Over 2,000 mentors available, including leaders at Amazon, Airbnb, Netflix, and more. Check it out

Why you need a career map for customer success - and how to create one

Customer success manager job postings on LinkedIn have increased by as much as 34% in recent years. It’s a great time to be in CS - and there are more opportunities for customer success professionals looking to progress their careers than ever before.

But increased opportunities have an effect on mobility and retention.The pressure is on for businesses to establish a clearer route of progression for their customer success talent - or risk losing them altogether.

Fortunately, career maps are an effective way to help employees with career management and eliminate these concerns before they surface, and most businesses have them in place already - in some form or another.

But what actually is a career map, and why are career maps proving so important for customer success teams in 2022? In this post, Juro’s Director of Customer Success, Claire O'Regan, shares her insights into why career maps really matter for customer success roles and how you can establish your own.

What are career maps, and how are they used in customer success?

A career map is a document containing tables and criteria that help customer success teams to map out where they are currently in their career, where they want to progress to and specifically how they can get there.

They enable individuals to assess their progress and gain a clearer picture of where they sit in the company organisation, as well as within their department. For customer success teams, career maps can span a wide range of roles and responsibilities, illustrating the route from entry-level roles right through to VP-level or higher.

Why are career maps so important for customer success roles?

Attract more talent

Having a haphazard progression route can be a major deterrent for prospective customer success hires, particularly where other companies offer a more linear pathway.

With the talent market thriving, those aspiring to start a career in customer success naturally seek roles that facilitate their growth and professional development - not dead-ends where their career progression is likely to become stagnant. And who can blame them? Nobody wants to embark on a customer success career (or indeed any career) that lacks progression, security and excitement.

Having a robust customer success career map in place is the best way to settle these concerns early on. At Juro, we make our customer success career maps accessible by linking to them in all of our job descriptions. Our customer success career maps are detailed and actionable, so applicants can assess their skills against the map and determine where they are currently and where they would like to be.

Improve employee satisfaction and retention

But it isn’t just about hiring new customer success employees, it’s also about nurturing and retaining the ones you have already. Studies estimate that the average cost of replacing an employee is 21% of their annual salary, meaning employee turnover comes at a huge cost.

Without a structured career map in place, it can be challenging (if not impossible) for customer success employees to determine how effectively they’re meeting expectations and what they need to do in order to progress to the next level.

This lack of understanding can prove demoralizing for customer success employees at all levels. For those just starting out in their customer success career, it can feel like an uncertain journey with no guarantee of progression. Meanwhile, for those that already occupy managerial roles, it can feel like they’re nearing a dead end in their career.

When customer success professionals begin to experience this complacency, they’re far more likely to accept a competing job offer and leave the company for progression opportunities elsewhere.

But when a business implements a clear pathway to progression for customer success professionals to begin with, they’re able to visualize a future with the company, rather than envisaging the role as a temporary opportunity, or a placeholder in their career.

Create better structure within your customer success team

Another benefit of creating customer success career maps is that they can help you to create a more coherent structure for the customer success function. The demanding nature of a customer success role means that teams often spend their time flirting with a wide range of tasks and picking up projects that don’t fit neatly into one box.

This is commonplace in small companies, but as your business scales, it can become messy and make it unclear who’s responsible for which tasks. In turn, this confusion can create an environment where there’s no visibility into the tasks different team members are working on, and work often goes either unappreciated or doesn’t get completed at all.

By mapping out different career paths and levels, customer success teams can more easily identify which responsibilities they own and how to fulfill what’s expected of them. They can also develop a better understanding of what the rest of the customer success team’s projects are and how they can best accommodate these.

Ensure all efforts are contributing to the company’s success

Customer success career maps aren’t only important for an employee’s personal development, though. They’re also a fantastic tool for ensuring that the work being done by the customer success team has a direct impact on revenue and OKRs.

By having clear and succinct criteria of different tasks and competencies mapped out, you can ensure that the work being done by different team members is actually valuable. You can more effectively identify which areas are falling short, and whether these missed opportunities are blocking the company’s success in some way.

By creating and sharing a robust career map for the customer success function, it gives the team the opportunity to realign their priorities and identify the functional gaps and areas where they can improve - all of which can have a positive impact on the bottom line.

