In the Customer Success community, we're faced with the common challenge of 'being more proactive'. You hear it all the time: "How do we move from reactive to proactive?"
I recently started a discussion about this on LinkedIn, and saw a lot of thoughtful comments and ideas come through on the topic. Here’s a summarized version of the tips and advice shared by the community.
Organizational behavior and individual behavior
Ed Powers offered how he thinks about moving from being reactive to proactive. His way of explaining it seemed to provide a framework in which all other advice fit:
“I think about this in two ways: 1. Organizational behavior, 2. Individual behavior. The first is a management issue that can be overcome by improving processes upstream, such as better onboarding, business reviews, health scores, etc. Doing so increases the odds customers will renew, so CSMs will spend less of their time reacting and trying to save customers.
“The second is a leadership and personal mastery issue. Leaders must provide direction as to what is and is not a priority, and employees must then manage their time accordingly. Stephen Covey's seminal work, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" is a wonderful resource for the latter. Habit 1: Be Proactive.”
- Bake “proactive” into the process
Create a book of business that matches the level of service you're asking for from your CSMs. From there, coach CSMs to understand the expectations for the amount of time they should allot to each customer, and also to discern whether they should direct a customer to other resources internally (e.g., to the support team) or work on the problem themselves. Time management is a learned skill and it’s critical to being proactive. Help CSMs create new habits to manage their book of business instead of allowing it to manage them. For example, have them start scheduling QBRs for the upcoming quarters and monthly calls.
And on top of it all, being proactive means getting ahead of renewals. No last-minute renewals that turn into a fire. Forecasting is critical for this so you know where CSM time is most likely to have the highest impact.
All of these activities help the team focus on prioritizing and being proactive about providing value to their customers.
- Create a more accurate health scoring or risk forecasting system
A large part of enabling the team to be proactive is to have systems in place that automatically highlight customers that transition into risk or opportunity states. Apart from having data and alerts around how customers are using the product, CS leaders can enable their team to be proactive by also having tracking indicators of churn like:
- whether the customer has been full onboarded to the product (is the product integrated in their workflows, has the customer received the training necessary to achieve their goals),
- whether the product meets customer expectations, and
- whether the product has the features required for the customer to achieve their desired outcomes, among other things.
Identifying all the activities or behaviors that could lead to churn or upsell, and tracking those, will allow CSMs to proactively know where to focus their time at scale.
- Map out the customer journey and coach CSMs to understand where they can provide value
New CS leaders often start by creating a clear customer journey map, specifically to create better handoffs between departments. But having a clear customer journey map can also help CSMs anticipate where they can really add value.
- Understand and act on patterns seen with customers of similar size, industry, or goals
Much of the CSM’s role is to keep up to date on a customer's business—what their long term strategic plans are, how dynamics are changing—so they can advice on how the product can address a changing set of priorities.
Then, CSMs should also get in the practice of thinking about how other customers in similar situations (e.g., goals, growth plans, industries) may be experiencing the same changes, and proactively providing resources or guidance around those. CSMs are, in effect, building up a library of how they can drive valuable outcomes for *other* customers in their portfolio that could fit similar characteristics of the problem the CSM has solved with the immediate customer.
- Tip for CSMs: Proactively onboard new hires in customer accounts
Anytime you have a customer that onboards a new team member that will be involved or somehow helping support the ongoing adoption of your product, make sure to go out of your way to help onboard them to the product and the process of working with you.
Not only does this help you build a relationship with them on a personal level, it can help them get up to speed faster. Too frequently those initial value-adding conversations are overlooked by a CSM around engagement strategy, help channels, etc. Never assume that someone just knows how the process or product works.
- Tip for CSMs: Listen to earnings calls
Listen to your top accounts earnings calls, type up takeaways, and share the recap with your customers. This may help you hear about the health of their business and the strategic projects that you can incorporate into success planning and exec updates. Customers love it too, because they often don't have time to attend.
Listen to what your customers are saying to the public markets and you can map out their strategic initiatives for the year and how your solution can make an impact.
So, what does proactive Customer Success look like to you? Let me know.
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