Even though the role of Customer Success Manager is relatively new, it’s already on a list of the most in-demand positions in the SaaS market. More and more people working in customer-facing roles, like sales or customer support, consider a customer success role the next step in their career. One of the roadblocks ahead of those who decide to try themselves in a customer success position is that there is not a lot of information on the subject. Yes, a couple of good books exist but they could be described as “industry-specific”, and a lot of information found inside may be irrelevant.
So, a common approach is learning by doing and gathering the experience of senior colleagues. A lot of junior CSMs tend to make a number of assumptions about what they should be doing and how, and these assumptions turn out to be wrong. In this article, we’re going to go through four of them and, hopefully, it will help you to avoid these common mistakes.
Assumption 1: The main job of a CSM is to make the customer happy
Popular opinion is that the main goal of any person working in a customer-facing role is to make the customer happy. Of course, due to the fact that customer success managers are members of this group, you would think that they should also spend all their time doing their best to please the customer. It turns out that it is not 100% correct.
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with making a customer happy. But we’ve seen a lot of cases where happy customers make the decision not to renew their subscription. And do you know who doesn’t make that decision? Customers who receive real value from the product. Those whose pain points are addressed. And yes, they are sometimes irritated with the lack of certain functionalities. They may be complaining that the interface is not intuitive. But they keep signing the contracts when the renewal date approaches.
In an ideal world, customers would both receive value from your product and be happy about its every smallest detail. But if you need to choose between bringing the value and making customers happy, you should always stick with the value.
Assumption 2: CSM should be available to the customer 24/7
This assumption actually has roots in the first one. Many junior CSMs think that in order to make customers happy they need to be available for them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This sort of behavior will lead a Customer Success Manager into a very dangerous trap.
Yes, in the early stages of your interactions with customers, they will appreciate you being there for them whenever they need it — be it your weekend, non-working hours, etc. But we are all creatures of habit. If your customers get used to you responding at any time, it will eventually shift their expectations. No longer will they consider your availability at any time an extra mile you take — they will think of it as of regular behavior.
You might object that you’re a workaholic and are more than ready to be available to your customers not only at the starting point but always. But you cannot make such promises, even to yourself. Something always happens — it just does. Your taxi may not arrive on time, your cellphone battery might die at the most inconvenient moment. And if your customers are already used to the fact that they can expect an immediate response from you, then you’ll be in trouble.
Assumption 3: CSMs* are never involved in the sales process
*Note: In this article we discuss the role of a Customer Success Manager in its classic definition — the person responsible for increasing retention, avoiding churn and helping customers use the company’s product in the most efficient way. We do know that in a number of companies, employees often cover a combined role of Account Manager and Customer Success Manager.
Another popular assumption is that Customer Success Managers are never involved in the sales process. Let us put this straight: we’re not implying that CSMs should sell anything to anyone. But the very essence of a CSM’s work implies that a person covering this role is not only a product expert but also a customer expert. In order to help customers make the most of the product, CSMs get to study their customers’ business, learn their goals and pain points.
And who could be a better advisor to the account manager on the question “what exactly brings value to the customer?” than a customer success manager? So, what we’re trying to say here is that a CSM’s role in the sales process is identifying any emerging opportunities and informing account managers about them.
Assumption 4: Any customer can be “saved” if managed properly
Junior CSMs often take a very enthusiastic and energetic approach towards the customers. Any problems they encounter during their interactions with customers, they consider solvable. But, sadly, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes clients are going to churn and a CSM would not be able to change that decision.
The reasons can be many:
- a new C-level executive could start working at the customer’s organization and from day one is pushing hard to switch to another solution they are used to, and nothing’s going to change that person’s mind
- The product was mis-sold by the sales team and the customer had false expectations from the very beginning
- The customer’s company has been acquired by another company that has very tough security policies that won’t allow the usage of any cloud solutions
- …and many more
The point here is that, even though a CSM should do their best to retain every single customer in his book of business, sometimes they just can’t do that for reasons out of their control.
So the thing that CSMs should be focused on is avoiding a so-called “surprise churn”. To do this they need to take a number of steps:
- Building a steady relationship with several champions and/or power users on the client’s side to avoid communication “blackouts” if the main champion suddenly stops responding for any reason
- Identifying the customers’ goals and coming up with a number of specific KPI to track and measure their achievement
- Understanding potential risks
- And more
If these actions are performed by CSMs in time, the overall churn risk moves from an unexpected category to forecasted, making it much easier to plan numbers for the next quarter or year.