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The key to succeeding in achieving all of these goals and in fulfilling all of these responsibilities is the ability to be proactive, this will allow you to be one step ahead of the curve and think strategically of the direction you want to take with your clients, thus giving you more control over your day-to-day activities and paving the way for success.
However, as your account portfolio grows you need to allocate more time to each of your accounts and sometimes urgent matters that require your full attention and time will also appear. This will no doubt affect your ability to be proactive, so in this article, I will share my best practices and recommendations in order to improve your productivity so you can maintain a proactive approach with your clients while still being on top of all your tasks and responsibilities.
The majority of our communication with our clients will happen through email, so that means you will spend at least 50% writing and replying to emails, and if the majority of our time is spent here then making your email more efficient will help you free up more time to focus on other important projects.
Here are the action items I did that helped me reduce the time spent in emails while keeping a 0 inbox at the end of the day:
1. Email templates: The key here is to identify emails that are repetitive such as (follow-up emails, introduction emails, emails to support, scheduling a call, among others), you will notice that outside of the contact information and other small details the body of the email is exactly the same. Create email templates for these repetitive tasks and save them in your email, this will definitely save you a few hours a week.
This feature is disabled by default, however, you can easily activate it by following these instructions. Once you activate it, all you need to do is write the title and body of any email you will be sending repeatedly and save it as a template, as you save more templates, you will see them appear in the templates you can insert.
2. Email reminders: Are you using any efficiency tools for your email? If not, you definitely should since it will take away the pain of setting up constant reminders to follow up. I personally love Boomerang -the subscription is cheap and it covers the majority of my needs, you can get up to 10 email reminders every month as part of the free plan-, every time I send an email that I know I need the client to reply to, or follow-up with action items, I can easily set it up with Boomerang and even add a small message to give me the context of what’s needed. This gives me peace of mind that I don’t need to stress out by forgetting something or setting up constant reminders.
3. Inbox Prioritization: This helped me save a lot of time and achieve a 0 inbox by the end of the day while keeping a response rate up to 24 hours. In the mornings when I open my inbox, I open all of my unread emails and go through them. Any email that requires my attention I star it and then go to the next unread email until I open all of the emails, then I attend to all of the emails I starred and reply. I usually leave 1-2 hours in the morning and 1 hour at the end of the day to do these steps. This allows me to focus the rest of my time working on projects, building the right strategy for my clients, and preparing any presentations for the week.
Reports & Analytics
This is more relevant for companies that have already established and identified what are the main metrics we should measure in order to understand if our customers are using and finding value with our product. These metrics can range from user logins all the way to feature usage p/user and can save you a lot of time by giving you a full picture of how your customers use your product, and identify hidden opportunities to step in in drive more engagement and value with them.
For example, during my time at Appsflyer, we had a feature usage dashboard that the CS Ops team built for us in Looker and was pulling in the data from our product and we could basically see which features our customers were using and how often. This allowed me to quickly identify opportunities to offer my customers specific training sessions on the features, understand which features would be valuable to my customers and while doing this I was able to expand the usage of our feature-set within my customers’ accounts thus increasing value and the chances of renewal.
There are many platforms where you can create these kinds of reports, but the most important thing is that they contain key data that will allow you to create clear action items and work plans in order to deliver value to your customers.
Similar to the repetitive emails, there are many stages within the customer journey that you’ll repeat with different clients (KO, QBR, Product Training, Insights, and other stages depending on your product/client) of course every client is different and what you present and how you present it, will be personalized according to your client’s needs, nonetheless, the outline of the presentation is what usually stays the same. Identify the key pieces of the presentation that repeat themselves and create generic templates that allow you to easily customize and fill in with the right data without creating everything from zero, for example:
- QBR: Contains the following parts, you can take the key items and personalize them according to the client.
- Executive Summary
- Milestones achieved in the past Q
- Opportunities to explore
- Product roadmap (if relevant)
- Next steps
You can always add or change the structure accordingly, but the point here is you already have something in place that you can work with. Last but not least, having presentation templates does not mean that you will never update them, work closely with your team and understand what works better, how are the clients reacting to the content -what’s boring them and what gets them excited-, are their similarities between clients in the same industry, communicating with your teammates and hearing their input will only lead to higher quality content.
If your team is as strong as your weakest link, how often do you share and work together to improve as a whole? Sharing knowledge and collaborating with your teammates will only lead to more productivity not only to you as an individual but to your team as a whole.
