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Customer success management (CSM) is a proactive B2B selling method that challenges the account management structure of selling and establishes a proactive, guided approach that places the customer at the center of the enterprise. In each case, success relies on the customer success management team, whose members act as relationship managers. They focus on customer lifecycle management and proactively seek out solutions and guidance for customers that benefit them in the long term. Consequently, customer success leaders must assemble a team that can influence the behavior and attitudes of customers and drive an organization's profitability through the purchase and use of its products.

Building a customer-centric CSM team is vital to CSM success

In the B2B market, actively managing customer relationships is vital for sustainable growth. A single customer can significantly impact the success or even the very existence of a business. Rising customer expectations highlight the importance of adopting a CSM model, and over time, the CSM model will be a differentiator for companies in the subscription business.

The CSM employees' No. 1 priority is to help customers achieve their targeted outcomes and advocate for them within the organization. Their job is helping customers achieve their goals by focusing on long-term growth through customer lifecycle management. Activities centered on retention and growth, rather than pipeline management and closing skills, are critical components for CSM to take hold.

That means enterprises must pivot from selling products to managing services, and services require huge amounts of customer engagement. Enterprises that embrace the customer-centric qualities and methodologies of selling to customers focus on the successful outcomes they deliver and the consistent, positive interactions they have with individual customers. Therefore, customer success managers have a remit to manage the CSM function and help their CSM teams actively manage their customers to ensure their success, decrease churn, and increase revenue and advocacy. Progress relies on the following objectives:

  • Establish deployment goals and success factors and then develop a plan to carry them out successfully.

  • Conduct regular well-being status calls.

  • Offer continuous customer service training.

  • Practice and instruct consultative skills.

  • Conduct deep domain and product knowledge learning to help team members fully understand their customers' ecosystems.

  • Deploy a continuous communications loop.

  • Adopt an easily accessible, centralized hub of customer data.

Reaching these objectives requires a customer-focused CSM team to be aligned to a customer-focused strategy. In doing so, leaders must establish a framework for CSM that runs through the entire customer engagement cycle, from pricing and billing to relationship nurturing and continuous innovation. Then they must map the customer accounts to the framework. Both the framework and the teams should align to a customer-focused strategy.

Employees who are focused and organized around the customer will yield a productive and profit-generating company that drives incremental growth in both customer satisfaction and revenue. Those that adapt will succeed, while those that are lax in reorganizing their CSM teams around the customer will be left behind.


Further reading

Mapping the Mindset Shift to Customer Success Management, IT0020-000288 (June 2017)


Mila D'Antonio, Principal Analyst, Customer Engagement

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