Far and away, my favorite movie character of all-time is George Bailey from It’s A Wonderful Life.  I remember the first time I saw that movie. I believe I was 9 or 10 years old and even then, I felt drawn to that character.  George Bailey is an incredibly complex and conflicted man and I hoped and feared I’d be just like him when I grew up.  On one hand, he was everything I wanted to be: Big dreamer, idealistic, tenacious, a dedicated father and husband, hard working, affable, dependable, loyal, trustworthy, caring, helpful, and a leader.  On the other hand, he was everything I didn’t want to be: An unwitting participant in the rat race who always felt like he was behind the 8-ball.  He was a man who never felt fulfilled.  He was stuck in a perceived rut and never felt like he was making a difference.   Worst still, he believed he was not making the most out of life.

If you’re a CSM, you were probably drawn to the role because you, like George Bailey share most of his positive traits.  Also, like George Bailey, I bet you too at times feel like you are tirelessly grinding away to ensure everyone is happy and satisfied, yet never feeling like you’re getting ahead.  But, keep in mind; your success is measured in a series of very small wins collected each day.  Like a pebble tossed into a lake, these wins are so small, they’ll barely make a ripple, but save those pebbles over time, gather them up and see what happens to the water when you toss them in.  Your seemingly minor daily contributions make an enormous and profound impact on your customers, co-workers, and company as a whole.

Want to get a true sense for how much you matter?  Remember, George Bailey was given a gift.  He got to see what the world would look like if he weren’t in it.  He learned that, without his influence, many friends and family members had a troublesome life.  In the end, George realizes that he does matter and his actions both big and small have enhanced the lives of many others. Let’s explore if you too had that opportunity and see what your world would look like if the CSM role had never been born.  With respect to your time, the following examples will be abbreviated:

Frontline Customer Support team – With a CSM
What happens if the Support team does not perform up to the customer’s standard?
What happens if the customer is being unreasonable or unresponsive?
How does the Support team gain knowledge of the customer’s overall strategy?
In all of the above cases, the CSM will typically step in and smooth out the wrinkles.   This keeps problem management out of the hands of the Support team and allows them to maintain their break/fix focus.

Frontline Customer Support team – Without a CSM
The Support team will now have to handle those types of escalations as they’ll no longer have insight into the customer’s long term goals and plans, they’ll have no one to help reengage unresponsive customers, and they’ll no longer have an established relationship to cushion the blow when the “you know what” hits the fan.  Oh wait, yes they will.  They’ll just funnel much of this over to the Sales team!

Sales – With a CSM
The Sales team’s job description is pretty cut and dry.  They are required to meet with new prospects, close deals, and then renew them.  Anything else on their plates is merely unnecessary and detrimental.  Fortunately they have a CSM that can keep the vast majority of daily account management duties from derailing their sales efforts.  In fact, a CSM will aid in the sales process by keeping existing customers satisfied and that in-turn should make the renewal process fairly easy for the Sales rep.

Sales – Without a CSM
In addition to their primary responsibilities, now they also are responsible for maintaining customer satisfaction levels by not only working closely with Support, but also host regular cadence calls with customers, respond to customer inquiries, collect/file/manage product feature requests, provide product roadmap updates, organize training, and meet with internal team members to provide updates on each account. By the way, their typical account list is between 10-15 or more accounts.  The Sales team will begin to resent the Support team every time they kick something over the fence to them.  Why? Because, for every extra task they do that detracts them from selling, they’re losing money and they are jeopardizing their jobs.  This all but cripples the sales process and will in effect; destroy the company’s bottom line.

Engineering – With a CSM
Simply put, this group builds, maintains, and enhances the product.  It’s common for them to handle a technical issue that can’t be solved by the Support team.  In some cases they might provide direct updates on an on going or persistent issue to the CSM.  In rare instances they’ll even join a customer call, but by and large they are isolated from the customer.  This team gets most of their customer feedback on the product from the Support team and CSM.

