What Makes a CSM Successful?

While renewals and churn are both important metrics you should be evaluating for long-term success, they are not the only ones you should keep an eye out for. When it comes to measuring our own success as a Customer Success Manager, it is absolutely critical to keep in mind the importance of various goals and KPIs, like CSAT metrics and more. As CSMs, we’re used to bouncing off a number of metrics and statistics used to measure our customer’s success but it gets a little tricky when we are asked how we measure our own.

Where To Start?

It can be overwhelming when you’re just getting started and trying to map out your goals. Some of your immediate options might be enlisting the help of your Manager or figuring out how to work towards it. One of the leaders in the Customer Success field, Krysta Gaghen of Sparkcentral, recommends the Top-Down Approach: this helps ensure your goals are aligned with your company’s and tie in with its overall vision. To break this down, begin by writing out the company’s goals; these might range from becoming profitable, making ‘X’ amount of dollars in revenue, or getting acquired. From there, break it down into the department’s goals, and identify what you can do to help the company reach its ultimate goal.

For example, if the company’s goal is to make ‘X’ amount of dollars in revenue, it sets the course for the Success department towards retaining the customers that they currently have and reducing churn. From there on, move further down and outline how each role comes into play in the department’s goals. In other words, what roles do Support Managers, Customer Success Managers, and Account Managers play in retaining the customers of the company?

Customer Success Managers are responsible for training, onboarding, usage, and continued success. They should set their goals based on these key terms. Account Managers on the other hand focus on upsells, the contractual details of a customer’s experience, and their journey. They should create business plans and grind out the nitty-gritty details of the account with the customers. Support Managers traditionally focus on response times and any other support specific metrics. We’ll focus on this more in a little bit.

Another really great question to ask yourself is whether or not you should include elements of community management, general support etc. in your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Roles in Customer Success tend to sometimes get condensed or distilled down into one or two roles and metrics get lost or shifted around in the process. Often times community management metrics can interlink and fall into the KPIs of Customer Success. You’re responsible for metrics such as the broader community; online or otherwise, customer discussions, and a social media brand engagement. If you’re unsure, take a step back and ask yourself: is there a need to reserve a portion of your goals for community management or customer forum work?

For most established Customer Success teams, Account Management and Customer Support roles have metrics that need to be accounted for as well. As mentioned earlier, each one of these is integral to the customer’s continued success. Here’s how all the roles vary by importance: The Account Managers are important for playing a part into renewals. They are the ones looking at expansions, growth, and partnership opportunities. They also manage any kinds of collaborative conversations from a strategic point of view. Customer Support takes on the responsibility of mitigating risk, reducing the amount of revenue that could be lost through and customer interactions. These professionals are very focused on product usage and ultimately their end goal is to have customers who feel supported enough to renew.

Customer Success Managers have metrics like usage that are going to come into play. They’re investigating whether the customers are using the product, if they are indeed able to use it, and how they’re interacting with it. CSMs work on developing account maturations with the Account Managers to make sure that the customers are growing as they grow. They also look at customer satisfaction and adoption in general. This the root of this is the reason why they get out of bed in the morning. These are their customers after all.

Use CSAT To Help Measure Goals

Should you make use of Customer Satisfaction to help define your goals? The answer is absolutely, positively, 100% yes!

At the end of the day, as the Customer Success Manager, you are directly responsible for your customer’s happiness and overall satisfaction. Regardless of whether you are B2B or B2C, the data you can gather from measuring CSAT is invaluable. Timing is everything and it is recommended that you start the CSAT as soon as the customer finishes onboarding. This scoring feedback will give you insights into not only personally improve your training technique but also allowing you to provide any additional training or resources if there is an educational gap.

