Business
December 7, 2021

The Comprehensive Guide for Customer Success Managers [2022 Edition]

1. Introduction

In the era of extreme personalization and rapid flow of information, customers need more than support staff. They need mentors. They need someone to explain the sale process, ensure smooth onboarding, and maintain a healthy relationship throughout. New protocols call for proactivity instead of reactivity, and see customer support as the last resort for customer retention.

Companies want to build relationships instead of sales, and build models based on recurring revenue instead of one-off sales. For organic relationships like these to last, the focus has shifted from conveyor-belt-style commerce to policies that revolve around the notion of customer success.

2. Definition of Customer Success

There is no successful product without the success of your customer. If using your product is a successful process for your customers, then they have all the reasons to return to it time after time, thus leading to the success of your organization.

At its very essence, Customer Success (CS) refers to ensuring that your customers achieve their desired goal while using your product. To achieve CS, it is important that three prerequisites are present:

  • Set Processes
  • Trained People
  • Actionable Data

Using these prerequisites in tandem, your business takes a proactive approach to ensuring that your customers - direct or indirect - receive continuous value and benefit from the use of your product over the entirety of their lifetime as your customer.


3. What is a Customer Success Manager?

A Customer Success Managers (CSM) is a rare hybrid species between sales and customer support, and who exists in both worlds simultaneously. They walk along and provide support to the customer throughout their journey, from the prospect stage to the active user stage.

They are responsible for onboarding, solving potential issues before they happen, maintaining customer loyalty, educating about new features, and selling premium versions, while nurturing long-term relationships and advocating for your customers’ goals.

The reason why CSMs are the new talk of the town within the SaaS space is simple: Successful customers are more likely to be happy, engaged & loyal. Loyal customers lead to greater retention, and lesser churn rates. Investing in a CS department can only improve your customers’ overall experience and ensure that they meet their desired outcome, leading to qualitative and financial gains in the long run.


4. What do Customer Success Managers do?

We have established the main idea behind CSMs, but what does the job entail? More than meets the eye, so fasten your seatbelts:

Onboarding

First order of business is successful onboarding. A good onboarding experience, usually ensures less chances of churn, since you welcome your customer on the “right” foot, and allow them a positive first interaction.

The CSM focuses on educating the customers on all important features and helps customers tailor the product functions to their specific needs. The CSM is with the customer from day one, and starts building the foundation of a lasting relationship.

Bonding

The most important duty of a CSM is to create strong bonds between the company and the customer. Not only will that form a pleasant and welcoming environment for the customer, but it will also allow for less chance of churn and a higher chance of retention.

Nurturing a strong relationship with a customer doesn’t only account for successful sales, but for actual advocacy of your product, which will in turn bring higher recurring revenues. All it takes is detailed knowledge of the product, effective and consistent communication, as well as a friendly, go-get attitude.

Churn Reduction

CSMs are responsible to sustain a pool of returning customers, hence they have to keep their focus on renewals, upsells, and retention. A good CSM will always be aware of customer metrics and will be their point of contact if there is any indication of churn risk. Therefore, it is the CSMs job to monitor activity and satisfaction scores, and act accordingly in order to ensure renewal and minimize churn rates.

Upselling

In addition to keeping churn in check, CSMs are the first line of offense when it comes to upselling. They encourage successful customers to buy premium or additional features, or separate products with the scope of improving the customer experience even further.

It is up to the CSM to find the right moment to propose a new sale to the customer, and to showcase functions that resonate with the customer’s goals and values. Actively advocating for a customer’s best interest is the catalyst to developing a trusting relationship further.

Feedback Analysis

CSMs are the ones who know what the customers want, how they want it, and why they want it the way they want it. Consequently they are the ones responsible to act on feedback. They can filter out biases and use any constructive feedback that could improve the given product and customer satisfaction. This is why CSMs should have regular touch-bases with customers, and collecting as much feedback as possible. Personalized newsletters, automations and customer education are a few ways in which CSMs ensure that customers get all the attention they need, when they need it the most.