Engineering – Without a CSM
What changes most for these guys is the flow of information.  With the Sales and Support teams now overwhelmed and the lines blurred between each, the Engineering team should expect a lack of customer feedback due to each team thinking the other was communicating with Engineering.  On the flip side, the Engineering team may receive too much information, as it’s highly likely that the Sales and Support folks will be providing duplicate feedback.  Not only that, there could be variances in that feedback which creates confusion.  This confusion will only cause frustration for the customer because now they’ll have Sales and or Support coming back to them frequently to clarify…assuming these teams have enough bandwidth to do that.  Otherwise, when the product features are released, they’ll likely miss the mark and that will cause an even higher level of frustration for the customer.  In turn, the Engineering team will have their own resources taxed, as they’ll have to go back to the drawing board and rebuild a feature.  As you can deduce, this mess is costing the company money as their resources are chasing their tails instead of being productive.

Marketing – With a CSM
Commonly, Marketing is more closely tied to Sales.  A CSM’s involvement with Marketing may vary from company to company or across industries, but generally the Marketing team will look to the CSM for referenceable customers that they can utilize for promotional materials or events.  They may also ask the CSM to provide overviews on customer use cases and to get an overall sense for what customers like and don’t like about your company’s product or service.

Marketing – Without a CSM
Admittedly, the impact of not having a CSM is not as great here as in other groups, but the Marketing team will take a hit.  Instead of having a CSM to call on for referenceable customers, they now will have to contact Sales and Support.  This isn’t so burdensome for Marketing as it is for Sales and Support considering they now have yet another item on their to do list.  However, Marketing can expect to have to chase each group around for this info and, like Engineering, they’ll surely end up with not enough feedback, duplicate feedback, or conflicting feedback.  Support might refer one customer and Sales could suggest staying away from the very same customer.  This would then be Marketing’s job to sort out what customers are approachable and those that are not.  And again, like the aforementioned groups, they will very likely end up running around in circles.

Product Management – With a CSM
The folks on the Product Management team rely heavily on the CSM to provide them with a solid understanding of what customers want the product to do, why, and what the specific requirements are.  The CSM is also responsible for providing the level of importance on each request and ensuring that the customer’s wants and desires are heard loud and clear.  It’s this insight that helps guide the decisions made by the Product Manager.  At times, the CSM may even facilitate a conversation with select customers and the PM.  These collective efforts enhance the product and keep the roadmap on the right track.

Product Management – Without a CSM
The Product Manager struggles to make informed roadmap decisions.  They have no choice but to follow suit with the other groups and lean on Sales and Support for this information.  What they’ll get is the same disjointed information that Engineering and Marketing received.  What Sales and Support will get is yet another headache.  The lack of reliable guidance will cause the road map to go off the rails and ultimately the product will suffer.  The customers won’t find the product as beneficial and renewals will dwindle, sales will slide, and the company will lose value.

Customers – With a CSM
They buy a product or service and then are assigned a central point of contact to guide them and advocate for them over the course of their contract.  The CSM is there day in and day to look after their best interests and make sure their needs are being met.  If the CSM is doing their job effectively, customers, even despite some technical bumps or pricing concerns, will likely renew when their contract is up because they know they are well cared for, respected, and have a voice within your company.

Customers – Without a CSM
All of the strife at your company will cause the culture to breakdown and inevitably it’ll reflect back out to the customer.  Not only will they be put off by the bad mojo, but they’ll also begin to feel neglected, uninformed, and in essence unwanted.  What choice do they have but to take their business elsewhere?  As the customer relationships begin to wear down in concert with the internal turmoil among cross-functional teams; the managers, directors, and executives will be forced to spend chunks of their days putting out fires and solving problems while revenue projections are not met.
As you CSM’s can see, you really have a wonderful life.  Your efforts, though not always measurable when taken individually, truly have a tremendous impact on your customers and your company.   Know that you are valued and keep on keeping on!