August 17th, 2016
The Mistakes Of A Failing CSM
Ask any Customer Success Manager if they are good at their job and I am sure you will be given a look of discontent, followed by a response of something along the lines of "of course I am, my customers love me!". While the behaviors and deliverables of a "good" CSM are obvious and often written about across the many blogs and white papers available, the misconceptions and mistakes made by "bad" CSMs are not so readily available.
Last week I had a discussion with one of my team around what makes a bad CSM, and while you can answer this in many ways we spoke about some of the common mistakes that CSMs make and so based on that, I will give you my four fatal mistakes you as a CSM cannot afford to make.
"Silence is golden" or "No news is good news" - One of the most worrying mistakes a CSM can make is the presumption that if their customers are not talking to them it is due to them having nothing to complain about. Yes, it may be nice to have a customer that causes you little pain and little work but realistically what do you know about them? What are they doing? Are they happy with your product or service, or are they out there looking at your competitors? When it comes to justifying the renewal at the end of the contract term not only do you have insufficient information to base your value realization on but you are open to the customer making the accusation they never hear from you. No news may be good news, but don't leave that to chance - ensure you know why there is that silence and you can only do that by talking. And talking about "talking".....
Email has its place - But in this ever increasing world of email communication and ever decreasing world of real conversation lets restrict the use of email and only use when appropriate. The "check in" email is really devaluing of the role you play with your customer and more critically, is probably annoying your customer. Email does have its place in customer success management, but its use has to be intelligent, and targeted. With all the data available to you as the CSM you can connect with your customer based on any number of strategic, high value topics: analysis of their usage trends, on the tracking to your agreed shared goals, on product developments, or on relevant activities you are delivering, but why not pick up the phone and do this in person. That phone call sets the expectation of the value - the fact you have taken the time to pick up the phone places a value of importance on it and what you have to say.
Who needs a QBR? - This one is very close to my heart as my team of Customer Success Managers know too well; quite simply how do you ensure you are tracking progress to your agreed shared goals whilst continuously demonstrating value and an RoI if you don't have QBRs. While I accept there may be accounts who do not warrant "quarterly" business reviews that does not or should not mean that you do nothing. Likewise, if your customer is resistant to accepting the a QBR there is usually two things you need to look at. One, do you have the right person or people attending and two, are you showing relevant and valued, insightful content. Arguably if you align the right content with the right attendees you will have a very productive QBR but under no circumstances should a form of business review on a regular cadence not take place. As I have seen over recent years, if you do not frequently ensure you are delivering and communicating value back to your customer over the duration of your contract you are majorly at risk of that customer not renewing. Scrambling to get this together three months before a renewal is often too late - your customer by then has already decided that your competitor is better than you.
I "own" the customer - Using this phrase not only will cause angst amongst your colleagues but your conduct often then follows suit with unhealthy, controlling behaviors and traits shown. As a CSM you are only as good as the team around you, and you cannot afford to damage that with your overwhelming desire to be in control. No one owns the customer, end of. You have a responsibility to the customer, to your company and to your colleagues to do the right thing by them not you and in that order; customer first.
Now I am sure there are other mistakes or misconceptions out there that you will claim are even bigger and have an even larger impact on being able to be successful as a Customer Success Manager so let's hear them.
What for you is the biggest mistake a CSM can make and what is the impact either on you, your customer or your company?
Matt Myszkowski - experienced Customer Success leader & founder of CustomerSuccessMatters