How to Define Roles in Customer Success Management

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 (CSM) 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 handoff between sales and whoever takes over after the sale (account manager, CSM, etc.)?

BTW, I still say CSM because I know a lot of people are expecting that, but I’ve tried – and I try to get my clients to do this, too –  to move away from CSM to Customer Success Practitioners (CSP).

CSP is more inclusive of the wide array of professionals making up a Customer Success Management operation. In addition to Customer Success Managers (of which there is no one-size-fits-all type of CSM), we have Customer Success analysts, Ops, communication, customer marketing, etc.

There are a lot of different people that can be involved in the Customer Success Management process and we need to acknowledge that.

So when it comes to defining roles, there is no – and there cannot be a – universal way of defining roles.

Actually, I’ll even say it like this.

I get an email – or some other message – at least once a day from somebody asking, “Hey, Lincoln, we’re hiring a CSM. Do you know anybody good?”

Yes, I know good CSMs and no I’m not gonna send them your way because you’re just thinking about the fact that you need to hire a CSM and aren’t looking at things the right way. You’re thinking all CSMs are exactly the same in every company. Right?

But 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.

I’m not going to send anyone your way until you look things the right way… I’m not going to set the “good CSMs” I know up for failure.

If you have some customers that need a higher touch interaction with a human, you would have a Customer Success practitioner that maybe looks more like a consultant. Right?

Maybe they have domain expertise 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 your 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 or tech-touch means. That’s what’s appropriate for that customer segment.

You have to understand what the segments require so that you can know the kind of human beings that we’re gonna need to bring in.

You also need to know what is required so we know what kind of technology to use.

And then you need to know for each customer segment what is the ratio of humans to technology?

You need to think about this stuff just like you would ANY other part of the business. Which is to say, you 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 idea of aa certain amount of revenue per CSM has 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.

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 or what I call Success Milestones.

If we have an onboarding process for a particular customer segment that’s gonna require somebody really working with them, doing some training, doing some implementation, doing some integrations or whatever, then that’s what’s required. Then those are the people that we’re gonna have to bring in. 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.

So, we need to think about our customers, the different segments, what’s appropriate, their life cycle, the different success milestones.

And operationalize accordingly.

People over complicate the concept of Customer Success and completely under appreciate what is required to make it actually happen.

So, Customer Success is actually pretty simple to understand as a concept.

It’s a lot harder to actually make work. But it’s so worth it.

About Lincoln Murphy

I am a Customer Success Consultant focused on Customer Success-driven Growth. I wrote the Customer Success book which you can buy at Amazon. If you need help applying Customer Success-driven Growth principles in your company or would like me to speak at your event, please contact me. Also, connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the great content Lincoln! I enjoy reading your insights! Just a note: Paragraphs 2 and 3 under the heading “What’s the best way to define Customer Success Management roles?” aew a little hard to follow.

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