Putting the Customer back in “Customer Success Management” (CSM)

I spent some time over the weekend reading various blog articles and LinkedIn discussions about Customer Success Management. I also watched various online video presentations from CSM conferences and corporate websites.

At first, I was struck by all of the great issues and questions that illuminated the amount of work and complexity involved in creating an effective CSM organization. And as I continued to watch, I noticed another theme emerge. Nearly all of the discussions and videos were focused on how to make sure the vendor was successful. But wait, isn’t CSM supposed to be about helping the customer be successful?

Many CSM experts talk about what the vendor wants out of CSM

For the most part, many of the emerging CSM experts are talking about how to maximize customer renewals. They talk about topics like, “Should CSMs have a renewal quota” and “How should CSMs interact with the sales team?”

These are all important and valid discussion that you need to have when building your CSM team. But they are also very internally focused questions. They are all about what the vendor needs to do so that the vendor benefits. You can’t stop the discussion here. Actually, you shouldn’t even start the discussion here.

Very little talk of what will actually make the customer successful

Think back to the reasons you even first started thinking about setting up a customer success management team. It was because your customers were not successful with your product, which, in turn, led them not to renew.

Before you have any hope of ever solving the renewal problem, you need to solve the customer success problem. This requires that you understand both:

  1. The reasons why your customers are not using your product
  2. What actions you – and the customer – need to do to change this

Once you do this, then you can turn to the internal questions about to structure and manage your CSM organization.
Do you have a Customer Success Management program? If not, why not? If so, how has it affected your customer churn?
Please share your thoughts and experiences on the Success Chain community forums.