The searches for the keyword ‘Role of a Customer Success Manager’ have been increasing since the last few years.
Why is it so?
As companies around the world are getting aware of the importance of Customer Success, the demand for seasoned Customer Success Managers (CSMs) is also increasing exponentially.
Since customer success is an emerging field, many aspiring CSMs may think that a Customer Success Manager’s job would be simple.
This is far from the truth.
On the contrary, since the role of a customer success manager is not well defined, a CSM needs to do several tasks.
The major KPIs of a Customer Success Manager are:
- Increase Lifetime Value (LTV) of the customers (by upsells, cross sells etc)
- Reduce churn
Is that all?
Well, to achieve the above two goals a CSM has to do several tasks.
The exact tasks that a CSM has to do depend on the product and the stage that the company is at.
If the company has been around for several years and it has a well-oiled Customer Success team, then a new CSM would have to do certain fixed tasks. But, if the company is hiring its first few CSMs, each CSM would most likely be always running out of time.
Some of the common tasks that are included in a customer success manager’s job description are:
Advocate for customers
We all know that customer success should be a company-wide effort. Though CSMs are responsible for customer success, they always need the help of the other departments to craft the best experience for the customer.
To do that, CSMs should advocate for the customers. They have to ensure that the issues are resolved ASAP and customers achieve their goals as well as get value from the product throughout the customer journey.
Drive stickiness through adoption
If the product adoption is high, there is a high chance of renewal. And high product adoption can be achieved if a customer uses more sticky features.
Sticky features are those features which are so good that they get somewhat addicted to those features. These features are to be connected to other features in such a way that it is difficult to stop using the product.
Hence, a CSM should coach the customers to use the sticky features as it will lead to the customers achieving their goals faster and also increase product adoption.
Decrease time to value
When a customer buys a product, their interest is at a peak in the starting period. They want to learn to use the product so that they can achieve their goals. However, their interest can start to decrease over time. They might even stop using the product eventually which leads to churn.
To make sure that they continue using the product, a CSM should help the customer get an early value without putting in a lot of effort. Once, a customer sees the magic of the product in action, they will put in more effort to make sure that they can derive maximum benefit from the product.
Customers churn due to several reasons like bad fit, missing functionality, missed outcome etc. The job of a Customer Success Manager is to make sure that the customers are getting the value that had been promised by the sales team and are able to achieve their goals.
The customers that are retained help in bringing consistent monthly revenue for a SaaS company. If the churn rate is high, the company will keep on losing money since Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) will be higher than the LTV of the customer. In the end, the company might even have to shut down because it cannot be losing money forever.
Increasing retention is one of the major tasks of CSM and normally when the churn rate is high, CSMs are hired to fix the leaky bucket problem.
Build key relationships
No matter how great the product is, if the CSM does not have a good relationship with the customer, the customer might churn in the end. This is because people don’t just buy products but it’s also a show of trust in the people they will deal with throughout the lifecycle.
While using the product, the customers are bound to face roadblocks or need other help and then they will contact the team. But if the CSMs are not proactive and don’t help to fix the issues or are not there when the customer needs them, the customer is likely to get frustrated.
Don’t forget that there are several competing products in the same category. So, customers have a lot of options and since the cost of switching in the subscription economy is low, it is important to build relationships else churn can surprise you.
Create product champions
A CSM will not always be there to market the product or make the customer understand the advantages of the product.
What if one of the clients is having an internal discussion with the team about whether to renew the contract or not? At that time, a CSM will not be there to defend the usefulness of the product.
Here, a product champion will help the CSM retain the client. Product champions are basically employees of the customer who actually understand the benefits of the product and are convinced of the advantages that the product provides. They truly love the product. These people not only promote the product within the company but also to their friends who may be working in other companies.
Be the voice of the customer
A CSM is successful only if the customers are successful. To make the customer successful, all their issues must be attended to, promptly.
But first of all, a CSM needs to understand the customer. They need to understand what a customer is trying to achieve, what roadblock they are facing and then figure out how it can be overcomed.
If a CSM can solve the issue themselves it is good. But sometimes they may need the help of the engineering or product or development team. A CSM can convert the customer’s problem in such a way that the required team can understand.
A CSM needs to forward the customer’s issues to the right department in the company so that it can be solved.
Being the voice of the customer is an essential characteristic of a good CSM.
(Source: Maranda Ann Dziekonski’s presentation in the webinar “How to start a career in Customer Success”)
Guide Sales on “right fit customers”
Sometimes, customers churn because those are not the customers for whom the product is designed. It leads to the wastage of lot of resources because just after few days or months these customers quit.
This happens because sometimes the sales convince the customers of things that can not be done by the product. E.g. Selling a CRM software as a software that can also reduce churn.
To fix this issue, CSMs need to make the sales team understand what the “Ideal Customer Profile” for the company is. Once the right fit customers are using the product, it is much easier to retain them as they would be able to achieve the goals that were promised to them by the sales team.
Proactively provide insights on feature adoption
A product is continuously improved and new features are added as per the product roadmap and customer requirements.
When a new feature is released, there is again a learning curve that the customer has to go through to use the feature effectively. Many customers don’t want to put in additional effort and hence don’t use the new feature.
But for some of the customers, if they start using the new features, they will be able to complete their tasks in an easier way by putting in less effort. Here CSMs can help to make the process easier by training these customers on using the new features.
Proactively provide feedback to the product team
Customers are going to provide the most real feedback as they are actually using the product. There may be things that the product team may not have thought about while making the product. Customers might inform about these shortcomings later.
Customers also provide insights regarding how the product can be improved and which new features could be added. They can help give the product a direction in which it should be developed as there is demand for those features.
CSMs interact the most with the customers and are the best people to collect this feedback and share it with their product team which can then work upon it.
Provide references, case studies, customer stories to Sales and Marketing
Case studies and testimonials help build trust among potential clients. If a company has already achieved results using a product, other potential clients will be more open to consider the product as an option or maybe even convinced to buy the product.
Once customers start using the product and hopefully are getting value, a CSM can take testimonials from them and even prepare a case study on how the product helped the company achieve their goals.
These case studies and customer stories can then be used by Marketing and Sales to get more leads and convert these leads into customers.
Create upsell opportunities
Customer Success is a revenue center for the company and help in the company’s financial growth. Upsell is one of the best ways to help the company grow.
If a customer is regularly using the product and s/he could be more productive if s/he upgrades to a higher level plan which has more features, then this customer is a potential upsell candidate.
Here a CSM can make an upselling plan, set up a meeting with the customer and make them understand the potential benefits of upgrading.
Since, these customers already like the product, there is a high probability that a CSM can upsell them.
(Source: Maranda Ann Dziekonski’s presentation in the webinar “How to start a career in Customer Success”)
A CSM should not contact the customer one day before the renewal date and hope that everything will go fine.
They need to be in regular contact with the customers so that they know if the customers are facing any problems and can guide them to better use the product.
Of course, it is difficult to predict if a customer is facing any roadblock especially if a CSM is managing several accounts.
Here it is recommended to take help of technology and use a customer success software. A customer success platform monitors all the accounts by going through millions of data points.
By just looking at the dashboard, a CSM gets to know which stage the customer is in and what their health is. For example, in CustomerSuccessBox, Account Health parameters can be custom set for each client and is divided into FOUR parts on the basis of product health, financial, service and relationship health of each of the customers.
The role of a Customer Success Manager is not well defined and the role is continuing to evolve with time. However, the importance of Customer Success Managers will surely increase as Customer Success is becoming vital for SaaS companies to retain customers and grow the company.
Which of the above roles of a Customer Success Manager is the most crucial according to you?