Customer Success Managers are naturally a really multidisciplinary role, that’s why it can be difficult to know where their job starts and ends. This article will examine what tasks should be part of their BAU, which ones they could contribute to (but shouldn’t own) and which tasks shouldn’t overlap with what they do day to day.
Business As Usual (BAU)
Custodian of Customer Relationship – this is a must – and a no brainer. The CSM is the person who should have the best relationship with the customer. Why do I use the word custodian here? Because I feel that the CSM should guard the relationship they have with the customer. As much as the Product Manager (PM) owns the product road map and software engineers own the architecture of the product, the CSM owns the connection to the people who use the application and/or pay for it.
Activities which fall under this that the CSM should be responsible (and held accountable to are):
- proactive outreach for “health checks” by email, phone and any other reasonable means.
- early identification of risk-on behaviour, e.g. sudden decrease in application usage and documented attempts to discover the cause and “rescue” the customer.
- escalation if attempts to “rescue” the customer fail, perhaps to account management or higher if it’s a strategic account.
- SaaS value realisation – a systematic approach to help customers extra more value more often from the application.
Should Contribute To
Product Development – operating right at the interface between customer and company, they not only have an intimate understanding of their customers’ pain points, needs and wants, they also have a keen awareness of the developmental capacity within their organisation. This means that when they hear of a problem that’s cropped up repeatedly and they know that the product team is looking to fit one more piece into their sprint, they can – and should – put this forward.
Sales Demos – the CSM should be one of the people who has the most superior understanding of the ins and outs of the product and the potential value it can deliver for each customer profile. They should be able to be called upon to deliver a range of demos. It could be a high-level training demo, going over some of the key features that users will come back to time and time again, or a broader demo that goes a bit deeper to show off the capabilities of the application. In this sense, they can partner a BDM or AM when it comes to selling into accounts.
Tech Support – being one of the more technically minded roles in the company, they should be able to diagnose and fix a range of problems that customers encounter when using the application. This can take up a lot of time, so shouldn’t be the main focus of their job. But if front-line technical support is understaffed, they should be able to step in and assist.
Sales – While the CSM should be able to sell the capabilities of the application, it should never be in their job description to actually get the customer to sign on the dotted line. It’s a different stage of the customer journey altogether that’s too early for the CSM to participate in. They might pop in to help if the customer is asking particularly technical questions beyond the remit of the BDM, almost taking on the role of a sales engineer.
Account Management – I’ve left one of the more controversial roles to the last. Account Management in my opinion shouldn’t be the CSM’s responsibility even though a lot of companies will have it sitting as a non-negotiable.
If there is any overlap, it should only be in the fact that the customer should tell the CSM first of any opportunities they might have to broaden the account or refer someone else into the business, but from that point, the CSM should have a clear hand off back to the AM and communicate it clearly to their customer that the AM would reach out to them to continue the conversation.
This keeps the relationship between CSM and customer “pure” and not tainted by money negotiations, which, if they go south, may negatively impact on the relationship.