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2x Your CSM Team Productivity

In today’s competitive market, customer success is often viewed as a cost center. Instead of securing contracts and directly generating revenue like the sales team, customer success teams are often forced to do more with less.

But even without the direct line to the bottom line, CS teams play a critical role in a company’s success. CSMs are the bridge between the product and the outcome a customer receives and can make or break a customer’s experience with the company.

Between 2022 and 2027, the global CS management market is expected to have a compound annual growth rate of 24%. But just because the industry grows and more companies realize the impact and potential of a strong CS program doesn’t mean companies will necessarily see larger CS budgets.

So, how can companies continue to reap the benefits of CS efforts without expanding their budgets or increasing headcount? How do you do more with less? Read on to find out.

Prioritize Strategy Over Tactics

A major culprit of a lack of CS productivity is getting stuck in the tactical. Instead of onboarding more customers and nurturing relationships, CSMs often get bogged down in a tactical quagmire, spending their days putting out fires. Creating a more productive CS team starts by freeing time in their day to focus on more strategic tasks.

A CSM’s typical day is broken into three main areas:

  1. Tactical. Sending emails, chasing customers, updating CRM systems. In most companies, this takes up 50% of their time.

  2. Operational. Setting up and working with the product. Time spent on these activities usually can’t be changed and is typically around 30%.

  3. Strategic. Analyzing customers’ needs, getting customers to value, acting as a consultant and strategic partner. In most companies, these tasks only take up 20% of a CSM’s time.

However, when a company does more with less, a CSM’s responsibilities in strategic and tactical are flipped, meaning they only spend 20% of their time performing tactical tasks and 50% of their time with a strategic focus.

A strategic focus is a competitive advantage and can become a hallmark of your company. Instead of responding to angry customers or tracking down disengaged customers, a company that allows CSMs more time to think strategically can create processes to prevent these issues before they occur and ensure all customers are moving down the path to full value.

To move to a more productive strategic focus, start by identifying how CSMs spend their time. Look for roadblocks, bottlenecks, and tasks that pull CSMs away from their primary responsibilities. Automating or streamlining these tasks and creating an organization-wide strategic mindset helps CSMs prioritize their proactive, strategic activities instead of becoming tactical account managers.

Automate Non-Mission Critical Tasks

Emails need to get sent, and systems need to be updated. How can companies ensure those tactical and organizational tasks are still done without compromising a CSM’s strategic focus? The answer is in software and automation.

With the right software in place, CS teams can automate communication and onboarding, freeing time to focus on strategic tasks and building customer relationships. Automating the non-mission critical back and forth with customers means CSMs don’t have to spend their day putting out fires. By utilizing automation tools to streamline processes and tactical communication, CS teams can significantly increase their capacity for managing more business and connecting with more customers. Automation is easily scalable, meaning creating the system or investing in the software once allows CSMs to significantly expand their reach without increasing their workload.

Automation also ensures customers don’t fall through the cracks and get lost on their journey. When CSMs only respond to the neediest customers, it becomes a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. But there could be other customers with similar issues that don’t get the attention they need because they aren’t speaking up.

Instead of chasing health scores and going after customers at risk for churning, automation and the right software helps ensure that all customers are contacted regularly so that a relationship can be built.

But automation doesn’t mean rote repetition. CS teams shouldn’t sacrifice personalization in the name of productivity. Just because CSMs automate their check-in emails doesn’t mean every customer needs to receive the same message. Instead, communicate based on where customers are in the lifecycle creating automated check-in messages that are still relevant to the customer. For example, automate messages once they hit a certain goal using your tool or congratulate them as they move to a new step in the customer journey.

Level Up CSMs

In the competitive market for skilled CSMs, doing more with less often means training up-and-coming CSMs and developing them within the company instead of spending more on in-demand experienced CSMs. Research from Bain found that what differentiates great CSMs isn’t their experience or skills but their personality and mindset. That’s excellent news for CS teams looking to do more with less because they can develop the skills and expertise to create incredibly productive and effective CS teams.

A CS team of relatively inexperienced CSMs isn’t a liability — it’s an opportunity to develop the next generation of CS professionals with the right tools and strategic mindset to make a difference in your company. As a bonus, hiring entry-level CSMs can often lead to significant cost savings. And with the right training and mentoring investments, you can level up those novice CSMs to become customer success experts with the right strategic mindsets.

Empowering CSMs to be more productive requires creating a proactive customer journey to match the customer lifecycle. When CSMs have to figure out the next step for each individual customer, it takes up valuable time, especially as newer CSMs tackle the learning curve. But a set proactive path that applies to every customer quickly shows CSMs the next steps to take to help each customer reach full value.

Effective CS software analyzes the data for each customer and provides a strategic path. Then, CSMs follow that path, keep the customer engaged, and move them towards full value with the product and renewal. The tactical work is done, which allows CSMs to hone in on the relationships that take CS to the next level. It’s the best of both worlds: increasing the impact of CS efforts while also expanding capacity and developing strong CSMs.

Customer success is a foundational component of every successful company. But seeing a solid impact doesn’t require hiring an endless amount of CSMs. With the right tools and mindset, you can do more with less and showcase the power of CS.

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Greg Lloyd

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