Ever since the boom of the SaaS industry in the past decade, client success and client success manager skills has become the key strategies of the companies who want to maintain a long term relationship with their customers. Those times are gone when the companies used to make one-time sales to their customers after which the customer relationship would terminate, well, sometimes after a brief period of the post-sales support. That business model is slowly passing by giving its way to the subscription based business model and service providers are finding it increasingly useful to navigate their roadmap along the lines of customer lifetime value.
One thing that has become clear after adopting the subscription based business model is that your business cannot grow until your client succeeds in their business too while using your product or service. A need for a suitable role has emerged in the SaaS companies whose sole responsibility lies in keeping a check on those aspects of customer’s business which are directly impacted by the use of the product being supplied by the companies. This role is now widely known as customer success manager (CSM).
They are the key persons in the organizations who make sure that the customers are having a great experience while using their products because the industry is witnessing the rise in customers’ expectations for a flawless service more than ever. This is clearly revealed in a survey conducted by Salesforce over 7000 consumers worldwide that states 67% of customers say their standard for good experiences is higher than they’ve ever been.
This is an emerging field and there is no standard criteria defined so far that fits the best practices of CSM for all kinds of companies yet, based on what I have researched so far about this role, I have documented the essential client success manager skills in this article that a CSM should possess in order to thrive in this role. So, let’s dive straight into them!
When it comes to customer segmentation most companies think of segmenting their customers based on the revenues earned from them i.e. ARR, LTV or ACV. This is one of the biggest mistakes they make because revenue depends on many factors like the size of their companies, the kind of niche they are in or the price of their products or services to the world but that is not the clear indicator of how engaged they are with your product. Two customers with the same revenue might have varying levels of engagement with your products.
Hence, it is always wise to segment your customers based on the experience they have had with your product. Client Success Manager skills will help you gauge what needs to be done in order to drive more engagement from them so that your product adoption can take place which in turn will ensure their longer, or sometimes a lifetime, retention. This segmentation will also allow you to identify the right customers to whom you can approach for marketing your upselling or cross-selling opportunities. The whole steps taken for this exercise are shown in the below exhibit.
Synchronization with customers
Once the customer starts using your product, it is always better to set their expectations from you right from the beginning. Giving them milestones in their journey towards product adoption would help them proceed on the right track with gradual development of their trust in you. You can clearly state the list of steps they and you need to do in each of your parts in order for them to achieve their goal in a stated period of time. If they are not able to perform their steps then they won’t reach their goal and that way the blame will not be yours but on themselves provided you have completed the steps that were due on your part.
And when you know that the customer has reached the stage where they are able to derive value from your product and have adopted your software in their day-to-day work activities then this could be the right time when you can approach them for activities related to brand advocacy. When they have reached the success milestone, you can ask them for a testimonial or a case study and you can also recommend them to buy an add-on suggesting the enhanced features of the product through that upsell.
In all these steps to be taken by the CSM, the most important thing is how well do you time your strategies. Yes, your synchronization is most important while engaging with customers and hence should be well placed with every milestone they achieve their journey.
Based on the niche you are in and the number of customers you are appointed to, you should design a high-touch or a low-touch intervention strategy for your customers. You can intervene through emails, calls or monthly or quarterly review meetings with your clients. If you are catering to a large group of customers then you may automate a few areas of intervention like by using automated alerts through a customer success platform.
These alerts can be sent based on the success milestones your customers have reached. You must have a framework in place through which you can avail the usage pattern of your products by the customers. Only through that you will get a clear picture of how they are handling your products on what ways you need to intervene. E.g. if they are using only 5 of the 20 features of your product then you must reach them to recommend the unused features by demonstrating their benefits to the customer’s business.
Making use of the Metrics
All the values you are adding to your customers, all the strategies you are applying to their success will not create an impact on your own success in your own company until you show your progress through measurable metrics. Just the qualitative feedback from your customers is not enough for you to justify your cost to your superiors in your company. The results of your efforts should be displayed in numbers and through industry-wide metrics like Annual recurring revenue, user churn rate, Net promoter score or Net revenue retention to name a few.
If the user churn rates are below 3% measured in a month or a year then it is usually considered to be good and shows a good health of your business made possible by a client success manager skills. The net promoter score is measured between the scale of 1 to 10 and if it is between 9 to 10 then it is a clear indicator that your customer is so satisfied with your service that they have turned into your brand advocate which is incredible for any business.
Customer Success Manager is mostly the customer facing job even though it involves some level of orchestration with your organization’s internal teams as well. Hence, a successful CSM is not only driven by a flawless strategy in place but also the passion they have for creating an ever-enhancing customer experience for the users.
Technology can play an equally important part if used optimally. Because of the reason that a customer success manager is a bridge between the company and customer, they should also be able to communicate clearly while doing their job of keeping everyone on the same page. 15
With an ever-widening growth of SaaS industry, the need of CSM is being recognized by all companies and with the right mindset and strategy in place you can surely excel in this role accompanied by the wild opportunities of success it promises in the future.
Rakhin has over 10 years of experience driving business development and client services. In his prior roles, he stayed close to customers to understand their requirements and help them achieve their business goals. He is passionate about customer success.
Published May 19, 2020, Updated March 02, 2023