How to excel as a Customer Success Manager (reworked) Part I

Hi, Markus here. Welcome to a free edition of the Customer-Value-Led-Growth Newsletter.

Every week, I share strategies, guides, and frameworks to help you create exceptional value for your customers and company.

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Customer Success Management in 2024 is not dead by any means.

But it’s something entirely different than it was before 2022.

Gone are the times when it’s been enough to

  • educate customers on the product

  • monitor product usage and health to intervene if they drop

  • checking in with customers once in a while

Customer Value is the name of the new game.

If you want to succeed in 2024 and beyond you need to focus all your efforts on growing a maximum effect on your customers’ business.

The rules are simple: No value, no retention, no business.

Even when your leadership still does not recognize it - you are playing the main role in keeping your company’s cash flow positive and alive.

Here are the 5 pillars to unlock your full potential

1. Change of mindset

This is the most important but hardest thing to accomplish. It’s not like you can pull a switch and forget the indoctrination of the past decade. Building new habits and behaviors takes a lot of time. But well, at some point you need to get started.

1.1. Increase your area of expertise

Solid knowledge about how to use your product is no longer enough. It does not matter how great your product is designed. If your customers can’t create the right inputs they won’t see success

Sure, if they fail they can’t blame you but they also have no use for your product. In CSM we often talk about becoming a trusted advisor.

The only way to qualify as for that role is through acquiring subject expertise. Submit yourself to acquire subject expertise at every opportunity.

1.2 Become a customer leader

I’ve said this before - customer success does not happen by accident, it’s engineered. Thus it requires an airtight approach you can apply accurately and repeatedly.

We all know that reactive CSM isn’t going to cut it. But so is what’s considered as being “proactive”. Monitoring product usage and customer health are indicators but not success metrics.

Your customers can be power users appearing in perfect health but lacking value. If they churn, you’ll never see it coming.

And if usage and health drop, it’s often after a long time of suffering in silence. You can’t save a customer not getting any value for 11 months in the last 30 days before renewal.

1.3 Use technology wisely

“Generative” AI is all the hype right now because a lot of people expect it to work miracles. But it can neither fix a broken process nor replace the human brain.

The technology has to follow your strategy and not the other way around. Your strategy depends on your customers’ goals and their resulting needs. Prioritizing convenience and scalability over effectiveness is a safe way to failure. 

Build, test, and validate manual processes. If they are working accurately and repeatedly automate as much as possible. Let AI handle customizations required for different use cases. 

2. Knowledge

Building subject expertise is required to build a high-quality customer education and training program. Don’t copy & adapt the low-quality stuff from your competitors. Your end goal is to build thought leadership in your space.

2.1 Follow thought leaders

There’s a lot of useless content on social media these days and LinkedIn is not an exception. But there are still many people posting really smart stuff there no matter what you are looking for.

Marketing, Sales, Product Management, BI - you name it. Find the best people in your space and study their content. That does not mean to dogmatically follow everything they are saying.

Instead, reflect on what they are sharing and treat it as a source for building your very own methodologies. Search for inspiration across different platforms including newsletters.

2.2 Take suitable courses

It’s astonishing how often I see this on LinkedIn. CSMs share that they have acquired another badge for completing nice-to-have courses. Sure, you can learn how to code or ChatGPT prompt engineering.

But does it move the needle for your performance and your career? I seriously doubt it. So before signing up for what’s trendy, you should ask yourself what pays an actual ROI.

Take courses that either give you the tools to build better processes or the subject expertise to upgrade the content and services you provide.

2.3 Learn from the best

This is something I rarely see any CSMs doing even though it’s possibly the most effective way to grow your knowledge - learning from your best customers.

There’s a high possibility that you have some customers in your portfolio who are performing on another level. It looks like everything they do turns to gold.

These customers don’t need your help at all because their skills and knowledge substantially exceeds yours. So what would be more straightforward than dissecting how the top 5% work and applying it to help the other 95% succeed?

Ok, there’s a possibility that these high performers are reluctant to share their secrets. But that should not prevent you from asking and seizing any opportunity that may present itself.

2.4 Experiment & Learn

As I entered the CS space from scratch this played a crucial part in where I’ve gotten so far. I’m a big fan of creating your very own methodologies. Set aside a small amount of time weekly/bi-weekly/monthly and reflect on what happened.

Gain insights, draw conclusions, and use them to create new ideas for educational content and services. Start with a hypothesis and validate it by applying it to a small “sample size”.

Use the results and customer feedback to continuously refine your arsenal. If an idea turned out to be a major fail replace them with a new one. What matters most is progress.

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