Transparency and fairness in promotions

In many businesses, there’s a culture of secrecy and opacity around promotions, and customer success is vulnerable to this too. Customer success teams often aren’t aware of what they need to do to get promoted, and it’s not always clear what level promotions occur at and when to expect them.

Customer success career maps provide this transparency and establish a benchmark for levelling up that runs consistently throughout the team. Not only does this make promotions fairer, but it also encourages other team members and reminds them that these promotions are attainable.

5 tips for creating a robust career map for your customer success team

Planning, planning and more planning

Unfortunately, creating a robust customer success career map won’t happen overnight. It requires meticulous planning and a lot of research - both internally and externally. For it to work you’ll need to consider:

  • What the aspirations and needs of your existing customer success team are
  • How similar successful businesses have mapped out customer success careers
  • What your business needs in terms of talent - both now and in the future
  • What skills and capabilities are required from a successful customer success team member, and how these change as they progress in their career
  • What the hiring manager’s input is on career mapping, and how it can be made consistent with other departments

Once you’ve completed thorough research for the project, you should then be able to combine these insights and map out the specifics, which can then be reviewed and amended accordingly.

Ensure the criteria is both actionable and measurable

There’s always the danger of creating a career map that doesn’t offer enough detail about the criteria customer success roles align with. Sure, the career map exists. But does it actually tell your team anything valuable about what they need to do next?

For instance, saying that an employee at a certain level should be able to ‘manage data effectively’ isn’t clear or measurable. Instead, you should specify what kind of data this means. Is it a specific KPI set? How impactful should the data be? What should they be able to do with this data? How should their role in using this data relate to problem-solving?

Your customer success career map should provide sufficient detail and ensure that customer success teams can measure their success against certain criteria without it being too subjective.

Establish separate routes for managerial and specialist roles

It’s also best practice is to ensure that your career map caters to and accommodates customer success talent with a wide range of career aspirations. Some customer success professionals can excel in the technical aspects of their role, but they might not be interested in managing a team. To ensure these employees have their development accounted for, you need to ensure that there are other routes of progression available to them, aside from taking on traditional managerial responsibilities.

At Juro, we’ve approached this by offering a separate career progression path for those wanting to become customer success ‘specialists’ rather than managers. Some roles in the team are necessarily focused on the more technical aspects of contract lifecycle management, whereas some are more people-focused. We need to cater for both.

Identify training needs for different career map levels

It’s also important for your career map to actually inform the direction of your training and career progression initiatives. It’s all well and good establishing different levels to measure customer success professionals against, but if you aren’t going to facilitate and support their progression between these levels by implementing the relevant training at the right time, how can you expect them to move between these levels?

Understanding that career maps aren’t solely the responsibility of the employee is crucial. As a customer success manager that’s tasked with developing their team, you need to think of actionable ways to fill skill gaps and facilitate movement between these levels.

Set routine checkpoints to reassess career map levelling

Finally, you’ll want to set routine checkpoints for each member of your customer success team to see how they’re progressing. By setting these checkpoints at certain milestones, you can ensure employees’ progression doesn’t come to a halt because they’re waiting around too long for it to next be reviewed.

At Juro, we use our customer success career maps as a benchmark for progress every quarter. It’s used in quarterly reviews to determine how well our customer success professionals have performed in the last quarter, where this places them on the career map, and what actionable goals they should pursue to confidently move to the next level.

Are customer success career maps worthwhile?

In short: yes. Customer success career maps are only growing in importance as the talent market continues to thrive. With more opportunities on the horizon, customer success professionals are becoming more cautious when choosing where to further their career, and career maps play a huge role in that.

Most small businesses dismiss the idea of creating one because they haven’t hired enough people yet, or because building a career map is just too much of a time investment. But in my experience, establishing a customer success career map is just as important for young businesses as it is for large corporations.

Hiring and retaining the best talent can already be an uphill battle for startups. Now, more than ever, you need to prove that you’re fully invested in the progression of your customer success team, and career maps are a great place to start.

Author bio

Claire O'Regan is Director of Customer Success at Juro. She previously led customer success teams at Auth0 (now acquired by Okta), Swrve, and Google, with a track record of customer advocacy, high-impact implementations and scaling customer teams in fast-growth business.

Find an expert mentor

Get the career advice you need to succeed. Find a mentor who can help you with your career goals, on the leading mentorship marketplace.