Launching Customer Success in Early-stage Startups


There are many stages in the life of a business: An early startup stage with a handful of customers, or a much more mature stage with a larger customer base. Somewhere in between, it becomes crucial to monitor and ensure customer success in relation to your business. But at what point in your company’s life, does establishing a customer success program become necessary?

Even during the early stages of a startup, founders should not only focus on defining clear-cut strategies for winning customers and increasing their client base but should also focus on discovering how to ensure their existing client base is continuously successful and satisfied. Once the questions to these answers become clear, startups are encouraged to hire specialized teams that focus on retaining and expanding their client base.


Customer Success Benefits for Startups

A Customer Success program should not be an afterthought. It should be an integral part of your business vision, goal, and mission. Establishing a Customer Success program can help achieve significant objectives of the company as well as serve your customers’ needs. The lubricants to retaining customers lie in your company’s capacity to manage them. The way to manage customers is to engage them with a specialized team that is trained to do the right thing at the right time. Done right, establishing a customer success team will help your clients gain maximum value out of their relationship with your company.

Founders of early-stage startups should consider the gains of establishing a customer success team can add to its overall business potential. The profit margin garnered from successful customers is vital to the financial health of a recurring revenue business model. High renewal and net retention rates play a key factor in much funds a startup’s founder can raise in the next round of funding. The investment in your customer base’s success effectively in your early stage is crucial to maximizing retention and growth.

Customer Success Possibilities For Startups

The size and business model of your company will determine the kind of Customer Success Management (CSM) program you should establish.

At a very early stage of your company, you might not have a support team or an onboarding team. Your customer success manager would likely be responsible for all of your customer’s needs: implementation, support, upsell, and renewal. In this stage, the customer success team typically comprises a handful of team members who are willing to go the extra mile to ensure the success of each customer.

Collective Responsibility For Customer Success

There is a high tendency for customers to experience difficulties with the product at its early immature stages. As such, cross-collaboration across all teams to ensure customers have a positive experience becomes essential to customer retention and success. As such, at this early stage of a startup’s life, everyone in the company should be responsible for the churn or renewal rate.

At this stage, the customer feedback is collected by the customer success managers regularly and communicated back to the product team. Ideally, the product team considers customer feedback in a way that significantly influences product road-map decisions; the product is adjusted to the customer’s wishes while solving their most pressing issues.

If your product is still fairly immature, you should consider providing your customer success team with multilateral support from all teams associated with the product. By doing so, communicating customer needs and preferences to relevant personnel can effectively impact needed changes in the product in a bid to ensure that every customer is successful.

Customer Segmentation Model

Customer Segmentation For a More Mature Business Stage

As your client base grows from a meager number into the thousands, you will want to hire Portfolio Success Managers where each team member owns a portfolio of hundreds of clients based on region, industry, or persona. If you have fewer clients with higher recurring revenues, a high-touch approach is recommended.

As your business grows and your need for scalability increases, consider using segmentation and split your customers into different tiers with customer success managers assigned to different segments. You can have a team of customer success managers at the top tier to manage your strategic accounts. When your startups mature, carve out specialized roles for support, onboarding, and pre-sale, for example. When planning your customer success hiring, you should accommodate different engagement models, pending on your defined client segmentation.

Pending on your go-to-market strategy, you might need to consider adding additional specialized roles to manage your client base more effectively, such as establishing a Partner Success Program.


It is paramount that you implement a plan to follow up on customer success vis-à-vis your products and services early on in your business lifecycle. At an early level, customer feedback compiled by your CSM is instrumental to your product development efforts. As your client base grows, your Customer Success Program should consequently evolve to meet new needs your solutions can solve for.

Please like this post and continue the conversation here with a comment or share it on your favorite social media page.

Written By:
Irit Eizips

Irit is the Chief Customer Officer & CEO at CSM Practice, is a world-renowned expert on customer retention, upsells, cross-sells, and customer value strategies and methodologies. Since 2013, Irit has been pivotal in shaping Customer Success best practices. She has been nominated as a top Customer Success strategist and influencer, year after year, since 2013. Irit was recently named one of the Top 150 Global Customer Experience Thought Leaders and Influencers of 2020. She is frequently producing thought leadership on her youtube channel (CSM Practice) and is often featured as a speaker at conferences and Customer Success publications.