CSM Chronicles: Always lead with empathy, explain the “why”

With Emily Simons, Manager – Customer Success, BigCommerce

A seasoned CSM leader, Emily excels in building global teams, implementing scalable processes, and driving innovative strategies for customer expansion. 

Read on to discover Emily's insights into what it takes to master Customer Success.

How do you define Customer Success? 

It's about being the voice of the customer. CSMs have a responsibility to convey what customers feel and say – even if it does not align with the company's mission. 

You have the power to influence the organization and shape its decisions.

What does it mean for a customer to be successful?

Success varies for each customer using your platform. As a CSM, you need to work closely with clients to set goals and devise strategies to achieve them through your platform. The key is not only ensuring customers meet their objectives but also ensuring their satisfaction with your services – making them more inclined to renew.

What are some of the most difficult things about being a CSM? 

Not always having the power to fix things. 

As a CSM, you can’t exactly dive into the backend and fix things exactly as your customer wants. 

Plus, you end up being the one delivering bad news – whether it's a change in services or a missing feature. As someone who genuinely wants to see customers succeed, those moments are tough.

My recommendation to my CSMs is to lead with empathy, always

When delivering disappointing news, be open about why decisions were made – and acknowledge the customer’s frustration.  They’ll learn they can count on you to be honest and find solutions for them.

Any tips, tricks, or hacks you'd like to share with fellow CSMs that helped you or your team?

Plan your day. 

Look at your calendar, identify key tasks, and allocate time for customer interactions, planning, etc.

My CSM team currently operates on a scaled model. What’s worked great for us is categorizing customers as high-value and those that need more hands-on attention. 

Figuring out whom to respond to quickly, and who can wait has helped us optimize based on diverse customer needs.

Are there any things that you dread when you open up your calendar?

I would imagine that some folks feel a pang of dread at the sight of an escalation call – but I find it exciting because it’s an opportunity to engage with customers, understand their challenges, and work collaboratively to find solutions.

What I dread is seeing a bunch of internal meetings that could have been emails. 

We’ve been able to reduce meeting fatigue with a few measures such as consistently setting agendas in advance for every meeting. Additionally, we've introduced a practice we call "meeting sharing," where one representative participates in the meeting and relays feedback/action items to the rest of the team.

Can you recall a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty for a customer?

Last year, following the Hawaii fires, we assessed all customers potentially affected by the calamity and offered financial support related to their subscriptions. 

Beyond that, we also mobilized internal teams and organized a drive to aid those affected by the fires.

How are you leveraging AI across your work?

In bits and pieces – but there’s much more we could do. I believe we’re not yet using AI to its full potential.

The CSM role involves significant manual and tedious tasks. There’s a huge opportunity to use AI for smarter data insights, decision-making, and improving automation.  

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Watch this space for more CS Chronicles!

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