CSM from the Trenches—Why Product Usage Isn’t Always King & 3 Lessons Worth Learning Early

June 24, 2016

Sam Feil

Customer Success Manager


For those just joining my blog series CSM from the Trenches, welcome. In this series I discuss trends, best practices, and advice for frontline customer success managers (CSMs).

Being on the CSM frontline allows me to directly influence the success of my clients. I love that; as my clients are successful, I’m successful. Each day I learn from the trenches what it takes to make clients happy and successful. Let’s move forward with this week’s blog post!

Why Usage Isn’t Always King

Product usage is a topic many (if not all) organizations and CSMs are interested in: How often does a user engage with our application? How much time is spent in the application? Which features are (or aren’t) being used the most? How many actionable items or projects are being completed?

Usage is Only Part of the Story

Though data helps point us in the right direction, it’s not the only metric to look at when trying to understand client health. I’ve learned that data is not always king. In my experience, usage is only part of the story.

Consider the following: After a successful onboarding, usage metrics start flowing, providing insight into client behavior. Over the course of a month, ”log-ins” and “minutes in platform” are trending up. A product feature considered crucial to the client’s success is the most used. They’re “using” the product, perhaps even according to standards set by your team.

From a product usage perspective, things appear to be alright. But what about from a health perspective: Are my users satisfied? Why are they logging in every day? How are they using particular features? What value are they getting from actionable items or projects?

These are questions usage metrics can’t answer.

3 Product Usage Lessons Worth Learning Early

Here are 3 lessons I’ve learned about product usage:

1. Positive Usage is Not a Reason to Become Reactive

When usage is looking good, it’s important to stay proactive; positive usage is too often an excuse to become reactive with customers. It might be tempting to put certain clients on the backburner while you attend other “fires”, but this can potentially lead to larger problems down the road. Keep up with clients to better understand their needs and continue to bring value to customer engagement.

2. Beware of False Positives

Along those lines, if a customer relationship is too heavily focused on product usage, it could eventually come back to haunt you. The last thing you want is for usage to turn into a point of failure because you’re left without a broader understanding of the relationship. For example, you should have a very clear understanding of the monetary impact and ROI your customers are having from using your product. Your customer should be able to articulate the demonstrable impact your product has on core metrics and KPIs. Staying proactive will help ensure you understand the entire scope of the relationship, not just the single metric of product usage.

3. Go High and Wide

It should be your goal to develop as many relationships as possible high and wide within your customer’s organization. This will not only strengthen the overall relationship, but help you gain a deeper understanding about how they’re using your solution or service. Chances are you’ll also uncover other opportunities to add value to their business that may result in expansion revenue.

As you consider usage, I hope these 3 lessons will help motivate you to stay proactive and better understand the why behind the data. In turn, you’ll have a clearer perspective on client health.

Check out some of our other resources below for more customer success best practices and insights on how your organization can approach customer success with the customer at the center:


5 Ways to Surprise & Delight Your Customers

Customer Success as a Culture: Customer Success Leaders Edition

Blog Posts:

Is Your Customer Success Team Minding the Relationship Gaps? 3 Factors to Watch

Email Response is a Customer Health Indicator for CSMs

Learn more about 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.

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