5 Things to Include in Your Customer Success Management (CSM) Strategy

Increasingly, investors and SaaS leaders are recognizing that customer retention is essential for their success. As a result, they are rushing to build Customer Success Management (CSM) programs that will help their customers maximize IT adoption and ROI from their systems.

However, they are facing significant challenges because Customer Success Management is new to most organizations, and they are not sure exactly how to get started or what to do first. They don’t always know the right question to ask, how to allocate scarce resources, or how to prioritize their efforts to get the best results.

Investing in a CSM strategy will save you time & effort

The first place to start is to create a CSM strategy and road map. Your CSM strategy should identify exactly what you are trying to achieve, define how you will achieve it, specify who will make it happen, and provide a clear road map moving forward. Your CSM strategy will help develop a shared understanding and vision for what you are trying to achieve.

It will also enable you to move forward with confidence while allowing you to avoid costly pitfalls and mistakes that can threaten your CSM program before it even gets going.

So, how do you create an effective Customer Success Management strategy? Here are five things to help you get started. Keep in mind that this is often an iterative process, and decisions you make later on may require that you revisit some of your earlier decisions.

1. Define your goals

Not surprisingly, the first step is to figure out exactly what you want your CSM team to do and the results they need to achieve. This will set the goalpost from which you will determine the specific staffing, services, tools, and methods you will need in your CSM team. It will also help you identify the budget you will need to allocate for building and maintaining your CSM capabilities.

2.Define roles, responsibilities, and org structure

One of the first questions people ask is what exactly should the CSMs do, and where do they fit within the organization? Should the CSMs be responsible for sales and renewals, or just for driving customer IT adoption and satisfaction? Do they report to sales? Do they report to customer service? Sales? And what authority do they have when it comes to working with other departments internally (like sales, product management, professional services, customer support)?

3.Develop CSM methodology, tool, and processes

Once you have figured out what you are trying to achieve and how you will work internally, identify the specific tools and processes you will need to make it happen. This may involve internal-focused tools, such as having a way to identify and report on actual customer-use of your system, and externally-focused tools, such as creating a CSM consulting methodology/toolbox that you use when working directly with your customers.

You may require a combination of tools such as CSM systems (like the ones offered by Gainsight, ChurnZero, Strikedeck, etc.), and videos, spreadsheets, presentation slides, email templates, report templates, and other such things that enable your CSM team to deliver a consistent, effective, high-quality CSM service.

4.Recruit and develop exceptional staff

Identify how you will recruit and develop exceptional staff. This may include identifying a high-level profile of the types of temperament, skills, and required experience levels you will want for your CSM team. And, it should outline how you plan to quickly onboard the CSM staff, train them, and ensure they are able to get up to speed quickly.

Just a quick word of caution: at its core, CSM is about driving IT adoption of systems. In order to be effective, CSMs need to understand the root cause of IT adoption problems and have a firm grasp of the proactive steps you can take to increase adoption. This is knowledge and skill that, generally, are in short supply.

You may need to provide additional training and development to help your CSM staff learn the skills they need to be fully effective in this role.

5.Manage the roll-out (internally & externally)

Introducing your CSM capabilities requires changes both internally to your organization and externally with how you interact with customers. Both can be major transitions, and you will want to map out in advance how you will manage these changes.

For your internal roll-out, consider how introducing CSMs will change the way existing staff perform their jobs. Have you changed the job responsibilities of sales and service staff? Will having the CSM team impact revenue and renewal targets for sales professionals? How will you go about informing people about the new service?

Introducing the CSM function will kick off a domino effect of changes to all other parts of your organization. For your external (customer) roll-out, be careful how you introduce the CSM function to both new and existing customers. Take care to ensure you set accurate expectations about what the CSM team will – and will not – deliver to customers. Also, you may want to consider if you want to pilot the CSM effort with select customers before rolling it out to everyone.