One of the most important developments in client service over the past decade has been the ascendance of a role called customer success manager (CSM). The idea behind the customer success function is to offer a form of client support that’s different from day-to-day program management and problem resolution. Instead, customer success can play a highly strategic role that can help you drive increased revenue, insight and efficiency from a product or service.
CSMs are tasked with delivering value in a strategic relationship with you – to help deliver ideas and perspective that help you better meet your short-term and long-term goals. But as with any relationship, it’s important for both parties to invest the time and energy necessary to get the most from each other.
Clients get a great deal more from customer success managers when they observe these four best practices:
1. Be transparent about your business goals and challenges
A CSM can only deliver relevant insight and ideas if they fully understand your objectives and business challenges. Be open and honest about what is working well for you, and where you need to see significant improvement. By providing these critical inputs, your CSM can apply key learnings and industry trends to drive immediate improvement for you and your business.
Well-informed CSMs provide great ideas and technological solutions to key business challenges and opportunities. In many cases, they or their colleagues may have faced similar challenges in the past and can use learnings from those experiences to help you apply best practices that improve results.
2. Share your upcoming initiatives and goals
I am a big believer in providing the information necessary for your CSM to be an expert on your specific business and needs, and for you to demand that level of engagement from them. By communicating short-, medium- and long-term plans with them, they can be proactive about how to help you clear even the highest hurdles. What do you really want to achieve and how can you get there? By laying out your schedule of initiatives, you provide critical input for a more productive business relationship.
From there, you can collaborate with your CSM lead to build a roadmap of initiatives that can help you maximize business success. A roadmapping exercise needn’t be complicated, but it can help focus the team on both acute and long-term needs.
3. Get beyond account management-style requests
Lots of companies like the idea of having a CSM but quickly settle into what is a more reactive, support-style relationship. You request something, they turn it around for you. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that – there are always immediate needs and opportunities.
But to unlock the true value of a customer success relationship, you need to expect and be open to more high-level discussions in addition to the basic support emails and Slack messages that may characterise the more traditional account-management-style support situation. Schedule – and show up to – periodic strategy meetings with your CSM.
Ask for a quarterly business review that includes lots of discussion about ways to do more and do it better. In short, the key benefit of moving beyond a classic account management interaction is that you get access to a strategic consultant, as opposed to someone carrying out reactive tasks. That ultimately means you have a resource that will have a significant impact on your business and your bottom line.
4. Make it a team effort
CSMs can have the greatest impact when you involve others from your business in the strategic discussions they lead. Often, customer success leads are great at building consensus that may be necessary for you to get internal resources aligned for important projects.
While we live in a digitally connected world and many of your discussions with a CSM will likely take place over video calls and the like, there really is no substitute for periodic face-to-face meetings. Involve others in those meetings as well. By making more of your internal stakeholders aware of the key strategic ideas that can propel growth, you can drive speedier outcomes and better results.
CSMs can truly help you drive extraordinary progress against your business goals – but only if you let them. By creating a close, collaborative relationship and making time for business building discussions, you can go much further toward nailing your goals and creating unprecedented business success.