After the initial CSAT onboarding survey, develop a regular cadence of sending one out. This could be 30, 60, or 90 days. The goal of this is to find the perfect balance so that you stay up to date on how your customer is feeling. At the same time, the time period allotted helps make sure that the customer is not being bombarded by surveys. Another key thing to keep in mind is to survey both users and stakeholders. Stakeholders here are people who have the majority of the power of what to say when it comes to renewals. They want to make sure that they’re getting their money’s worth and business value from using your software and you want to make sure everyone involved is getting a positive experience.

If you conduct a survey and end up with a low CSAT score from your stakeholders, you need to take action immediately. This is a huge red flag and should be addressed right away. Users, on the other hand, refers to anybody who is not a stakeholder and is using your product. Always remember that it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. In other words, customers who aren’t feeling satisfied or are frustrated could ultimately damage your relationship with your stakeholders.

Delightful experiences lead to improved team member productivity which helps your customer save money. Don’t panic when you receive a low CSAT score from a non-stakeholder user, but do look into it. Investigate if you’re able to, in order to understand an easy way to increase CSAT there. If you start seeing that many users from the same customer brand are submitting the low CSAT scores then that could indicate a workflow issue or an opportunity to impact satisfaction in a positive way as a Customer Success Manager.

You should also track trends or CSAT over time. If a previously self-reported satisfied customer begins to submit a diminished CSAT score, these numbers will do more than predict churn, they inform the company about the CSM’s effectiveness and can allow for course correction and workflow improvement. That’s why it’s important to include those in your goals.

Track Your Customer’s Product Usage

Customer usage allows you to read between the lines. Many customers will tell you they’re going somewhere with your product but by investigating you can immediately whether they are actually using the product to their full advantage. Hence, tracking usage will ultimately increase adoption of key features. You’ll be able to guide your customers on aspects of the product that they might be missing out on or underutilizing.

Tracking usage trends also allows you to predict churn and facilitate expansion. If you know when your customers are ready to grow with your product through understanding how they’re currently using it, you’ll be able to drive real business value. It also helps to be able to provide invaluable insights to Product and Engineering teams.

Align Your Goals With Those Of Your Customers’

Think of your customer as your compass. If your customer is performing well and getting a good grasp of the product, perhaps their goal is to get promoted. You could potentially set a goal for them to do so and bake that into your metrics for the quarter as long as you both have a reasonable understanding of what that would take. For instance, does your customer need help with the basics? Make sure that continued education is part of your quarterly objectives. Although customer goals are not always CSM goals, they can be a good indicator that you are meeting or selling your goals.

A mistake most teams make when initially considering Customer Success Manager goals is that they categorize them under customer goals. This is not effective because it only showcases how your customer is performing and doesn’t shed light on the performance of the CSM. This limits potential career growth and does not help the CSM take ownership of their work. It is your responsibility as an account’s dedicated CSM to drive adoption and become an integral part of your customer’s workflow. This is to improve their day to day experience and make their job easier. This is technology; its purpose is to enable, not to complicate. If you think you have a strong grasp on what your customers see as success, you can take it one step further and quantify how their goals play into yours. Some common CSM goals are:

  1. Adoption
  2. Usage
  3. CSAT
  4. Growth

If your customer is trained on the product, is using, satisfied, and growing with it, you will have better odds of success. If they’re lacking one of these fundamental categories, they will fall short. At the end of the day, these metrics are not the same for every customer, but they are a great framework for every CSM. If a customer is experiencing issues, place a higher emphasis on the CSM goal or goals that helped make an impact on your customer. And while your goals are tied directly to your customer’s; if they feel that they are unsuccessful and are at a high risk of churning, your CSM goals must be tactical and informative to your own performance.

Hold Yourself Accountable

In order to keep track of your efforts, you need to monitor your customer’s health over time. This is also the case if you do not want to go potentially insane with the amount of responsibility you have as a CSM. Invest in software to keep yourself organized. For teams just starting out this software could be something as simple as a spreadsheet, Trello or Asana. More mature teams will require better metrics, more robust features and a scalable product. Whatever the scope of your goals may be, take this as an opportunity to get started and set yourself up for success. All the best!