Most companies just getting into Customer Success start by defining roles (well, one Customer Success Manager), then they try to figure out the size of the book of business the CSM should handle, etc. That’s wrong.
But I won’t leave you hanging! Nope, I’ll tell you the correct way to define roles in a Customer Success Management organization.
Hint it all starts with proper Customer Segmentation
For context, on Friday, May 19, 2017, I did a Customer Success Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Facebook live. It was awesome. The video is embedded below and below that is the transcript (edited for better readability) that answers the question.
What’s the best way to define Customer Success Management roles?
So the question is about the best way to define roles for sales, account managers and CSMs in relation to the client.
Should there be a defined hand off for each? So sales, account manager, CSM. I would really, instead of just saying CSM. And this is something I want you guys to start thinking about, is there is no such thing as a one size fits all CSM. And so I’ve I still say CSM because I know a lot of people are expecting that. But I’ve tried and with my customer, my clients. And their Customer Success organizations. I do a better job of this than
So sales, account manager, CSM. I would really, instead of just saying CSM. And this is something I want you guys to start thinking about, is there is no such thing as a one size fits all CSM. And so I’ve I still say CSM because I know a lot of people are expecting that. But I’ve tried and with my customer, my clients. A lot of people still talk about CSMs.
I like to talk about Customer Success Practitioners.
So what that means, is really anybody in the Customer Success world. Customer Success Manager, certainly Customer Success analysts, Ops people, Coms, communication, customer marketing, etc. There are a lot of different people that can be involved in the Customer Success Management process.
And so I want you to think about it that way. So when it comes to defining roles, there is no and there cannot be a universal way of defining roles. So I just really, that wasn’t part of the question. I’m not saying that that’s was what they were asking. But I just want to be really clear.
Actually, I’ll even say it like this.
I got an email. I get an email at least once a day. At least once a day. From somebody asking, Hey, Lincoln, we’re hiring a CSM. Do you know anybody good? Yes, I know a good CSM and no I’m not gonna send them your way because you are thinking about the fact that we just need to hire a CSM. Because all CSMs are exactly the same in every company. Right?
No. That’s not how it works.
There’s no such thing as a one size fits all CSM. You need to understand your customer segments. You need to understand what the Appropriate Experiences (AX) for each of those segments. And then you can start figuring out what the coverage levels look like.
So, if we have some customers that need a higher touch interaction with a human, we would have a Customer Success practitioner that maybe looks more like a consultant. Right? Maybe they have domain expertise. Maybe they have, you know, they have experience in that particular industry. And they’re gonna spend a lot of time with the customer. Because that’s what the customer wants and needs as part of their Appropriate Experience.
Let’s say we have a customer segment that is very, not very complex, doesn’t need a lot of human interaction. Maybe our coverage levels there are gonna be pooled resources of Customer Success practitioners that look more like analysts. They’re gonna be able to figure out what’s going on with the customer and intervene, you know, through low touch means. Through tech touch means if you want to use that term. That’s gonna be, you know, what’s appropriate for that customer segment.
We have to understand what the segments require. So that we can know the kind of human beings that we’re gonna need to bring in. We also need to know what is required so we know what kind of technology to use. And then we need to know for each customer segment what is the ratio of human to technology? We need to think about this stuff like we would any other part of the business. Which is to say, we need to figure out what is actually required.
The simple answer you see a lot is you need X number of CSMs per X amount of revenue. But that’s a bullshit answer (and here’s why if you’re interested).
That’s never been appropriate. And it certainly isn’t appropriate today when we understand more about this stuff. And I hate the fact that that CSM per amount of revenue gets propagated over and over and over. Because some VC said it once. It’s garbage. It doesn’t matter. Doesn’t apply today. It never did. We have to think about our customers. There are appropriate segments, and what those appropriate coverage levels need to look like.
So, from there, we can start to know exactly what’s gonna be required. Now, we have to work through the different phases of our customer life cycle. What I call success milestones. If we have an onboarding process for a particular customer segment that’s gonna require you know, somebody really working with them doing some training, doing some implementation, doing some integrations or whatever.
Then those are the people that we’re gonna have to, we’re gonna bring people in like that. Right? Maybe there’s a dedicated onboarding team, maybe it’s just other sort of subject matter experts. But they’re gonna be brought in to work with that customer at various points in the life cycle. Probably heavily weighted towards the onboarding process, but of course across the life cycle, those people may have to come back in as our customers evolve and grow.
So, we need to think about our customers, the different segments, what’s appropriate, their life cycle, the different success milestones. And operationalize accordingly. So yeah, this is not, you know, I’ve said it before. People over complicate the concept of Customer Success. And completely under appreciate what is required to make it actually happen.
People over-complicate the concept of Customer Success and way under-appreciate the required effort to make it actually work.
– Lincoln Murphy (@lincolnmurphy) June 20, 2017
So, Customer Success is actually pretty simple to understand as a concept. It’s a lot harder to actually make work. But so worth it.
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