Customer Success | 6 MIN READ

CSM-to-CSM Account Handoffs: A Guide to Perfect Customer Success Account Transitions

Customer success account transition is a very fragile stage with respect to customer relationships. Learn how to make it a smooth transition.

Shoeb Ahmed
Feb 5, 2021

Customer Success Account Transition: CSM-to-CSM Handoff

Customer handoffs are often talked about between different stages – marketing to sales to onboarding to customer success, but let’s get more specific today. Within the customer success team itself, account transition happens inevitably.

Reasons being:

  • Delegation to a new CSM.
  • Reducing overload of an existing CSM.
  • Change in territory or customer segment.
  • CSM promotion
  • CSM attrition
  • An underperforming CSM
  • Customer getting bigger/smaller

No matter the reason, being customer-centric entails your customer must always have a seamless experience, despite your internal disruptions.

The same principle applies here as in the handoffs between different customer phases. A well-structured and laid out process is necessary to avoid any possible friction in the transition.

So, here’s how you should do it.

Prepare internally first

Before you step out to announce to your customer about this change, you must do some internal preparations first. This includes:

Customer Documentation

An effective customer documentation strategy is the backbone of CSM to CSM handoff. Ideally, this should be done not just at the time of customer account transition but throughout the customer journey. This documentation includes all the details captured in each touchpoint you made with your customer.

Your playbooks, workflows, meeting notes, meeting attendees, dates and mode of communication are also some of the important details to document. An intelligent customer success platform should allow you to store all these details at one central location. This would prove not only helpful in customer success account transition but also in scaling your customer success operations in future.

Documentation should reveal a greater understanding of the customer to the new CSM. No doubt, other details of customer profile (like customer CRM details, service enquiries, previous sales transactions, etc.) are also necessary which can be gained from a 360-degree customer view in the CS platform.

This is the time to ensure all the customer data is in right place and in right form and to fill any gaps found.

CSM Debriefing

Once you have ensured the completeness and accuracy of customer data, you must debrief your new CSM all about it. It is important to do it in-person, rather than re-directing them to refer to the customer records by themselves, because in this process you get to look at the customer from fresh eyes and any anomaly or missing gap in the records could be easily revealed. Also, it gives an opportunity for new CSM to ask questions and get clarifications wherever needed.

Through this process, you have to upgrade the new CSM to the same level of customer understanding that you yourself possess. It will clearly reflect in the way they are able to serve clients. And only then would this customer success manager transition become a seamless experience for your customer.

Client communication

Once you are all set with your internal preparations, it is time for you to announce this change to your customer. Set up a call with them to give a proper introduction of the new CSM.

Make sure to share enough about the reason for this change and retain their trust by promising them the same quality of engagement, if not more.

Walk them through the transition process covering aspects that will change and that will remain same. It would be good at this time to allow space for customers to surface their immediate queries and anxieties with respect to this change.

This will be your one of the last few meetings with the customer where they have not yet fully established trust with the newbie. They still trust you more than her. Hence, leverage that weightage to bolster the image of your new CSM by showcasing their past success, capabilities and experience in handling customers.

If the customer account transition is happening due to negative customer reviews for a CSM, then give them a space to vent out their grievances and ensure them that their concern has already been taken care of.

Allocate buffer time for overlap

To get the new CSM started and blend with the customer, start including them in your meetings and all other conversations. Mark them in cc to every mail you send to the customer. Hold a conference call with the customer while including them. You need to handhold the other CSM initially to help them get into the flow.

Host the meetings but give enough time and space for them to interact with each other. Find out if the new CSM is able to answer them effectively and jump into the conversation where you feel they need more time to understand customer.

Step back and monitor

As they gain command and confidence, let them take a lead while you step back and monitor. Be available for support for times they may need you.

While monitoring, make sure that you don’t interfere a lot. You must understand that every CSM has a unique approach towards serving clients. Hence, let them create their own identity while you are at the backstep to provide necessary support only when they get stuck.

Business relationships need time to develop and you must give it fully to nurture it. And once your transition is done and the new CSM has taken over completely, make sure to leave a message to your customer that you are always approachable should they need you for any further assistance in future.

Some Practical Words…

While the above guidelines are based on our research on the industry’s best practices, it is always good to have a resonating opinion from the current thought-leaders as well.

Going ahead with this thought, Maranda Ann Dziekonski, one of the Top 50 Customer Success Influencers of 2021, has shared a very useful infographic recently which we are glad to include below for your reference.

Quick Tips with Maranda - CSM to CSM account handoffs

Final Thoughts

Customer success account transition is a very fragile stage with respect to the customer relationships. It has the potential to even break the relationship with the client when executed without preparation.

Your previous CSM has already set some expectations for your clients. Hence, it is your responsibility to make sure the new CSM is at par with the previous one in providing the service, if not better.

Mastering CSM to CSM handoff would prove out to be very useful in the long run for the flexibility it provides in managing a customer success team.

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Originally Published February 5th, 2021, Updated August 24th, 2021

Shoeb Ahmed

Shoeb lives and breathes Customer Success and SaaS. He has a passion to research on the latest innovations happening in SaaS and Customer Success. Shoeb hails from a Software Architecture background where he worked for many years with Indian Tech Giants like Wipro and ITC building software solutions for their MNC clients in the UK and Denmark.

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