Empower Your CSMs

By Dawn Harger

Are your CSMs expected to follow an exact protocol when taking care of their customers?  Does management make all the decisions and then pass them down to those that have the direct interface with the client?  If so, maybe you should give this a second thought.  Restraining your CSMs to strict guidelines and making all the decisions for them often results in a less than stellar customer experience.  Additionally, it can make your CSMs feel like they don’t have a say, demotivate them, and make them start looking around for a team that takes their feedback. Try taking a different stance and empowering your CSMs instead. 

Let your CSMs make decisions

Do your Customer Success Managers need approval for every discount no matter how small?  Do they have to put the customer on hold to ask about anything outside of a standard request?  Talk about a frustrating customer experience!  Don’t get me wrong: You definitely need to have procedures in place. However, giving your team the freedom to make the right call (within some boundaries, such as an upper limit for discounts) allows them to make a quick decision while they are on the phone with a customer instead of having to hang up and ask their manager for everything.  Not only does this make for a better customer interaction, it lets your CSMs feel like they have some autonomy. 

Brainstorm with your CSMs 

Let your CSMs be part of the decision-making process.  Create a culture where creativity is welcomed.  Set up some brainstorming sessions when you are trying to define a process or resolve a problem.  You will be amazed at the ideas that build upon each other when everyone is throwing their thoughts out there.  Your CSMs see what is going on with your customers, so they are the perfect people to go to for ideas.  Additionally, having your team be a part of the decision making process will go a long way toward getting their buy-in.  When a decision is handed down, you will often be faced with resistance.  But, when you make your team part of the process, they will be glad they had a say, and will have a better understanding of how the decision was made.  

Allow your CSMs to take risks

This part may sound scary, but don’t be afraid to let your CSMs try out new ideas on their own.  Appreciate that they are thinking beyond their assigned tasks and trying to create a good customer experience.  If you have hired a trustworthy team, they won’t take advantage of the fact that you are letting them have some control.  Instead, they will be motivated to make the right decisions for the clients and the company.  Yes, they will make mistakes, but don’t we all?  Just be sure they learn from these, and move forward by providing them the sense that they are still empowered to take care of your customers.

The bottom line is that you will have a much happier and motivated team if you give them some decision-making power.  Don’t make them feel like they are being micro-managed and they will step up to the plate.  You will have a stronger team and they will want to stay with a company that makes them feel that their opinions matter.  Your customers will thank you!

Need help bringing your CSM's ideas to life?  The Success League is a consulting firm that partners with customer success leaders who want to build their team into a powerhouse that drives key metrics like retention and revenue.  We work with teams to gather and present customer data in a way that allows them to advocate for customer needs and create true change in their organization. www.TheSuccessLeague.io

Dawn Harger - With over 10 years of managing account management teams, Dawn has found her niche in defining and implementing measures that equate to customer success.  Her passion is creating teams of customer advocates and consultants, while mentoring those that cross her path.  Her prior background in operations also allows her a broader picture of the business, thus giving her additional insight into a company’s strategy in retaining and growing their customer base.  Dawn works for VerticalResponse, holds a BA in Marketing from San Jose State University and MBA from St. Mary’s College.