So as I’ve written about before, I’ve interviewed a ton of folks for CS roles in the past 12 months.  Most for SaaStr itself (a lot of learnings there, but we have $30m+ of sponsors to keep happy), but also for a number of my investments and more.

And most of these CS execs and I share the same frustration: their job is mainly reactive.  That’s not what they want, or I want, but it’s a fact.


They are the Great Gap Fillers in SaaS.

What I mean is, with most SaaS companies, there’s just a huge customer workflow break.  Sales works as hard as it can to close the deal this month, this quarter — and often does an amazing job.  But then they are off to the next deal.  They aren’t going to work on deployment.

And support is overwhelmed, and over over-automated.  A chat bot isn’t going to solve my onboarding challenges.  An overloaded support rep isn’t going to help me work through an API, or understand a complicated integration.  They don’t have time.  There are 500 more tickets that day to get through, after all.

The product team can sometimes pinch hit in bigger deals.  A great VP of Product will often be closely involved with the bigger deals, and often has some good ideas around deployment.  But they are, at best, usually just jumping in on a spot issue.

So Customer Success becomes the default Gap Filler.  If they do even a reasonably good job, with a good attitude, it builds relationships.  After all, everyone else has abandoned the customer.

But it’s not enough. A Gap Filler will never really have time to be proactive.

So what’s actionable here?  I’m actually less sure than with other learnings.  But a few thoughts:

  • First, maybe nothing.  Maybe you need gap fillers for now, primarily.  Most of us do.
  • Second, ask the CS team.  Most proactive CS leaders want to do more than they are doing.  Ask them what they want to do more of, and own.  And maybe get them the resources to own it.
  • Third, specialize more.  It took us a while to figure out how to specialize sales, and we’re still figuring it out in CS.  But only in the earlier days do you want your CS team doing everything from onboarding to deployment to solutions implementation to follow-up to account management.
  • Fourth, don’t let your CS team stop being product experts.  I see this way too often as SaaS companies scale past $15m-$20m ARR, and hire a very process-oriented VP of CS / CCO.  It all becomes process, and soon, customer success “professionals” don’t really know the product itself anymore.  They are just gap fillers, after all.  Don’t allow this.
  • Fifth, force the whole company to drive up activation rates and drive down time-to-deployment.  Measure these KPIs and force everyone to drive them down.  If you do, you’ll free up CS to do other things.  More here.

There are so many gaps in every SaaS org, and bless the CS team for filling so many of them.

But it’s hard to really grow accounts, learn where they want to go, and help them achieve their dreams.  When all you are doing is gap filling.


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