Customer Advocacy

Advocacy comes both ways. CSMs are the ones who try to form a perfect balance between the company and the customers, thus having the strongest relationship and most frequent communication with their customers.

Hence, CSMs often become the voice of the customer, and “translate” their needs in a language which is easy to understand by different departments within the organization they work for. It is up to CSMs to communicate customer needs and requests, since most teams have almost no direct contact with their customers. This gives the customers a sense of security within which their needs are being listened to and steps are being taken on behalf of their success.


5. Successful Customer Success Manager metrics

CSMs are responsible for collecting, tracking and analyzing customer metrics for their team. The six most common metrics that define a successful CSM, are as follows:

Onboarding Engagement

Onboarding, as we have established is an important factor in customer success and overall satisfaction. If the onboarding is positive, the logical assumption is that the rest of the product is equally as good, and probably worth sticking to. By investing some effort into a strong onboarding experience while keeping track of the engagement rates, CSMs can ensure that their customers encouraged and motivated when getting introduced to the product.

What kind of questions do customers ask? How far into the process have they asked those questions? To what extent did they attend the free tutorials and read the FAQs? Are they using the maximum of the product’s capability? If not, why? Questions like these create metrics which become actionable intelligence, that allows companies to fine tune their onboarding process and provide customers with the maximum possible tools they need to be successful.

Retention Rate

CSMs flip the narrative from quantity to quality followed by quantity. Closing sales is great, but it is important that modern businesses develop across the funnel and not only at the top. Effective marketing can get new buyers, but there is no promise that those buyers stay after their purchase. In order for customers to see the true value of your product, they need to understand it better, and that’s where CSMs have to step in.

Once it’s made clear how many customers are actively returning and advocating for your product, then the CSM can target those who bounce with further automations and education tactics, in order to help them further understand your organization’s USP.

Revenue Expansion

CSMs are also evaluated upon the distribution of revenue. Meaning, what is the percentage of the total new revenue that comes from existing customers? How much comes from new customers? How much comes from upgrades or add-ons? How much comes from tandem purchases of other products? Revenue expansion provides insight on how much perceived value your product has and whether your customers are willing to invest even further.

As mentioned earlier, one of a CSMs goals is to upsell, cross-sell, and create more revenue per capita, thus increasing revenue expansion.

Net Renewal Rate

To calculate Net Renewal Rate (NRR), a CSM takes the $ value of renewals, adds the $ value of revenue expansion, and divides by the total value that was up for renewal. The NRR measures both the customers who are renewing their accounts, and whether they’re upgrading or starting to use extra features in your product. The ideal NRR number is over 100-, meaning that the rate of renewal remains higher than the  churn rate.

If your customers are returning to your product, using it consistently and proposing it to prospectives, you have a decent indicator of customer success.

Customer Satisfaction Score

The Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) measures a customer’s satisfaction with one or more features of your product. The CSAT metric gives more accurate results when you applied the end of the usage journey - i.e. when the customer has just finished using a certain feature or capability of your product.

For example, a CSM can calculate the CSAT with a simple satisfaction survey that asks the customers to grade the product or function on a scale from 1-5 (from lowest to highest). After the surveys have been filled, the CSM takes the numerical sum of the scores and divides it by the number of respondents, in order to come up with the mean average.

Think about that time, that your mobile banking app has popped up a window prompting you to submit a 1-5 star score or a 3-tier smiley face option. That was probably a poor CSM trying to measure CSAT. Needless to say, the higher the CSAT, the higher the retention, and the more successful the CSMs and the CS department.

6. Why does a company need a Customer Success Manager?

A customer success plan should prioritize the customer's needs and goals. That's why being customer friendly is crucial for any organization, indifferent of the industry the operate in.

It is understandable however that it is not easy for all involved departments to know what customers need, especially when - as we’ve already discussed - it is not very often that they get the chance to interact with customers.

