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CSMs at Capacity and Reactive? Your Customers are Managing Them.

Proactive Customer Management Reactive CSMs
Proactive Customer Management Reactive CSMs

I recently had one of my regular advisory calls with a client that is completely revamping their Customer Success organization; specifically, how they are organized, what they do and how they are compensated.

The topic of the Customer Success Managers (CSMs) being too busy, at full capacity and overwhelmed quickly came up as this “usual suspect” of a concern typically does.

The question then was, how should the CSMs be compensated to focus their efforts when there is no time to be proactive?

Having been in this business for over 22 years, when I hear “too busy” as it relates to CSM responsibilities, I drill down to one of two areas as the root cause:

  1. Is the customer operationally aligned to its customer journey and therefore the CSM ratios are out of whack and need adjustment?  In other words, the CSMs really are too busy and the segmentation and account coverage models need to be reviewed accordingly, or,

  2. Is the customer managing the CSM through reactive inquiries because the organization has not yet figured out how to proactively manage the customer to success?

More often than not it is the latter.

The interesting thing about “I’m too busy” is that it usually is synonymous with “I’m uncomfortable, I’m unhappy, I don’t want to, I don’t know how to”.

[Incidentally Kristin Tucker wrote a great article on what “too busy” is synonymous for which I encourage you to check out.]

Contemplate this:  how long does one hour of something you love to do feel compared to doing one hour of something you hate?

The former can feel like seconds, the latter can feel like ages.

The same goes for CSM responsibilities.

Job satisfaction is tough when your day is managed for you through customer complaints and problems.

Thus, when I hear this concern pop up I immediately move to the concept of role clarity and managing the customer through their journey.

It solves practically all business challenges and CSM role clarity is no exception.

By establishing role responsibilities that are aligned to proactively managing customers to success, CSMs are clear about what they need to do and are more proactive in doing it.

Once that is all established, then it makes sense to determine what the corresponding compensation models should be.

What then does my client have as the next step to resolving how to setup compensation plans and address the capacity issue?

We outlined a plan to identify the gaps between the work activities the CSMs are currently performing versus the activities they should be performing to manage the customer successfully through the journey (i.e. current, reactive tasks versus future, proactive tasks).

Once identified, these gaps will inform what needs to be done to readjust the CSM responsibilities and set compensate plans accordingly.

Bottom line

CSMs are overwhelmed and reactive when their role is not designed to proactively manage the customer, rather the customer is managing them through reactive inquiries.

To move from reactive to proactive work, an organization must clearly know what the prescriptive approach to successful product adoption (i.e. customer journey) looks like.

When it does, CSM role responsibilities and compensation models can be defined that drive CSMs to manage the customer proactively.

Knowing what the customer is to achieve, means that CSMs will know what they need to do, which equates to greater job satisfaction and more importantly, feels like a lot less “busy”.

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