30 Days Customer Success Plan for first Time CSMs

Kevin Leonor
August 10, 2021

Congratulations on your new job as a Customer Success Manager! You may have come to this article because your Customer Success Leader pointed you in this direction or you were looking to learn more about your new job.

You may be a new CSM with no experience, or an experienced CSM starting a new role at a new company. Welcome!
As a new Software as a Service employee, this job will expect you to be a self-starter. Most companies, no matter the size of the company, will provide you with product training. After that, you might be on your own. 
No worries. This article is designed to help you gain all the foundational knowledge needed to begin managing accounts.


Here are 8 questions you need to answer to hit the ground running at your new Customer Success Manager role.


Understanding your new company’s Customer Journey Map

Every company follows the same customer lifecycle of Discovery, Sales, Onboarding, Adoption, and Expansion. What you as a CSM need to understand is your role in every part of that phase.
For discovery, you want to learn what is being collected from the customer so you could stay informed on: 

  • What were the customer problems they are looking to solve by purchasing your product?
  • What were the pain points they experienced in their last service company that we need to avoid?
  • What are the measurements they are using to label this project as a success?


For Sales, you may be consulted on by the Account Executive regarding those challenges uncovered in the discovery phase and will be asked to present your post-go live success plan to convince the customer to buy the service.

For the other phases in the customer journey, let’s go a little more in-depth.



Solidifying your grasp of the onboarding process

Onboarding can get tricky from company to company. This is why it is important to understand how your role works in your new company. Are you responsible for doing the work in onboarding or are you just accountable if the work doesn’t get done?

Start by understanding if you have an onboarding team and who is on your onboarding team? What are their responsibilities? What is your company onboarding process if you don’t have an onboarding team?
If you have an implementation manager, find out if they are customer-facing. IF they do NOT speak with the customer, that means you are responsible for getting the necessary input from the customer to build the optimal setup with the implementation manager performing the build.

If you have a training specialist or manager, then you may be responsible for introducing that training resource to the customer or scheduling the training on behalf of the customer and training resource.
If you have a project manager, you may be informed or consulted by that project manager to maintain a fluid perspective of the customer needs.
If you are missing any of those resources, you may be responsible for all the responsibilities of those resources. You may be doing the training, you may be setting up the product with the customer, and you may be managing the overall onboarding experience.
That is up to you to understand. Do leverage your onboarding team to understand those dividing lines.

Own the Onboarding Checklist

As a CSM, it is important to note that you have a decent likelihood of NOT being involved during onboarding. If you are not accountable or responsible for onboarding, you still need to know what occurred prior to you getting involved because there could be some items that are pending or lingering that you will inherit from onboarding who may need to move to a new onboarding customer.


By creating an onboarding checklist, you could also nail your Onboarding to CS handoff.
For example, when working for a Telephony as a Service company, transferring the customer’s phone number from the previous carrier to your company can take so long that the onboarding team will set up the account with temporary numbers. That responsibility of managing the port transfer, adding it to the account, and replacing the temp numbers with the actual numbers is now your call to action.

During the handoff call with onboarding, you are able to stay on top of that need by addressing it on the onboarding checklist and understand what is needed for you to see that task to completion.
You could even learn how the customer’s onboarding experience went,  just in case we are battling a negative sentiment from the customer onboarding experience and needing to recover overall sentiment..


Make sure to understand where you can find the answers to your questions?

Unless you are the first Customer Success Hire of the company, the questions you are asking have likely been answered previously. Where do those answers exist? Is it in a shared document, a knowledge base, or an ongoing chat session with a keyword search feature?


Know where information is live and ready for use. If there are no documented resources, then know who your resident expert is on certain topics and ask permission to leverage them to speed up your knowledge and understanding. You could also be an immediate value asset within the team by documenting this information for your team and future CS new-hires.


There are four areas that you should know where to find answers for: 

Product - Know where to find product knowledge 

Process - Know where to figure out the process of doing a certain task or solving a certain problem 

Customer - Know where to find information about your customer including usage, key stakeholders, their contracted products, etc

Stakeholders - know who you are supposed to work with the answer any questions, perform tasks that you are not responsible for, and what external partners help us do our job. 


What do escalation paths look like at your new company and what is considered an escalation?

This is also something that can differ from company to company.

At my job at Duetto, I was already 4 months into the job when a customer brought up a critical issue at 2 am on a Saturday that is costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars due to a product issue.
This seems like an escalation, but who do I need to escalate this to? It is 2 am and if I get this wrong, the person I am waking up will not be thrilled with me.
Avoid this midnight hour situation, by understanding your escalation path during business hours and off-business hours.
Understand if something is actually an emergency or if it just needs a gentle nudge with the internal employee who is responsible for that deliverable. Do we escalate it with our one management or with the management of the department that is affected? Do we escalate it one level higher for all cases or are there cases that need an immediate executive escalation?

Have this one defined. There is a likely chance this is not documented in the company you are joining.


What are your departmental success metrics?


These are your business objectives that your department is basing their success on. What metrics are you driving?

Net Retention -  increasing account value through cross-sell or upsells while retaining existing accounts

Adoption
- Increasing usage, proficiency, and value realization

Meaningful interactions
- Number of value-resulting engagement like meetings, calls, emails, etc.

Are these metrics graded individually or by a team? 

Some companies grade by team because of an uneven distribution of growth opportunity that may skew numbers for people fortunate enough to get accounts with the most growth potential. More mature companies that have a wide collection of accounts have more flexibility to evenly distribute accounts.


Who owns expansion?

If you are graded on net retention, we need to understand who owns expansion? 
In many sales driven organizations, sales wants to remain responsible for the low hanging fruit of upsells and cross-sells. Yet, you may still have a net retention metric you are accountable for.


Understand your role in expansion. 

Are you responsible for lead generation?

Can you execute product demos?

Are you authorized to discuss pricing?

Basically, where do your tasks in the sales process end and the sales team’s processes begin?


Is there a RACI Chart?

By now, you have picked up on the bold words making up the responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed characteristics of different work-related tasks. 

It is important to understand that while you may have access to certain tools involved with sales, billing, tech support, marketing, or legal, you must be aware of what are your dividing lines to ensure harmony with those departments and to protect your bandwidth. 

You will have a lot of work to do and taking on more work is a common pitfall in Customer Success professionals. It is in our nature to help. Yet, understand that sometimes helping is not the best use of your time and

may cause more issues than it solves. Be mindful of your time management, and leverage a RACI chart to keep in mind what you need to know or what you need to do.

If there is not a RACI chart, make one based on common customer needs so that you could properly engage the right people to execute actions necessary for customer’s success and determine each person’s level of involvement based on responsible, accountable, consulted, or informed.

You have 30 days to nail these 8 questions. That is plenty of time, so don’t feel in a rush to get it all figured out. Even if you have only a general understanding of all 8 areas, that will be enough to perform your job and you will get better over time.

Congratulations on your new job. Stay tuned for the next article to help you on your 31st-60th day on the job.

About the writer

Kevin Leonor has spent 8 years in Customer Success, Account Management, and Sales while achieving certifications in Customer Success, Sales, and Project Management. In 2020, Kevin was voted a Top 100 Customer Success Strategist by SuccessHacker and ClientSuccess, was a panelist in the CS Mastermind Series, and a keynote speaker at the Contact Centre User Experience Expo. Kevin is dedicated to the CS Community and the advancement of Customer Success as a practice worldwide.

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