Knowing what works best and understanding best practices will save you time by filtering out redundant actions, avoiding simple mistakes, and allocating your time and resources more efficiently. What can be useful ways to collaborate with your team?
- Building playbooks: A playbook containing the best practices, strategies, complete documentation for all the customer stages is critical for every CSM team looking to scale at a fast pace while maintaining a high level of training and capacitation. As the team grows and the product develops you will need to update the playbook accordingly, so if you have all of the team working together on this, then the knowledge sharing will reach across the whole team and not only a few individuals thus strengthening the team’s capabilities, knowledge, and skills. This will also improve the customer journey as you will be able to identify the key points that lead to successful usage of your product without wasting any time on irrelevant/redundant items.
I would recommend using a tool that is intended for knowledge sharing and that is easy to manage and edit. Google docs can be great for creating documents but it becomes hard to follow once we have many folders and documents. Some companies use Guru as the platform to share playbooks but this also can become harder to manage if you don’t put in the resources to constantly monitor the cards and organize the content, we currently have Slite which is a great platform to create documents, manage them and keep your documentation up to date.
You can either build a “Master Playbook” containing all the best practices and recommendations for all of the stages during the customer journey or divide it according to the stages/industry or any other criteria that might be relevant, making a decision as a team is the best way to choose.
- Sharing wins: This can go from small tips on how to be more productive to how to apply a strategy that will increase value to your customers thus generating better results.
The best way to share this would be in team meetings, if you are tight on time, dedicate part of the meeting for at least one or two wins per meeting. To make it more effective, I would recommend sending an email/slack message to the team naming the topic we will discuss and give some high-level context on it, that way the rest of the team members can prepare relevant questions in advance and get more out of it.
Any recommendation/tip that can help drive better results (win) will go a long way in increasing your productivity, especially if it has been applied, tested, and refined by other team members. This will save you a lot of time since you won’t have to navigate through the noise and can follow clear and direct steps in order to reach the set goal, moreover, this can also drive improvements on an already existing successful strategy as each CSM will add their creativity into it, think about it as “compounded improvement”.
Creating the missing pieces: Depending on the stage of your company you will notice that there are always missing pieces to the CSM framework, the key here is to identify what missing pieces could drive productivity as a whole while also improving the CSM’s output.
What you can do is dedicate 1-2 hours a week with your team to talk about what “are we missing” that would save us time and increase our output results, this way you can tackle different topics at once and make sure all of the CSMs in the team have a clear view of what needs to be improved and worked on.
Boomerang (email efficiency) was a great example of a tool that saves a lot of time and increases productivity by automating email reminders, follow-ups, and even tasks. I’ll share a few other tools that are extremely helpful and will exponentially increase your productivity
- Meeting scheduler: Without this type of tool I can’t imagine how you are able to schedule meetings with your clients without wasting time in the back and forth, this will help you share your availability with clients for weeks in advance thus making it easier for your clients to pick a time that works for everyone, moreover, you can add different options such as time for the meeting (15min, 30min, 45min, 60min) and also make sure you don’t book two meetings on the same time by mistake or forget to send an invite to the relevant parties.
What I’ve used and recommended: Hubspot meetings, Yesware meetings, Groove, and of course, Calendly.
- Slack integrations: Nowadays, it’s very common to have tech companies use Slack as their main internal communication tool. So if you are using Slack as your main communications tool, it has various integrations with different platforms that allow Slack’s bot to send you automatic messages when there are any updates, reminders, tagging within these platforms.
Here are a few integrations I’ve added that have been incredibly helpful to be on top of everything:
- Google Calendar: This integration will send you a slack message before starting a meeting and also a morning message with all of your meetings on the same day
- Asana: This integration will update you with any change in a task/project you are following, easily following up with the right action items saving you the time of reviewing pending tasks on a daily basis
- Troops: One of the most useful tools out there for syncing CSM-related activity with Salesforce, every time I would finish a meeting a Troops template slack message would be sent so I could fill in the relevant information and just like that, in less than 2min I would log the activity in Salesforce.
The main goal of this post was to provide you with ideas on how you can automate repetitive tasks and build a framework that is scalable that allows you and your teammates to free up more time so you can focus on creating more value for your clients.
As you identify what the repetitive tasks/emails/presentations are, and what are the missing pieces in your company’s CSM framework you can begin prioritizing what needs to be created first. The time you invest in solving these items will save you much more time in the future as you will have a platform that can be automated and ready to scale.
One last important thing, this will not only be useful to you but to the whole CSM team and any future CSM hirees that join your team, so let’s get to work, get creative and bring more value in 2021!