A New Way to Improve Your CSM Team Performance

May 20, 2019

Sam Feil

Customer Success Manager

CSMs Are Problem Solvers

Like diligent gardeners, Customer Success Managers (CSMs) excel at identifying problems and attacking them at their roots. Once one problem is solved, they move on to the next one, steadily weeding out every problem until only the healthy crops are left to flourish. But fundamentally, their focus is always on a problem.

This is a solid strategy, but it’s not always the best approach to drive the metrics that matter in customer success. Consider the latest trend in the self-help industry. Rather than spending time on fixing your shortcomings, a number of recent bestsellers advocate a shift in focus toward developing your strengths. We can apply this same principle to customer success.

Imagine you manage a team of CSMs. Half of them boast outstanding retention rates while the others struggle with poor retention rates. Your first instinct may be to focus on the problem – elevate the poor performers in order to improve your overall scores. An intuitive approach, but it ignores a valuable resource – the high performing CSMs.

A better approach may be to determine what the high performing CSMs are doing to earn their high retention rates. What are their daily activities? How do they engage with clients? How and what do they communicate? To answer these questions, you’ll need to shadow your high performers closely for at least one week.

The following week, do the same exercise with your poor performing CSMs. Sit in on their client calls. Watch the way they prepare for and follow up after meetings. Try to identify the delta between their approach and that of the high performers.

A Word of Caution

You cannot take shortcuts with this step. You’ll need to observe the CSMs directly to understand what is going on. A strong CSM will not be able to identify what they do that makes them successful. They only have one data point.

While every CSM will have their own unique style and approach, you will be able to identify a set of practices that your strongest CSMs consistently do that your struggling CSMs do not. Expanding these consistent practices throughout your team is the key to making all of your CSMs into high performers.

To return to our gardening metaphor, think of these consistent practices as your fertilizer. Apply liberally with your other CSMs and watch your retention rates blossom.

We’re Here to Help

Contact us to learn more about how ClientSuccess Consulting can help you implement this approach or how ClientSuccess can help your company develop a strong customer success methodology and strategy with easy-to-use customer success software by requesting a 30-minute demo.


Other customer success resources:

Customer Success eBooks:

Customer Success as a Culture: Customer Success Leaders Edition

Ultimate Guide to SaaS Customer Success Metrics

New posts each Tuesday and Thursday.

Customer success best practices delivered to your inbox.

Also worth reading

LinkedIn Emerging Jobs Report | The Rise of Customer Success in 2020

  Every year, reports are published claiming that ‘this is the year of x’ or ‘get ready to see more of y this year’. Without real numbers to back them up, these reports are typically just hopeful looks at different industries or professions that people think might be big in the upcoming year.  This wishful [...]

Dave Blake

Founder & CEO

Best Customer Onboarding Experiences

When it comes to dealing with customers, there are some situations that can be a little overwhelming for both a customer success manager and the customer in question. For many, onboarding is one of those situations. From the customer side, onboarding typically involves hours or even days of training, meeting new team members, and trying [...]

Teresa Becker

Customer Success Strategist

3 Considerations to Improve Your Digital Customer Experience (CX)

If you’ve ever read any published content from the ClientSuccess team before, you know that we take the concept of customer success as an entire company goal very seriously. After all, your customers aren’t the responsibility of one department – they’re the reason your entire company is in business. This being said, customer sentiment and [...]

Teresa Becker

Customer Success Strategist