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Signs Your CCO Isn’t Scaling

February 23, 2023

Post 3 of 4 in the Startup Series for CCOs.

Although we think of scaling issues as primarily startup issues, any company can face scaleup issues. For example, a merger or acquisition can change your landscape immediately. Nowhere is a scaling issue felt more deeply than in the company-customer relationship, and I use several signs to quickly figure out whether the Chief Customer Officer is up to the task, or even ahead of the game, in scaling.

A CCO who isn’t scaling well past the startup stage is someone who typically throws bodies at challenges like customer support, instead of making processes more automated or efficient. This is true of other functions I’ve written about in other parts of Startup CXO (accounting, for example), but it’s particularly important in Customer Success. As a company scales and takes on more customers, the burden on the support team can get out of hand.

This is especially true if the product team spends their time and effort building more new features and functions, rather than automating internal tools or sunsetting old product modules. Before you know it, you have a support team spending lots of time on legacy systems or products, as well as learning new products. And while, sure, sometimes it may make sense to open up a massive support location offshore, that may be just a less expensive way of avoiding a process redesign or system implementation.

Your CCO should be looking far enough ahead to begin thinking early about upcoming challenges and the amount of support required, then working to develop systems and processes that solve the problem, rather than thinking about how many new hires they need to keep up.

A second sign that your CCO isn’t scaling is if they fail to specialize the service organization as it grows. Just as a startup scales from its founding team of generalists, capable of pitching in on everything, to more specialized roles running different functional areas, Chief Customer Officers have to grow their teams by increasingly specializing roles. It’s easy to get stuck in a pattern of hiring and training expensive generalists because they’re really good and don’t require a lot of training. It’s much harder to break a role down into two or three smaller roles, figure out how to career path existing generalists into the more specialized roles, and redesign systems and processes to execute better and more efficiently. The CCO who can look at all the parts and see where to create specialists will be much more effective at scaling.

-Matt Blumberg, February 23, 2023.