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Creating Business Impact: Customer Success Managers

Source | LinkedIn | Harshita Chalam | Program Manager at KNOLSKAPE

Organizations nowadays are making a shift of their business models from a linear based model towards the subscription-based model. The old business models gave importance first to the product and then followed by the customer. Subscription-based models, on the other hand, view customers as partners and ensure that there is a recurring revenue to the company. Since customers nowadays have a variety of options to choose from, the overall aim is to be able to ensure a great ‘customer experience’. Therefore, it is important to build a Customer Success Team as they act as the primary advocates for building up this seamless customer experience. It is important to note that the Customer Success Managers front-end the customers but are required to work with multiple teams such as sales, support, products, etc thereby making it a cross-team effort.

Last week, I had the opportunity to get into a discussion with Deepak Paripati who is currently working as a Customer Success Manager at E2Open along with my colleagues Ramya Lakshmanan and Gana KC from KNOLSKAPE. Thankful to him for proactively accepting our request and sharing his experiences in this domain. We connected to understand the importance, role and some of the best practices for a Customer Success Manager.

“The three key roles of a Customer Success Manager”

Product Adoption. Churn Control. Upselling. This is the simplest way of looking at the responsibilities of a CSM. It is always advisable to spend 80% of your time around product adoption and improve strategies around it while setting up your CS team. Identify the metrics for your product stickiness and work towards it. Once that is smooth, you can then work towards the other two components. It is also important to make a note that the KPI’s of a CSM can also revolve around these three facets. 

Following are some of the key takeaways of our discussion that I have mentioned which could be beneficial to you and your firms: 

  • Customer success is a journey and not just a onetime interaction: As a CSM, it is important to build a solid relationship and be readily available throughout the entire phase of when the customer is utilizing your products. You must be the single point of contact and be able to resolve issues that are faced by your customers by coordinating with multiple and relevant internal stakeholders. Therefore, proactive customer support is key here. 
  •  In-depth analysis of a customer’s situation: Always devote time in trying to understand what the customer is currently experiencing before pushing them into using your products. Try obtaining an in-depth understanding of what their status quo is, their long-term objectives and what are they exactly trying to achieve. Through this, you will be able to convey more clearly as to how your solution will contribute to their success. 
  •  Ensure that the customer understands the value of your product: It is very vital to ensure that the value addition that your product brings in is conveyed to the customer. You should be able to highlight the business impact it is creating for them. This can be done through presentations to the relevant stakeholders. It will also enable you to understand their pulse as well as the significance of your product. 
  • Probe for Customer Requirements: A customer’s priority and needs keep changing from time to time. Therefore, you must ensure that you are aware of these changing needs as it will help you in getting an understanding of what the customer is looking for next and provide you a background of why a customer may churn out.  And no, it doesn’t only stop at awareness. It is important to take the customer requirements back to the appropriate internal teams and see what can be implemented. 
  •  Keep your customers updated at all times: When you introduce new features to your product, always keep your customers informed about it. This acts as a point to re-engage existing users, reduce the probability of churn, help in improving commitment from them and as well as give them a sense that you are constantly striving to deliver the best. 
  •  Monitor the use of your products closely: It is very important as a CS person to be able to have certain metrics defined in the very beginning to keep a track of the level at which customers are engaged with your product. The Products and CS team can collaboratively come up with these metrics. Say, for example, if you are a learning services provider, you need to keep a track of how many users have begun the course, completed it, the average time spent on your learning platform, etc. This also acts as an important indicator to know if a customer will churn as less usage is more prone to churn. 
  •  Customer Mapping: Customers can be mapped across two main categories. The first category is those who provide a high value (in terms of monetary) and are low in volume (in terms of the number of users). The others are the ones that are low in value, but the volume is very high. For both these categories, it is essential to categorize the CSM’s based on the types of accounts they are handling. A scaled CSM can handle the high volume low-value accounts and a CSM can handle high value and low in volume accounts.

 Therefore, it is integral to understand the importance of having a CSM in the SaaS environment as they are the main people to drive the entire journey of the customer and ensure your business is successful. Creating the right CSM engagement model is the key principle.

Republished with permission and originally published at Harshita Chalam’s LinkedIn

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