Why you are stuck in reactive Customer Success Management

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Do you want to become more proactive? A rhetorical question, of course, because who does not?

But why is that even necessary? Why are you spending 80-90% of your time in reactive mode?

Why are things never becoming any better?

Here’s the ugly truth: The reason why you are stuck in reactive CSM is not

  • bad luck

  • voodoo

  • black magic

It’s the result of having the wrong mindset that leads to bad practices causing an endless sequence of firefighting, band-aiding, and quick-fixing. 

Here’s what exactly puts you in an infinite loop of reactive work:

1. No Customer Discovery

Most CSMs I have been talking to are dogmatically holding on to the sales hand-off as their single source of truth. But here’s the problem:

Your colleagues from sales don’t have the same depth of insights and knowledge as you do. They are unlikely qualified to run an effective root cause analysis to properly understand your customers problems.

And they certainly don’t know how to determine the education and training customers require to solve them. So what you are doing is guessing and assuming based on superficial information.

Every time your bets turn out to be wrong and things are going south you have to put out another fire. The insights from the sales discovery are the starting point for your deeper one.

2. Incomplete Success Plans

Most so-called Customer Success Plans I’ve seen are nothing but mere documentation about the use case. They contain objectives, milestones, and challenges.

They don’t outline the steps customers need to take to accomplish their desired outcomes. If you don’t know the steps your customers have to take you are put in reactive mode by default.

Because the alternative to having a clear roadmap to success is trial and error. All you can do is throw random content and services at your customers and hope something sticks.

Creating complete Success Plans that are containing

  • milestones to achieve

  • problems to solve

  • tasks to complete

  • skills & knowledge to acquire (for customers)

  • content & services to deliver

is a non-negotiable.

3. Low Input Quality

The very core of your role as a CSM is customer enablement. You need to help them build the skills and knowledge they require to solve complex tasks and solve critical problems.

However, most content and services are not built with a specific goal in mind. Customers are watching 60-minute tutorials showing the 334 customization options for a single product feature.

But there’s no 2-minute version that shows them how they can deal with their pains exactly. Input quality has nothing to do with how well you are writing or speaking.

The quality of your inputs is determined by the % of customers able to use their learnings to the intended outcome. As the whole thing is the sum of its parts, this is how your performance as a CSM is measured.

4. Poor Success Metrics

Life in CSM would be easy if you would only need to track product usage and health scores to measure your customers’ success and future actions.

The only thing that product usage can tell you is that the customers who are not using your product (enough) are not getting any value. But the opposite is not true.

Health scores are not a bad idea in general. But I haven’t seen a single accurate one so far. Why? Because none ever included customer outcomes.

Instead, they are built 100% from factors defined by the vendor and so they feature metrics that are easy to track but heavily flawed.

The so-called “Watermelon Effect” where customers appear green on the outside but are deeply red on the inside occurs. Catching countless CSMs with their pants down when customers are telling them they are not going to renew.

Good luck trying to save an account within 30 days that did not get value within 11 months. The only accurate metrics are the ones your customers use to evaluate their results.

Key Takeaways

If you want to get out of the reactive CSM hamster wheel you need to

  • Get absolute clarity about your customers’ goals, success metrics, problems and their root causes, and level of skill and knowledge.

  • Create Customer Success Plans that outline all the steps customers need to take to achieve their desired outcomes

  • Deliver all content and services with a clear goal in mind to help customers move forward in their success journey

  • Track customer progress and results with the metrics they care about to avoid being caught with your pants down

Whenever you are ready, here’s how I can help:

  1. CSM Operating System Course: My flagship course will teach you how to create exceptional results for your customers and your company to unlock your full growth and career potential.

  2. Notion Guides: The strategies and frameworks to identify, operationalize, deliver, measure, demonstrate, and monetize customer value (included in the course).

  3. Content Library: 56 easily digestible and visually engaging resources to build the foundation of value-centric work.

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