A Learned Account Manager is Jealous of Today’s Customer Success Managers
I’ve been in some version of account management – call it customer satisfaction, sales or customer success – for all of my adult life (my entire life, if you count my girl scout cookie sales). Throughout my 33 years of business experience, I would have struggled far less, and been much more successful, “if only I had known then what I know now.” I seriously could’ve been a contender!
Consider my tenure in account management for FedEx. My actual title was Commercial Sales Service Specialist. My official duties were to: sell, service, manage and develop key market, cross market and portfolio accounts in an assigned geographic area.
In reality, to be successful, I had to:
- educate customers
- keep customers satisfied (at the very least)
- sell consultatively to identify growth opportunities
- gather customer data to analyze (to help facilitate growth within my district)
- implement customer retention/recovery strategies
- manage bid follow-up and consult on complex requests for pricing
- participate in sales blitzes in adjacent districts
- maintain and regularly update customer data base and other systems and reports as required, and
- implement local marketing programs
The challenges of my job evolved daily. My customer accounts varied in type, location, vertical, and size. Assuming I was doing my job well, each day I would add to the number of accounts and contacts within each of the accounts. It would become harder and harder to know
- which customers I needed to see and check on, and when to do so,
- which customers might be ripe for expansion,
- which customers might be considering a competitor for whatever reason, or
- which customers had an issue they weren’t voicing.
The truth is that if they didn’t call to complain, there was no way for me to know they were in a downward spiral of dissatisfaction. I relied upon my charm, my gut, and hope to keep accounts alive.
Here I am today, working for a SaaS company where Customer Success Managers do much of what I used to do. They are the representatives tasked with supporting the client portfolio by knowing their businesses and their goals, and helping them gain the most value from our technology solutions. The CSM is the customer advocate and the one contact customers turn to for advice, ideas and support. CSMs work to ensure the overall satisfaction of clients and make sure they exceed their client’s expectations. These roles are proactive, high energy, and usually situated in fast paced environments.
CSMs can have more than 100 accounts to manage at once and can be challenged to identify what to do next for which customer.
I look at the role of CSM much like my role at FedEx, and, to be honest, I am a little jealous. While our jobs are similar, they are armed with a customer success platform that makes their lives abundantly easier. If only I’d had access to the power of the customer success software my colleagues have today. The CRM I was using was an internally developed product that made it very difficult to track anything, and there were multiple, and varying systems to hop back and forth between to simply reach out to one contact at an organization, let alone set up an in-person appointment! I had no way to identify what I should do with each client each day. I relied heavily upon my notes, and often had to be reactive, rather than proactive.
If only I had what our CSMs have…
- a platform that integrated all of our data, so I didn’t have to work so hard to piece together what had been done with my customers.
- A tool with workflow capabilities so I could manage my daily responsibilities
- a 360° view of all of my customers in one place so I could easily understand the real health of each account
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that CSMs have it easy. It’s challenging to keep customers delighted, know if they might churn before they say anything, and be proactive in delivering really excellent experiences. I get that! I’m just saying that I really wish I had the technology they have now. I’m sure I woulda been a contender!
Marta Stanbrough, Experienced Success Development Representative; wife, mother, dog lover and always a contender