Pooled CSMs: Benefits, Challenges, and Requirements for Success

The concept of pooled CSMs, where a pool of CSMs manage a portfolio of customers without dedicated account ownership, has emerged as an alternative approach to CSM org design. Here’s a breakdown of the current thinking on pooled CSMs, including the key requirements for success.

Potential Benefits of Pooled CSMs

  • Scalability: Pooled CSMs can effectively manage a larger customer base, making it efficient for companies with a high volume of lower-touch accounts.
  • Standardized Support: Customers receive consistent support practices and knowledge base expertise from any available CSM in the pool.
  • Resource Optimization: CSMs can focus on specific tasks within their skillset, potentially leading to increased efficiency.
  • Workload Balancing: Workload is evenly distributed among CSMs in the pool, reducing the risk of burnout.

Potential Challenges of CSM Pools

  • Relationship Building: The lack of dedicated CSM ownership can make it challenging to build strong, long-term customer relationships.
  • Context Switching: CSMs may need to spend more time understanding customer context when interacting with new accounts, potentially impacting efficiency.
  • Accountability: Diffusion of ownership can make it difficult to pinpoint accountability for customer success or failure.
  • Appropriate Experience (AX): Some customers may prefer the stability and continuity of a dedicated CSM and not having that would violate their AX.

Requirements for Success in a Pooled CSM Model

  • Centralized Customer Data: A single source of truth for all customer data (CRM, usage data, support tickets) is crucial for CSMs to quickly understand customer context and deliver consistent support.
  • Queue Management System: A system to efficiently distribute incoming customer requests (phone calls, emails, chat) to available CSMs in the pool ensures timely responses and minimizes wait times.
  • Automation Tools: Automating routine tasks (e.g., onboarding emails, password resets) frees up CSM time for higher-value interactions and personalized support.
  • Knowledge Base & Playbooks: A robust knowledge base with clear, concise articles and standardized playbooks equip CSMs with the necessary information to effectively support a variety of customer segments.
  • Performance Tracking & Reporting: Metrics that track key performance indicators (KPIs) such as customer satisfaction (CSAT), customer lifetime value (CLTV), and resolution times help identify areas for improvement within the pooled model.
  • Collaboration Tools: Real-time collaboration tools (e.g., internal chat, team notes) enable CSMs to share customer context, insights, and best practices within the pool, ensuring consistent and informed interactions.

The Ideal Use Case for CSM Pools

Pooled CSMs are best suited for organizations with a large number of low-complexity accounts with an AX heavily-weighted toward Async or Self-service. 

These are typically customers with:

  • Standardized needs that can be addressed through well-defined processes and knowledge bases.
  • Limited interaction frequency requiring less in-depth customer understanding.

(note how what the customer pays is not a consideration here)

The Rise of Hybrid Engagement Models

Similar to pod structures, many organizations are adopting hybrid models that combine aspects of both dedicated and pooled CSM approaches. This allows for:

  • Tiered Support: High-value or complex accounts can be assigned dedicated CSMs, while lower-touch accounts are managed by a pool.
  • Phased Approach: Customers may transition from pooled support to dedicated CSM ownership as their needs evolve.

The Future of Pooled CSMs

The future of pooled CSMs likely involves:

  • Technology Integration: Leveraging technology to streamline customer interactions (omnichannel support), knowledge sharing, and context capture within the pool.
  • Performance Tracking: Implementing advanced metrics to track the effectiveness of the pooled model and identify areas for improvement (e.g., sentiment analysis in support tickets).
  • Customer Segmentation: Refining customer segmentation based on factors like AX, industry, and product usage to ensure pooled CSMs are equipped with the necessary knowledge to support specific customer segments effectively.

In conclusion, pooled CSMs offer a viable CSM org design option for specific scenarios. By understanding the advantages and limitations, implementing the necessary requirements for success, and potentially adopting a hybrid approach, organizations can leverage pooled CSMs to achieve scalability and efficiency while mitigating potential challenges.

About Lincoln Murphy

I invented Customer Success. I focus primarily on Customer Engagement. Learn more about me here.