, “Prepare for victory!” I often thought of this battle cry as I began preparing to launch my new team. I have an insatiable desire to learn and I began researching all the information I could get my hands on about CS as it was a new subject for me. I read countless books and blog posts, attended multiple industry events, engaged consultants, and watched hundreds of webinars. I also emulated many of the actions of the successful leaders I came across.

Throughout this preparation phase I began to gather important data that helped me paint the picture of the status quo for our business. I utilized, and still do utilize, the data to analyze trends, formulate goals, structure compensation, and to create metrics to measure the effectiveness of my new team.  

3.  Create a Game Plan

With so much information available related to CS I nearly got stuck in the preparation phase trying to achieve a perfect expertise in the discipline. Fortunately, I had a wise mentor who told me, “Done is better than perfect. Good, fast, and easy to learn from is perfect.” I was forced to put pencil to paper, creating a plan for what I wanted to accomplish, when I was going to accomplish it, and what successful completion looked like.  

4.  Prioritize and Execute

Once my plan was in place, I began to take the steps to accomplish it.  At times I found it difficult to remain on task in this phase but I knew the success of the launch depended on my ability to prioritize my efforts and to see the plan through to completion. Not surprisingly I had many competing demands for my attention (e.g., my day job, coworkers, my boss, etc.), all of which had the potential of delaying the completion of the project. I really had to remain disciplined to deliver the project on time.

I also found that effective communication with the various key stakeholders in the project is key to successful completion. At first I did not fully appreciate how much overlap my team had with other departments within our business. The relationships I had already established, and the ones I was forging during the project, made my team rollout a success. I used every opportunity to share my vision and passion with them, letting them know how my efforts would benefit them in some way.  I quickly realized how the buy-in of key stakeholders would either enhance or detract from my ability to execute the rollout plan.

I absolutely loved the experiences I had in building out the CS team. Many times I felt unequal to the task but, fortunately, I had several great mentors and leaders who helped me see the project through to completion. I made many mistakes along the way, but the steps outlined above helped me launch the team and set us up for lasting success!

Are you a new Customer Success Leader, or do you want to improve upon your Leadership skills in the new year? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers online training and workshops on core CS topics like hiring top performers and planning a team structure. Check out our 2018 Customer Success Leadership program for class options and more details.

Russ Olsen - Russ is the architect and current manager of the customer success team at Henry Schein Practice Solutions. He is driven to succeed in all that he does, including further developing and refining the customer success program he has built. He is also very passionate about developing the team members with whom he works.
Russ holds a BS from Brigham Young University and MBA from Westminster College. Prior to Henry Schein Practice Solutions, Russ spent six years in the private wealth management industry working with clients in the private wealth management industry. He currently resides with his family in Salt Lake City where he loves to spend time in the outdoors.