How to Lead a High-Performing Customer Success Team

Behind every great Customer Success team is a great leader. 

A high-performing Customer Success team can make or break key customer relationships, product adoption, and ultimately the long-term success of the organization. That’s where this guide comes in. 

In this article, we'll share expert insights into motivating teams, setting them up for success, and maintaining high performance long term. We’ll also dive into different ways Customer Success leaders can innovate their internal processes and get the most out of their teams — without burning them out!

How Customer Success Leaders Can Motivate Their Teams

Research suggests that transformational leadership can encourage and inspire employees. Not only has it been proven to increase innovation and positive change but strategic management can also positively impact customer satisfaction

We know that motivated Customer Success teams also: 

  • advocate for customers to company leaders
  • develop solutions for different customer segments
  • collaborate with sales and support teams to streamline workflows​​ 

…among many other high performance indicators.

But motivating a Customer Success team to do all of this is a crucial and largely underrated aspect of building and leading a high-performing team. 

1. Celebrate achievements

One of the simplest and most effective ways Customer Success leaders can foster a motivating environment is by celebrating team members' achievements

“Motivation is largely driven by being able to see and understand the impact of your work,” says Corey Pudhorodsky, SVP of Customer Experience at Community Brands

“I find that the more you can draw a direct line between the tasks that you are asking people to complete and the positive benefit they have for our customers or our business, the more teams are motivated to do the work.”

How? “Some of the ways you can do this are through cheerleading wins, providing reports and dashboards on progress, and using quotes from the people who are being helped.”

2. Spell out significance 

In addition to acknowledging their wins at the end of a project, CSMs can also tie work back to big picture goals throughout the process. 

“In my experience, many talented Customer Success professionals work really hard but often lack insight into the significance of their roles in the bigger picture," says Kurt Uhlir, current CMO of Ethereal Innovations and seasoned executive with many years of CS experience under his belt. "I focus on aligning each person's tasks with both the team's and the company's objectives, intertwining their personal sense of purpose with their professional responsibilities.”

3. Communicate well and often

Transparency and open communication are also essential for maintaining team motivation. This is often easier said than done but one effective way to ensure CS team members are being transparent is to give them multiple opportunities to share. 

“I make sure to get 1:1 feedback from the team before asking the group questions in a public setting," Corey says. This helps me frame my questions around what some of the blockers or concerns are that people might not be as comfortable expressing as a group.”

4. Share data

It’s also important to openly share your own metrics for ongoing projects in real-time. 

“Motivation is largely driven by the ability to see progress,” advises Corey. “Particularly in tough or longer-running projects, it's important to remind the team where you started and how much progress you've made.” 

Regularly sharing company goals, Customer Success metrics, and progress updates creates a sense of purpose and unity within the team. “This is especially important when there are setbacks or unexpected complications,” Corey says. 

3 Ways CS Leaders Innovate Internal Processes to Increase Team Success

1. Implement a robust CSP

Particularly, one that enables teams to streamline their workflows, track customer interactions, and gather valuable insights for process improvement.

By leveraging analytics and Customer Success metrics, leaders can gain a deeper understanding of customer behavior, identify trends, and proactively address potential issues. Data-driven insights help prioritize customer needs and enable the team to deliver a more personalized and effective customer experience.

Looking for a flexible, easy to use Customer Success Platform? Take a guided tour of Vitally today.

2. Use agile methodologies 

Agile approaches allow teams to adapt quickly to changing customer needs and market dynamics. Regular team meetings, such as daily stand-ups, can help track progress, address challenges, and ensure alignment within the team. Agile methodologies also promote collaboration, transparency, and continuous improvement, creating an environment conducive to innovation and high performance.

3. Provide specific tips for improvement

You’d be surprised at how much the little things can make a big impact. 

“I'm always amazed how much a simple tip on how to better use CS tools and technology can help the team and keep them motivated and effective,” Corey shares. “Something as simple as a new shortcut on completing a process or a review of a feature that is being underused gets people reinvigorated in doing the work that needs to be done.”

He knows this from personal experience. “I recently rolled out personalized dashboards for our CSMs at Community Brands that mirror the metrics our executive dashboards report on but with a personalized view of the CSMs book of business. They now feel much more empowered in understanding how their work rolls up to what we are reporting on at a company level.”

How Customer Success Leaders Can Get the Most Out of Their Teams Without Burning Them Out

Step 1: Lead with a marathon mentality  

The expression “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” applies to Customer Success performance too. 

Achieving maximum productivity from your Customer Success team is crucial for organizational success. But it shouldn’t come at the expense of employee well-being. That means encouraging team members to take breaks, utilize vacation time, and create boundaries between work and personal life. 

“There's always going to be more work than what can be completed,” Corey admits. “I have a saying: ‘Busy is a glass of water.’ Meaning that a glass of water can only be so full. After that, if you try to pour more into it, you're just going to get the table wet.”

“As a CSM, your job is to communicate how much your glass can hold and make sure you're filling it with the right work.” 

Kurt says, “I recommend CSMs approach team burnout with a management mindset similar to that of a professional sports team trying to win a championship, rather than a family dynamic.”

“In a sports team, every member understands the importance of continuous training, adequate rest and recovery, and mutual support. Success is seen as a team effort. This approach emphasizes the importance of professional responsibility and growth, highlighting that individual contributions are important but the team's overall performance across years is most important.”

Related: How to Avoid Burnout as a Customer Success Manager

Step 2: Lead by example 

You can set an example and make these wellness habits a part of your own work life to further demonstrate your commitment to high performance in addition to sharing these concepts with your team: 

  • Implement policies that require restful self-care practices
  • Host workshops with healthcare and wellness professionals
  • Allow more flexibility with business structures such as implementing a hybrid work-from-home policy

Step 3: Provide meaningful support 

Support is not a "set it and forget it" activity like a one-off webinar or dusty pamphlets. It needs to be strategized, executed, and evaluated. Here’s how to get started:

  • Share resources and tools that facilitate efficient, repeatable workflows. Automating repetitive tasks by leveraging Customer Success platforms with built-in features like automated email notifications and task management can optimize team productivity and reduce burnout. 
  • Regularly seek feedback from team members. Conducting surveys, one-on-one meetings, and team retrospectives allows leaders to understand the challenges team members face and identify areas for improvement. Once you have feedback, actively addressing concerns and implementing changes based on it will demonstrate what you and the organization as a whole really values. 
  • Offer help. “Start every meeting by asking what you can do to help,” advises Corey. “End every meeting asking if there's anything else you can help with. If you can't help at the moment, make sure you follow up. If they are asking for something you can't help with, be honest and help direct them to the things that they can be great at.”
  • Foster collaboration. Encourage cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing. Not only does this cultivate a learning environment where team members can rely on each other for support but it also makes it possible to maintain best practices companywide and get creative about shared processes. 

Achieve Excellence Together

“As a leader, my number one job is to help my team do their job better,” shares Corey. “I take this very seriously and make sure that my team knows this.”

Leading a high-performing Customer Success team is a multifaceted endeavor that requires a strategic approach. Prioritizing employee well-being and creating a supportive work environment is essential for ensuring sustained success. Combine that with the right internal processes and defenses against burnout, and you'll have a winning Customer Success team in no time.

Get started with a demo!

End of post CTA Image

Ready to Put Your Data To Work?

Take a live look at Vitally's Customer Success Platform to learn how your data can help your teams and customers achieve greater success.

Screenshot of Vitally Boards