Alternate title: So You Want to Set Up a CSM Org
Here’s what Gartner has to say about what CSMs should be up to:
In general, CSM organizations are responsible for these things:
- Onboarding, training, and implementation
- Ongoing user & buyer engagement
- measuring & ensuring customer health
Frequently but not always, CSMs are responsible for:
Sometimes, they’re responsible for:
- first-line support questions (ex: I forgot my password, there’s a bug, how do I add new users, etc.)
- Sales & AE enablement (esp. if you don’t have a product marketing team)
What should your first CSM be thinking about:
- Learning as much as they possibly can about the customers and the product, how it helps them, what lands when onboarding and training, common pitfalls and how to fix/avoid them, building FAQ documents.
- Being a partner with other teams
- With the product team, they can be voice of the customer what are they struggling with, asking about, saying are their “real” problems
- With the marketing & sales team: understanding what a successful customer looks like and what an unsuccessful customer looks like, helping everyone understand what are green-flags and red-flags early in the marketing & sales funnel.
- Creating a repeatable process & playbooks
What your first Manager of CSMs be thinking about:
- Defining Customer Lifecycle
- Start by answering these questions:
- What are the stages of a customer lifecycle? (see tactical notes for more thoughts about this)
- How long should each stage take, and what are the ‘gates’ between them?
- Can a customer ever move backwards?
- How should we segment / subset our customers?
- By size/complexity, expansion opportunity, and ARR are common strategies
- What does a healthy account look like? What does an unhealthy account look like? Do we have or need data to support these claims?
- What are your retention goals?
- Setting Up Systems
- Picking and implementing a CSM platform
- Gainsight is the market leader, but Totango, ClientSuccess, ChurnZero, etc, etc. are all options.
- Customer Touchpoint Cadence:
- how often should you be talking to your users?
- how often should you be talking to your buyers?
- what should those conversations be about, and how can they provide or prove value to their intended audience?
- Team Meeting Cadence, on-team and cross-functionally
- How often should the team be talking?
- How often should the team be talking to other teams, especially sales and product?
- How is the team getting the information they need from product, marketing and sales in order to do their jobs well?
Random Tactical Notes:
- On-boarding probably has phases, these are useful for you to track and for the customers to set expectations (for the users, the buyers probably just need to hear about how it's going)
- Kickoff: gather goals, meet people, sell anyone who wasn't involved in the actual sales process, if you've accidentally oversold or anyone has "heard it through the grapevine" syndrome, you should re-align any expectations pretty immediately
- [Some middle phase where you work closely with users to get things actually set up for them, configured or personalized in the way that they need]
- If you're a low-touch org, you should do this with a wizard in your app, I guess?
- Imo, B2b companies probably shouldn't be this wizard-y, the best option might be wizard + your success person walking you through the wizard?
- Training: this is probably the phase where you'll need to re-sell to new people, make sure they're actually going to use it, and then check in on them.
- This is where people think that email automation or gamification will save them, and it might - but I think that's usually annoying.
- You probably want to position your success people more like... helpful partners in your customers achieving their goals - keep if very focused on: what does the customer need to do, and how can you help them do it with your product?
- A help center, explainer videos, and case studies might help you here too, depending on how easily repeatable things are and, very importantly, if you think things are likely to work over and over again. Until you know that you have a good story and system, don't invest in really nice training materials / produced videos, etc.
- I will also say that if you want people really focused on the user's experience, you might want to structure your team with support (for daily requests. They don't need to be building relationships, but they need to be quick to respond and helpful) and success, who should be building relationships with users (eventually your success team will probably break out into the people who handle strategic (read: big) accounts and people who handle your everyday accounts).
- Promoting Stickiness/Usage/Getting Value
- You have to make sure your users are having a good time: if your product can make them so good at their jobs that they get a promotion, you'll have an advocate for life
- Your buyers and your users are different, so you'll want to make sure you're frequently checking in with your buyers - reminding them about how much your users are using you, and how much it's impacting their business. Your buyers don't care that people are logging in every day, they do care about things like: aggregate impact, ROI, etc.
- Regular "business reviews" will be important with your buyers. Goal here is to increase your own confidence that the customer is going to renew. These meetings should probably be ~60 minutes, at which you get to position yourself as an expert on their usage of your app:
- Where are they using it well?
- What's being underutilized, what kind of opportunity does it represent to them to fully utilize it, why do you think it's being underutilized and what can you do to get their team to utilize it?
- Track the metrics that matter to them: ROI or impact to their core KPIs is probably the only one they actually care about
- As a note: if you’re too big to do this with every customer, you can do meetings with your strategic customers and produce handouts for smaller customers with the same info. I’ve seen this work pretty well!