Customer Success Managers (CSMs) have challenging jobs. The better a CSM is at their job, the greater the likelihood that they have some stresses around being able to do their job well. If you’re managing CSMs, don’t view these frustrations as indicators of weakness or poor performance. Rather, see them as indicators that your team is focused on delivering an excellent experience to your customers, and some of these pain points are implicit to those efforts.
5 real struggles articulated by CSMs
“I struggle to confidently identify what my priorities are.”
I have 70 accounts that I manage. Within each of those accounts, I have multiple people with whom I have relationships. Each of my accounts are in different lifecycle stages. Each day, I must identify who needs what (before they ask for it), and which of those needs is a priority. While I feel as though I understand the needs and goals of all of my accounts, I am frequently overwhelmed with identifying what to do for whom and when.
“My customers don’t always do what I believe they should do to be successful.”
My goals are to facilitate successful outcomes for my customers. They have identified what defines success, and I know how to get them there. I have experience and expertise that I know they need. That said, I often feel like a parent trying to convince my child to do what’s in his best interest, and they just won’t listen to me!
“At kickoff, I find myself having to reset expectations, and align customers with reality.”
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate our sales team and the hard work they do to secure new customers. However, it often happens where I feel as though the customer has a different idea about how our solution will work in their environment than I do. I don’t want to question what they want, so I end up having to resell the solution to them. This can impact our kickoff schedule and their time to first value.
“I don’t feel like I have a voice in our R&D team. When I do, I don’t know when and how to effectively communicate that information back with my customers.”
It’s a fine line I walk between my customers and my company. I appreciate my customers’ insights into how our product can be used and improved, and I want to be their advocate. I also recognize the reality and feasibility of some of their suggestions. It’s my job to manage this tension by identifying real opportunities for improvement within our product, and being able to communicate truthfully with my customers about whether something is truly a slated upgrade, or how to streamline a work-around for them.
“It’s difficult to provide just the right amount of expertise to each of my customers.”
The expectation is that I will keep my assigned customers delighted enough to renew and also generate interest in expanding licenses. Implicit in this expectation is that I should do what it takes to keep the accounts I work with, but not over-deliver and set expectations too high. The company goal is to deliver consistent superior customer experiences across the board. The reality is that some customers are more demanding, and not necessarily more valuable. While some larger accounts warrant that extra touch, and may not be vocalizing their needs. I have to balance these expectations, their needs and my time to deliver just the right amount to each of our customers.
The struggle is real, but now what?
If you’re a CSM and feeling any of the above stresses, we empathize, and think you are likely doing an excellent job. If you manage or have an investment in a CS team, you should expect that your team may experience some of these frustrations. But, that’s ok. It means they’re taking their jobs seriously and we are simply venting on their behalf. In either case, here are just a few frustration-easing ideas to consider:
- Agree upon a few customer lifecycles that align with your vision for how your customers should experience your solution, and segment customers according to those lifecycles.
- Invest in a work management platform that automatically triggers best practice activities that can be designed based upon account priority, health, and/or lifestage.
- Be purposeful and scheduled about communications between sales, customer success and R&D teams. These conversations can be immensely fruitful and also minimize areas of tension. (Remember, we all want happier customers.)