In our customer success engagements, the timing of when to introduce the Customer Success Manager (CSM) is one of the most common questions. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Early engagement of Customer Success professionals accelerates utilization and customer value. This introduction is intended to accomplish two key things:
- Demonstrate to the customer that the value story presented during the sales campaign can be successfully executed
- Reassure the customer that they have made a good decision to go with you. Your customers are taking a risk in choosing to purchase your solution
The best practice is for the Customer Success professional to be introduced immediately after the opportunity is signed. This provides a clear distinction between the customer buying a solution and operationalizing the solution. However, there are a few exceptions:
- In larger, more complex accounts, this may occur prior to closing. This can be requested by the sales team, and approved by the Customer Success leader. This should be done only if it will accelerate the customer’s buying cycle. While there is risk in wasting Customer Success time, a mature sales process with well defined exit criteria will ensure that Customer Success professionals are only engaged in high probability (90%+) opportunities.
- In a freemium model, the Customer Success team must be engaged during this stage. They can deliver, document, and communicate the value story, which will greatly increase the probability of a paid relationship.
- Where Professional Services are a significant portion of the first opportunity, consider delaying the introduction of the Customer Success team until the Professional Services component is completed.. The intent is to keep the Customer Success professionals “out of the weeds” of this implementation. However, the Customer Success team can be engaged behind the scenes, to ensure that the solution is not over-customized.
How you introduce the Customer Success team is very important. As we stated earlier, there are many emotions floating around, and you want to maintain the momentum. You want this process to be thorough, and frictionless. Any buyers, users, or influencers who interacted with the Sales team during the campaign should feel that the Customer Success team knows them, their concerns, and objectives. Regardless of when the transition happens, a structured, repeatable process is a best practice. Some important considerations for this transition:
- A job aid which captures client information, such as goals, objectives, constraints for each individual who was involved in the campaign. The Customer Success team can get most of this information from the CRM, and for larger accounts, you the account plan. The intent is not to duplicate information entry, but to ensure any gaps are addressed.
- Engaging the Salesperson who sold the account is vital, but you also want to include any Pre-Sales or Professional Services colleagues who were involved.
- Leverage your collaboration platform (For example, GoToMeeting and Zoom) and use the record feature, so you can review the call if necessary.
- Prior to the call, reference any customer facing documents such as presentations, statements of work, etc.
The Customer Success team is accountable for this process, but contributions from Sales, Pre-Sales, and Professional Services are necessary during and after this call. This process changes the relationship owner from Sales to Customer Success. However, the sales team should stay available in case questions come up.
As an additional resource, here are the top Customer Success thought leadership interviews and articles:
- 5-Point Plan to Inject CX into Your Customer Success Strategy
- A CMO’s Guide to Customer Success Interlock
- Should Customer Success Managers Carry a Quota?
- How to Grow Revenue with Customer Success
- Interview with Natalie Fedie, VP of Customer Success for Granicus
- Are You Maximizing Your Recurring Revenue with Customer Success?
- Interview with Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight
- Marketing’s Critical Alliance with Customer Success
- Interview with Tracy Eiler, CMO of InsideView