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Why aren't you letting CSMs design the customer journey?

By Jay Nathan

One challenge that we have in Customer Success organizations is retaining and growing our best individual contributors.

After all, these team members often fight the same fires and repeat the same processes month after month. It’s easy to see how that can become tiresome and, frankly, boring.

But one thing is for sure, we need these people to stick around. Not only do they know the product insight-out and have deep insights into the customer experience. They also have built deep relationships with customers which is one of the most important assets we have.

And let’s face it, not all of these amazing individual contributors are cut out for management positions. Nor would they be happy with the headaches and administrivia associated with many middle management jobs, but they doneed a path for growth.

So, why not let Customer Success Managers grow by designing the customer experience instead of just executing it?

Engaging customer experiences begin and end with people. Whether the experience is delivered one-on-one from employee to customer, or one-to-many through product, technology and automation, it all starts with a person who empathizes with users, understand what they need to accomplish, and apply that knowledge to customer-facing processes like onboarding, user engagement, renewal and advocacy.

The more intentional we get about designing these experiences the more effective they will be. Customer experience designers need to understand root cause of why and when users disengage and design interventions and drop-off prevention techniques.

Here’s an example…

A service that one of my customers provides doesn’t provide ROI unless a customer’s sales team adopts it. The buyer of the service, typically marketing, often disallows usage by the sales team. Without ROI, these become one-term customers who don’t renew thus costing the business profits.

We were able to identify the root cause of the objection leading to this situation, and we redesigned the onboarding process, trained CSMs, and even modified the sales process to proactively mitigate it.

SaaS companies would be well-served by allowing individuals who live and breathe the nuances of their customer interactions to solve for go to market, adoption and satisfaction opportunities they have. This is what I call the strategy side of customer success, and it’s informed by way of execution.

Chances are your customer success managers already know where the gaps in your customer journey are, and can become pivotal in building company-wide strategies to improve.

Let them shadow sales, product, engineering, and customer support to better understand the root causes of experience gaps that lead to churn and stagnation in the customer base. Then coach them and provide political support for influencing positive, iterative change.

Look, everyone wants to retain their best “firefighters.” But to do so, they will need breaks from firefighting from time to time. I can’t think of a better way to enable that than to challenge them with the responsibility for capitalizing on opportunities in the customer journey that will ultimately drive growth while enriching their careers.

Published May 2, 2017
About the Author

I've spent my career working in technology companies to build customer-centric teams, processes and technology platforms. In 2017, I founded Customer Imperative, a consulting firm that helps fast-growing B2B SaaS companies improve renewals, increase expansion sales and scale customer engagement. See full bio ›

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