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Signs Your Customer Success Manager Job Actually Isn’t Customer Success

Are you really working in Customer Success?
Patrick Icasas
May 5, 2021

Have you ever had a job that was advertised as one thing, but then turned out to be something completely different?

Me too!

There you are, sitting at your desk with a fancy new Customer Success Manager email signature… but it doesn’t feel like customer success. Sure, you’re helping customers. And you feel pretty successful when you solve a customer’s problem. But is this really what you had signed up for? 

Is this the CSM job you dreamed about?

Customer success is a relatively new profession - at least compared to sales and marketing. Most SaaS organizations have embraced the concept, but there are still those who are still unclear on what CS actually entails.

So how can you tell the difference? How can you tell if the job you’re doing is the same job you had signed up for?

Your role is reactive, not proactive

What you’re doing now: Is the majority of your day spent responding to customer requests? Is the word “ticket” a major part of your processes? Are incoming customer requests the impetus for your work?

Then you’re not doing Customer Success. 

What you’re supposed to be doing: CSMs aren’t supposed to wait for tickets and inbound requests as an impetus for their work. That’s passive behavior, and working that way is a sure way to send your implementation timeline spiralling out of control. 

A CSM is meant to lead the customer through the implementation and onboarding process. You’re supposed to be spearheading the transition from the company’s previous solution (or lack thereof) to your own. That means setting the pace for adoption, prescribing training material and activities, and actively engaging the customer. 

You don’t wait for things to happen as a CSM; you make things happen.

You’re fixing problems, not delivering outcomes

What you’re doing now: Is a user having trouble getting a report to look right? No problem. Administrator having trouble setting up the back end? Easy peasy. You’re a problem-solving machine. 

But problems of this nature have a limited scope. They are isolated incidents that aren’t usually connected to a larger campaign. Yes, some problems are bigger than others and can definitely be deal-breakers, but you’re basically a mechanic getting a plane to run properly.

What you’re supposed to be doing: A CSM is supposed to be a pilot, not a mechanic. Your job is to bring the customer’s organization to a desirable destination - an outcome. 

This outcome isn’t just “get the system to work properly.” It’s a larger business goal, like “increase employee productivity by 300%.” Problems can and do get in the way, and they have to be fixed, but your true focus is on getting everyone to that nice tropical destination.

You help individuals, not businesses

What you’re doing now: Yes, I know that CSM’s help individual users within the same company. But is that all you’re helping? Is the impact of your help limited to a select few within the customer’s organization instead of the company at large? 

What you’re supposed to be doing: Both Customer Success and its partner position, Customer Support, have a much wider goal. Your efforts are meant to uplift the customer’s entire company. Your activities affect and benefit groups of users and, by extension, your customer’s own clients. If you do focus on helping an individual, it’s probably the product champion or your Point of Contact (POC) that will help drive adoption internally. 

But you’re not just helping the customer, either. Customer success and customer support should be feeding information to internal departments. The product team is told which features are hits with customers and which are duds. Sales is told which customers are happy enough to be used as referrals, and marketing is told which can be case study candidates.

You’re measured on satisfaction, not expansion

Metrics and KPIs are the lifeblood of any effective business, and are very important for making sure employees are doing a good job. But what you measure is a good indicator of what your role’s priorities are.

What you’re doing now: When you are measured on metrics like customer satisfaction, call length, number of calls or issues resolved, and the like, then you know that your company’s CS priorities are misaligned. These goals all measure your performance, and have nothing at all to do with the customer (even though customer satisfaction is a measurement). 

What you’re supposed to be doing: A proper Customer Success Manager role is evaluated based on how the customer is performing. KPIs that measure time to value, product adoption, renewals, and customer health speak to the customers’ state of well-being, and are a direct reflection of your efforts as a CSM. 

So what now?

Well, at this point you have to make a decision. 

Do you accept what you’re doing and stay where you are? If you like your job and the company is good, so what if the role doesn’t match what other companies are doing? That’s perfectly acceptable and within your rights to choose.

Or do you petition for change? Are you in a position where you can campaign to change your CSM functions to match industry standards? You may be able to talk to someone internally and modify the way your company handles CSMs. I’ve seen this happen in a number of organizations - especially growing startups. 

Either way, it’s important to know how CS is done right, and what the potential benefits can be for your customers, for your organization, and for your own career. If you’d like to know more about Customer Success and how to best apply it within your organization, we’ve got a lot of resources available to help. 

Better relationships. Less churn.

What’s not to love? Try Catalyst today.
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