CSM Chronicles: Hold your customers accountable; do not just say “yes”

George has been the first CSM at most of his gigs, making him the perfect choice for this lowdown on CS productivity

1. What makes a customer successful?

Customer success is about enabling value maximization for customers. Customers have an idea of their goals with your software service. But those goals can shift quickly or they need more comprehensive internal alignment.

You need to  learn along the way and pivot to the next priority and goal.  And, there might be distractions and competing interests. The key is to be attentive to your main stakeholder and their priorities. 

2. What is the most difficult thing about being a CSM? 

Being a great CSM is not necessarily saying “yes” to customers. Tactfully pushing back on customers is a challenging balancing act. Understanding where to draw the lines of responsibility, which requests are high priority or urgent, how much resources to dedicate requires strategic thinking on the fly. Managing a customer’s expectations given your product’s capabilities requires consistent attentiveness and problem solving by CSMs and leadership. 

3. What are some things you do not enjoy about your work? 

Seeing repeat cancellations of customer syncs - it’s a clear sign that a customer is not prioritizing time with you. It’s a red flag and it means you need to dig your heels in. 

Also, repetitive, manual data entry is something I hope decreases over time with more automation. 

4. How have you excelled in your role? Can you share a specific customer example?

Empathizing with the customer and caring about their success sets a strong foundation for long-term partnership. In our interactions with a particular customer, I noticed that confusion around their vendor management system kept resurfacing. While the issue itself was beyond our company's control,  we knew it was holding us back from helping our customers achieve the goals they had set. 

We proactively organized a list of nearly 10,000 different vendors for the customer. Once we had done that, the tone of our meetings completely changed! They saw how much we cared about making them successful, and how deep a partner we wanted to be with them. I recommend being selective when going beyond the call of duty because an unsustainable reliance can develop, but there are instances where it’s incredibly valuable and changes the relationship trajectory. 

5. What apps or tools do you use to make your customers successful? What do you like or dislike about them? 

I think everyone is becoming more accustomed to and preferents consuming visual content like videos, customers are requesting a video tutorial instead of knowledge articles or emails. Hence, I’ve been using Loom recordings a lot, ranging from enablement to expert guidance. I use AI chat tools like ChatGPT to iterate on written content and ChatPDF to aid learning.

6. If you were to wave a magic wand to be a better CSM, what would it be?

I would use the wand to help me easily aggregate the insights and data that we have spread across apps and siloed in communications. Like, having some help preparing for – and during a meeting - having information about the individuals I’m interacting with, the status of product usage, etc. – anything that makes it easier to proactively answer questions faster, and on the fly. 

That would be pure magic and make me much more productive.

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Thank you, George, for all the candor, insights, and perspective!

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