In order to transform the process from reactive to proactive, and reduce the customer service workload, it's necessary to hire CSMs who understand your customer base and focus on solving long-term needs.

As a matter of fact, the demand of CSMs is growing rapidly. The CSM role boomed in 2018 as the third most promising job, and has only grown in market size since then. International average salaries for CSMs range are $70,000, spanning from $30,000 on the low end and up to $125,000 on the high end.


7. What tools does a Customer Success Manager need?

Having established that the CSM life is all about making lives easier, their first and foremost order of business is to provide customers with the necessary knowledge which allows them to:

a) understand the product, b) utilize 100% of its features and c) become product advocates. In a few words, the most important toolset that a CSM could have is that of Customer Education.

It is much more likely to retain a customer, if that person is well informed and does not feel “left out” of any facet of the product. Here is why:

- Increased trust in the product. This is straightforward. The more your buyers know about your product, the more likely it is to trust it. And when that happens, it is more likely for them to chose it over the competition’s offerings. Knowledge is power, and power is revenue.

- Purchases based on actionable intelligence. Customer education means information past advertising. Regardless of how effective an advertising campaign is, if crucial information about the product is withheld, then it is not as easy to gain customer trust, as it would be if a “safe environment” had been created for the customers. Where safe environment we mean actual insights. The more insights, the higher chance of buying decisions based on actionable intelligence.

- Increased customer retention. If you manage to give your customers a sense of safety, then you’ll be half way there in achieving passive sales. An effective customer education program leads to increased engagement, advocacy and loyalty, which consequently results in negative churn rates. The more your customers know about your product, the more attached and loyal they become to them.

- Effective Marketing. This works both as feedback and sales. Proper education increases positive word-of-mouth, reviews and outlook, while it serves as a non-intrusive sales tool, converting prospects to buyers with less effort.

- Scaling. Customer education benefits business goals. Educating customers about the ins and outs of your product makes them successful users, which makes them happy, which makes you speed up the growth of your business.

- Upselling. Customer education contributes to holistic knowledge about your brand, alas how product relate to one another. Customers with solid knowledge about your product line are more likely to either buy premium versions of your products, or buy larger clusters from your catalogue instead of only one.

- Streamlined customer support. Customer education is far more effective than customer support. If you train your customer on matters that are more common to occur, then the customer feels secure and empowered to solve issues on their own, while your support tickets remain to a minimum, take up less time, and pose a decreased risk of dissatisfaction. Requiring less help, means greater satisfaction among your buyer pool. In other words, we are talking about a proactive instead of a reactive approach.

8. The Marble Proposition

We have deployed a next-gen learning platform with an intuitive training builder which guarantees to reduce churn rates and decrease customer support costs for your organization. The Marble proposition comes in ten main pillars:

Simplicity - Intuitive and simple design makes designing courses easy, quick and effective.

Savings - Save up to an average of $200,000 per year on customer support costs.

Scaling - Equal time commitment for 100 to 100,000 trained customers.

Adaptability - Customization tools for different organizational structures.

Brand Definition - Convey your brand identity throughout the academy.

Advanced Analytics - Gather data-driven feedback and optimize your courses.

Advocacy - Create a pool of experts who know, use and swear by your product.

Onboarding - Convert your onboarding process into an unforgettable experience.

Recurrent Training - Establish long-term relationships with your customers, via continuous learning.

Partner Education - Education does not stop with customers. Teach your partners and stakeholders as well.

9. Leap Forward

We at Marble aim to be an active actor in closing the loop with your customers, increasing your net promoter score (NPS), product’s lifetime value (LTV), and recurring revenue streams, while keeping the support tickets under austere control.

At the same time we like to practice what we preach. We’ve cut the red tape and designed a simple, theme-based platform, with all the necessary tools needed to adapt your courses to your brand and share them in a matter of seconds. No registration, no unnecessary data collection. Just copy and paste the link with an unlimited number of customers or stakeholders. Let us show you how you can benefit from Marble, and supercharge your customer success team. 

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