CSM can become a game-changing strategy that turns customers into strong promoters. And yet, it is sometimes still shrouded in confusion and misconception, with businesses failing to see its strategic value. As a CSM leader myself, I can attest to its transformative power. So let’s take a look at CSM more closely, and how organisations can benefit from it.
In many ways, CSM has redefined what customer satisfaction looks like, and took it a step further. Perhaps the best way to illustrate what it does is by looking at its pioneers. It takes its roots in the software industry in the 90’s, with a company called Vantive that discovered an innovative approach a customer took to using their application.
They realised that there can be as many needs, challenges or rationales behind using a given product than there are clients, and decided to build a Customer Success team dedicated to unravelling the truth behind each customer. The objective was to discover how they were using their solution, which business objectives were associated with its use, and identify potential improvements or personalisation that would help the customer draw the maximum value from the software, boosting satisfaction and loyalty in the process.
Nowadays, although the organisation and processes have matured, Customer Success’ purpose is still the same: achieve customer success and happiness through a continuous feedback loop to ensure they are maximising the solution’s contribution to their business objectives. It requires establishing an ongoing relationship with the customer from on-boarding to off-boarding (hopefully a stage you won’t reach often), and defining goals that are regularly assessed via quarterly reviews and mean success if they are achieved. CSM is a long game, and can take time supporting customers through hard times, before eventually generating stronger value, but is definitely worth the initial effort.
How CSM operates and performs
Although CSM doesn’t replace customer support, we can see how fundamentally different both functions are, with the latter being mostly reactive to fix customers’ issues, when CSM entails a high level of proactivity to dig in and try to identify what keeps their customers up at night, and if there is any way they can help.
Ultimately, the CSM team is designed to act as a hub, becoming a customer’s trusted, primary and only point of contact, and connected to all the other teams within the organisation, which they solicit when they need support. This structure offers a much better customer experience, with a dedicated team member that has a deep understanding of their business and challenges, as opposed to having to interact with different departments depending on the nature of the issue or request. Adding to their strategic role, CSM teams are also responsible for renewals–with the power to negotiate or make offers–and customer retention is usually a key metric to measure their performance.
In order to perform, CSM teams need deep connections with other strategic departments, especially sales and customer support. These teams feed each other with customers’ insights, and they need to be across all customers’ interactions to maintain high customer experience standards. A solid CRM solution with relevant applications designed to facilitate and automate communication and transfer of information between those teams should help achieve this.
From customer to promoter
CSM is especially relevant in the software industry, and has boomed with the advent of SaaS and cloud applications. First because most tech tools play a key role in optimising certain aspects of a business, as a whole or of a given department, and they’re usually used daily, which provides ongoing insights to potentially act on. Second, because CSM is the only way to increase a customer’s stickiness in a highly competitive, mostly subscription-based world, where they can jump ship as easily as ever.
This doesn’t mean that non-SaaS organisations shouldn’t consider building a CSM team. As long as they offer a product or service where building a trusted advisor’s experience with customers makes sense in the long run, considering a CSM team is a worthwhile conversation to have given the potential benefits.
Indeed, a successful CSM can not only boost customer satisfaction and retention, but also influence marketing and sales positively. The ultimate goal is to transform each customer into an advocate and promoter. A customer’s endorsement and positive word-of-mouth is incredibly more powerful than any other marketing tools or advertising, and can help accelerate a prospect’s journey through the sales funnel. Therefore, good CSM teams will also look at how they can tap their happiest customers to attract new ones, or potentially cross-sell, which can be achieved with joint marketing activities and case studies for example. Hopefully this helps clarify what CSM is designed to achieve and how. Building a CSM team isn’t easy as it requires drastic changes in an organisation’s internal structure and a period of adjustment. Therefore companies should consider implementing CSM as early as they can in their journey, especially if they are in the software and/or cloud industry. Ultimately, a performing CSM team can become the cornerstone of a company’s success and growth.