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Should Customer Success Report to the CEO?

Traditionally CEO’s have had a short list of direct reports, often splitting the responsibility of managing the executive team with the COO or President. More recently, CEO’s have expanded their staff and, with that, their direct reach into more aspects of the business. According to Harvard Business Review, “CEO’s have doubled the span of control over the past two decades.” This change in thinking and practice is reinforced in a recent blog post by Bruce Cleveland, a partner at InterWest Partners, about how entrepreneurs should think about and create the organizational structure of a SaaS company. Bruce argues that “the people who are responsible for executing the business model should be direct reports to the CEO,” and goes on to include a list of positions that he thinks should be included.

On that list is VP of Customer Success. At Totango, we strongly support this placement and believe that Customer Success and a customer-centric attitude start from the top as a business priority for the CEO. Our CEO, Guy Nirpaz, was recently interviewed about where Customer Success should sit in a company – emphasizing the importance of designating a separate Customer Success organization and highlighting its cross-functional role and need to be the “champion for the customer.”

Within a company’s executive staff, it makes as much sense for Customer Success to be included as Sales and Marketing. The Harvard Business Review article titled “How many direct reports?” points out that “many leaders populate their teams with the usual suspects, adding others only if there’s room.” They recommend that leaders, “turn this logic on its head: Start with the capabilities that will drive your strategy forward.” And Customer Success clearly fits the bill in a recurring revenue business such as SaaS. Given how central renewals are to overall business health, customer success can make or break a SaaS business. By including Customer Success on the executive staff, a CEO not only emphasizes it as an organizational priority but also speeds up the decision-making and change required to build a customer-centric culture that permeates the entire organization. Ultimately, Customer Success is how companies continue to drive recurring value, deepen the customer experience, and boost revenue through renewals and add-on sales.

Are you interested in learning more about Customer Success? Or, how other companies are incorporating Customer Success into their organizations? Share your questions below in the comments.

Kaiser Mulla-Feroze

I'm the CMO at Totango. I love the challenge of bringing new products to market. Before Totango, I spent over 12 years at salesforce.com across products, marketing, and business development. I had the most fun there during the early days when we were establishing salesforce's product leadership position. I'm looking forward to doing the same at Totango.

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