You can learn almost anything for free online these days. The problem is that you generally need to do it piecemeal -- reading an informative blog post here, checking out a YouTube demo there, querying a helpful community to solidify your understanding. Everything's there -- you just have to dig around for it.

But not, apparently, when it comes to building a great customer service (aka customer success) team at your startup. If this is the subject you're wondering about, you're in luck. Two consultants in the space, Alex McClafferty and Nils Vinje, have  done all the legwork for you, putting together what can only be described as a truly massive (20,000+ words!) free guide containing pretty much anything anyone ever wanted to know about building and running customer service -- all in one place.

Quit firefighting

Their overall aim, they explain, is to take the stress out of helping customers by making your organization less reactive -- instead of fighting fires and living on the edge of catastrophe (and burnout) all the time, they want you to learn to take a longer view and build a structure that allows you to proactively choose your goals and avoid existing in a state of constant emergency.

How to do this seems to revolve a lot around consciously defining what sales should do versus what customer service should do, and which employees should work in which area -- as well as helping your team build on their strengths (which can often be done for free, the guide insists).

"If you put a person who is Built to Serve in a sales role, you will be forcing them to go against their natural instincts. They will need to put themselves before the client. There will be conflict, and your customer will recognize it. You will also set your CSM up for failure. They might renew a few contracts, but they're not going to push for an upsell. They simply aren't wired to ask for more money, and you will leave a lot of revenue on the table," warn the authors.


Even if you're a tiny startup and a rep sticks their hand in the air volunteering to close a renewal, think twice. "In our experience, this never works and is sub-optimal," says the pair.

But really, this is only the tip of the iceberg of the essentially book-length guide (which, quite honestly, would have taken me pretty much the entire workday to read in full). The point of this post isn't a thorough description of the guide's contents but a simple pointer: if you're building a customer service organization (especially for a fast-growing startup) and are looking for solid advice, this seems like a very worthwhile resource that covers everything from who to hire to how to listen more effectively.

Check it out and let us know your thoughts in the comments.