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CSM-to-CSM Transition: How to Smoothly Hand Over Clients

A smooth transition between CSMs can mean the difference between a churned customer and a long partnership.
Patrick Icasas
October 19, 2021

In an ideal world, your Customer Success Managers would have good relationships with their customers and keep them indefinitely. Unfortunately, nothing good lasts forever. Even when a CSM has an excellent relationship with their customer, you might have to reassign them to another CSM at some point, which can pose a challenge if not handled properly. 

Reassignment to another CSM could happen for different reasons. The previous CSM may be leaving the company, be given different accounts to work with, or even be promoted. No matter the circumstance, your customer deserves both a smooth transition and the same high level of service they’ve come to expect (if not better.)

If your customer experiences a poor transition, it can ruin what was previously a great partnership. You run the risk of undoing years of relationship-building in an instant. Your customer could lose trust, feel unimportant, or worry about the stability of the relationship’s future, causing them to look elsewhere

Transitioning to a new Customer Success Manager doesn’t have to be a rocky road. In this article, we’re going to offer both internal and external-facing tips for leaders to help your account transition run smoothly. To ensure you get the best advice possible, we reached out to our Head of Customer Success, Sydney Strader, for her insights on the best way to handle moving a customer to a new CSM. 

Meet, prepare, and set expectations internally first

Before you start the transition, make sure that everyone’s on the same page internally. Ensure that both CSMs have context about why the change is occurring. You don’t want to create a game of telephone or uncertainty for one or both parties. This will help set the expectation for what’s about to happen and lay the groundwork for what’s next. 

When you connect with both CSMs, reinforce how critical the customer experience is in such a transition. According to Sydney, “Customers should feel like a change hasn’t happened. They shouldn’t have to repeat themselves and/or re-educate the new CSM based on historical information the old CSM had.” 

Be sure you’re arming your new Customer Success Manager with everything they need to tend to their new customer’s needs without recreating the wheel. To guarantee you don’t miss anything in transition, create a template so that all historical account information is captured somewhere. Also, ensure all historical notes, presentation decks, etc are easily accessible to the new CSM. Ideally, you should have access to a tool like Catalyst that serves as a single source of truth for all customer information. That way, when these situations arise, the lift on the team is minimal. 

Still, don’t expect things to come together without some planning. Set up time between the two CSMs to internally hand off the customer. “The former CSM should give the new CSM a full download of the account, including historical context - value driven to-date, key stakeholders, present + future priorities/goals and needs the customer has previously expressed (ie. must have feature requests). The new CSM should have a clear agenda for the customer transitional call that allows them to introduce themselves, communicate their knowledge of the account + action that has been taken to ensure their smooth transition (ie. no need for the customer to repeat themselves) as well as paints a picture for moving forward as it relates to focus and the partnership overall.” The only way the switch to a new CSM won’t feel jarring is with diligent preparation. 

To close the loop after the new CSM has taken over, set a task to follow-up with the new Customer Success Manager 3 weeks after the transition. You can add more follow-ups if it is deemed necessary. This will help ensure no detail has fallen through the cracks that should have been covered in previous conversations, and it can help the new CSM feel supported and get ideas they might need to bolster their new customer relationship.  

Be transparent, ask for feedback, and reassure your customer externally 

Equally important is the external process you will have with your customer to prepare them for the transition to a new Customer Success Manager. Include the original CSM on the call kicking off the transition. Provide context as to why the change is occurring. Any uncertainty means your customer will try to fill in the blanks, possibly with a worse scenario. Then, hand the meeting over to the new CSM to talk through their knowledge of the account and plan next steps. 

With this transition, acknowledge and validate your customer’s sensitivity to change. Use it as a springboard to explain the efforts that have been going on behind the scenes to ensure a seamless transition. Similar to quarterly business reviews, use this time to gather feedback for the new CSM on how they can be the best support to the customer moving forward. 

The best set design or costumes in a theatrical production usually go unnoticed. They go unnoticed because they form a cohesive world where nothing feels out of place. What you want at the end of your call from your customer is the kind of response an audience member would have to flawless set design. They should respond as if a change didn’t even happen. If all went to plan, your customer should walk away feeling confident that it will be business as usual moving forward. 

In conclusion, a proper CSM transition is the one that feels unremarkable to the customer 

The best way to transition your customer to a new Customer Success Manager is by preparing (and over preparing) internally so that your customer doesn’t feel any turbulence. You can achieve this by sharing historical data with the new CSM, setting expectations with them, and following up with the new CSM a few weeks after the transition has occurred to continue supporting the new relationship.  

Use the time with your customers to gather feedback, much like you would at an EBR, and be open and transparent about the change, as well as what you’re doing to reduce friction. Instead of allowing a change like this to feel unsettling to your customer, use it as an opportunity to grow the relationship and serve them better. 

Ready for more pearls of wisdom about Customer Success? Check out our other blog posts.

Better relationships. Less churn.

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