Software-as-a-Service, also known as SaaS, is the use of a digital product to solve real, everyday problems. Less about your Instagrams, TikToks and Facebooks (although they are there to solve the “problem” of boredom and discovery) and more about Xero, AirBnB and Tableau. The problems that SaaSes solve tend to be more complex and while efforts are made to improve the User Experience so that the software is more intuitive to use, there is still a wide gap to bridge.
That’s where you come in, as a Customer Success Manager. You act as
- the subject matter expert,
- product expert, and
- customer advocate.
Sounds like a big job, huh? While it seems like three fields above, they’ve very much all melded into the other, with the focal point being the customer’s experience. Of all the roles there might be in a SaaS organization, the CSM is going to be the closest to the customer.
You can think of yourself as holding the keys to the customer’s inner sanctum of hopes and fears. They have a goal that they want to achieve by using your SaaS. You need to do everything in your power to help them achieve this. Here are the things you need to do well to succeed in a customer success manager for SaaS role:
Teaching your users to get the most value out of the SaaS is the number one skill you need as a Customer Success Manager. This is easier said than done. While you might know a piece of software inside out, having the patience to walk a customer through it (sometimes repeatedly), “speak their language” so that those who are less tech savvy understand what you’re saying and reinforce learning are the “beneath the tip of the iceberg” skills here that separate the good from the great.
One of my favorite business books is The Business of Belief, by Tom Asacker. In it, he talks about helping people change their beliefs as being like helping them cross a bridge. The bridge is long, spans a far distance and is a bit rickety. It sways in the wind and you don’t feel very safe while you’re crossing it.
As a customer success manager trying to teach someone how to use a new SaaS, you wouldn’t shove someone roughly in the back while they’re up there. You wouldn’t take them up there then leave them alone to try and cross it themselves. You would be right behind them or next to them and move as fast as they do. You would reassure and encourage and make them feel that they are going in the right direction. Then, once they get to the other side, you would praise and give them all the credit.
This last one seems obvious enough, but is the toughest of the lot to do. Why? It takes the second point above – instilling belief – and does it at scale. That is, you make not just one user, but possibly hundreds, maybe thousands of users all believe that your SaaS is the way forward for the whole company in addressing their problem. Furthermore, you’ll be working with not only users, but other internal stakeholders that you might need to win over. For example, those who are actually paying for the solution, or the C-suite who want to see a significant difference in the balance sheet.
Now you wouldn’t be doing this by yourself. You would have product managers, engineers, tech support, business development managers and so on, but the point is that as the customer success engineer, you would be expected to play a big part in owning this piece. Again, as the one closest to the customer, you should have an idea who the main “players” are in an organization, the pressure points that are stopping the solution from being more widely adopted and what has to be done to make widespread adoption happen.
Customer Success Management for SaaS companies is a really rewarding career. On the surface, it’s about being the product and subject matter expert. Deeper, your the agent of change, instiller of belief and educator for your customers. If you enjoy making an impact, you’ll enjoy being a CSM.