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How to Increase a CSM’s Book of Business Without Causing Burnout

As leaders, you need your team to do the most possible. Here’s how to do that without burning them out
Diana De Jesus
September 30, 2022

Ok, tough economic times. Do more with less. Etcetera. 

As leaders, you have to make some tough calls as your team grows. You will at some point have to ask your team to do more with less or to take on a bigger workload, whether for the short term or permanently. Eventually, you can’t keep throwing bodies at accounts—you need to figure out how to scale your CS team.

But let’s address the elephant in the room: if your people are so burnt out that their productivity falls or they quit, your tough choices will have been in vain and your customers will not be happy. They might even follow the lead of CSMs who quit and walk right out your proverbial door.

We can all agree no one wants that. We know that leadership asking team members to “step up” is not about pushing them to the brink. Instead, it’s to push through toward better times ahead. 

With that mindset, here are some tips on how to increase a Customer Success Manager’s book of business without driving them to burn out.

1. Create customer journeys to drive precise action

A clear customer journey will help CSMs move away from firefighting reactive mode and into just-in-time proactive support mode. 

As you create customer journeys, think about: 

  • Use cases: each product use case will have its own journey.
  • Customer size: SMBs are different from enterprises.
  • Various customer segments: different industries, geographies, or business types could impact how they follow a journey. 

The point of a journey is to show the customer the ‘future’ of their engagement with you. But it also brings to light the most challenging bottlenecks a customer might face, allowing for a theory of constraints approach to customer success; instead of firefighting every problem, CSMs can focus on the small handful of problems causing disproportionate customer pain. 

2. Segment CSM efforts so you can decide what stays or goes

When you add more to a CSMs plate—especially if you’re asking them to stretch a bit—they will not be able to provide the same level of service to every customer, for every problem. Acknowledge this and segment CSM efforts or motions so they know which they can prioritize versus which is ok to delay if there isn’t enough time in the day. 

Segment key actions and motions into:

  • Essential: ALL customers risk churn without these actions (e.g. onboarding).
  • Critical: SOME customers risk churn without these actions and there are few resource-efficient workarounds (e.g. a comprehensive FAQ section).
  • Important: SOME customers MIGHT churn without, but there are workarounds (e.g. a how-to webinar series).
  • Good: A small minority/no one is hingeing a renewal on this, but many hinge their love of being a customer on it (e.g. regular thought leadership webinars).

This is going to be qualitative—you have to trust your CSMs on this, but ask them to be rigorous in their defence of something in either direction. And be careful about mislabelling your efforts here. What might be considered merely “good” for some brands could be essential for others. Make sure the segmentation makes sense in your organization and for your customers.

3. Automate parts of high-value account management

Don’t try to fully automate high-touch account management. This is a recipe for disaster. Even if it works theoretically, you will always have humans involved that want to talk to other humans—and if they are paying enough for your solution, they should have that ability.

But automation in specific parts can be an incredibly valuable tool. It can empower customers to find answers and solutions faster, save CSMs a bunch of time, and provide a better overall customer success experience. 

Here’s what you can automate for high-touch, high-value accounts:

  • Email templates: great for routine reach outs or conversation starters. 
  • Meeting note templates: to ensure you always ask the right questions and document the right information from meetings.
  • Internal playbooks: know ahead of time what actions you’ll take if something happens (e.g. a customer goes from good to at-risk).
  • Data-based automation: internal triggers that alert you when there’s been a change in your account (e.g. health score goes too low or you haven’t communicated with the client in a long period of time) and prompts you with the necessary playbook to get back on track.

The customer will rarely see these automations. In fact, they may not even know you’re using them. What you gain, though, is clarity. You don’t have to think about what actions to do—you can simply get to work.

4. Build automated journeys for tech-touch customer success

With low-touch customers, automate as much as possible. 

It all starts with a customer journey. When you know what these customers are supposed to do and what problems they are likely to encounter, you can develop resources to help them move along their journeys such as support articles, FAQs, video walkthroughs, or on-demand educational webinars.

Over time, you can also begin to automate communication and reach-outs. For instance, let’s say you send out the onboarding guide automatically on day one. If you find that the average customer takes 30 days to onboard, you can send a follow-up on day 20 to remind them of the onboarding steps. If you have product usage stats coming into your customer success platform (CSP), you can even send a fully customized (yet automated) reach-out highlighting only the steps they haven’t completed. 

Make your headcount count

When you have to build out a lean team or lay people off to manage a smaller team, it’s an exercise in aggressive resources management. However, don’t despair, there’s hope. You have options. But in order to create the bandwidth, you will need to set up a few processes/tools for your CSMs. These things are made more powerful with a customer success platform, which brings it all under one roof. You can still get this done if you don’t have a CSP; but if you have the strategic investment, it can save you even more time.

Check out Catalyst’s leading Customer Success Platform HERE.

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