Time Management for Customer Success

One question I always get from customer success professionals is “How do I organize my time so that I can get to everything?” Most are trying to balance inbound calls and emails, reaching out to customers, and facilitating scheduled meetings.  CSM’s are busy, busy people: Prioritizing the needs of sometimes hundreds of customers is a serious challenge.  I’d like to offer a few tips to help you make the most of your day. 

Before I do that, I want to call out a great resource for managing not just your time, but also your priorities.  Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is an older book (I’m looking at the 25th anniversary edition as I write) but I think the content is still very relevant.  I’ve used this book to manage my own time and help my teams manage theirs for over a decade.  As I was writing this post I realized that 2 of the 4 suggestions I’m going to share originally came from it.  If you haven’t already, I would recommend carving out some time to read it.

Important vs. Urgent

This is from Habit 3 in Covey’s book, and whenever I’m overwhelmed I refer to this concept to help prioritize my work.  The idea here is that important is different from urgent, but sometimes the two get muddled up in our minds and on our schedules.  Important things are the things that are going to help you achieve the results you’re after.  Urgent things are the things that require immediate attention.  Items can be either, both or neither, and there is a handy chart in the book that helps you figure out what’s what:

Covey U v I.jpg

You should tackle the Quadrant I stuff quickly so you can focus the bulk of your time on Quadrant II activities that actually help you achieve your goals.  Minimize Quadrant III and IV activities – they are time-wasters.

Keep your Inbox Clean

For a CSM, email can be a real issue.  A full inbox can be overwhelming, stressful and lead to missing communications from customers.  Another problem is that email likes to present itself as both urgent and important.  It’s right there in front of you and needs to be responded to right now!  In reality, a lot of email isn’t urgent or important and can wait until later, but a lot of success professionals let email eat into their time. 

One way to combat this is to treat your email like you treat your snail mail.  Sort it when it comes in and deal with it in order of priority.:  Open bills first (urgent and important), then read letters from friends and family (important), then quickly sort through ads and catalogs and throw out anything you won’t use.  Do the same for email – sort it quickly into order of priority.  I like to use different colored stars and folders for this, but do what works for you.  Then tackle the important/urgent stuff immediately, but save the rest for a more convenient time.  Bonus:  If you're one of those people who lets their snail mail collect in a pile I just solved that problem for you too.  You're welcome!

Schedule Outreach Time

Success activities generally fall into 3 categories – inbound customer inquiries, scheduled meetings and outbound calls.  Naturally the ones that are driven by other parties (inbound calls and meetings) will tend to eat away at the time you have to make outbound contact with your clients.  The problem here is that one of the best ways to build a relationship with your customers is through regular outreach.  It’s one of the most important things you do as a CSM.

The best way to get outreach back on your priority list is to carve out time to focus on it.  If you have a geographic territory, choose a block of time when your customers are most likely to be in their office.  Otherwise, choose a block of time that works best for you – a time when you tend to be alert and personable (post-coffee.)  It should be the same time every day.  Shut off your email and chat tools, and focus on calls.  Over time, this will become a habit and for many of you, the best part of your day!

Take Time to Learn

Habit 7 in Covey’s book is called “Sharpen the Saw” (It’s easier to cut down a tree if you stop every once in a while and sharpen your saw.)  For CSM’s this means take the time to develop yourself as a customer success professional.  With everything that is on your plate it is easy to see things like training meetings, networking and reading as a waste of time.  However, this is exactly what will build your skills and help you do your job better and more efficiently.  Here are a few ideas to help you learn more about your field:

  • Attend a Success Meetup – they are already going in most major cities, but if your area doesn’t have one, consider starting it!
  • Go to a Conference – success conferences abound and are a great chance to network with other CS pros.
  • Join a LinkedIn Group – there are many customer success groups on LinkedIn, both independent and sponsored by vendors. 
  • Read a Book – better yet, start a book club with your co-workers so you can all learn together
  • Read a Blog – like this one.  Good job!

Together, these tips can help you prioritize your time, make the most of your day, and achieve your goals.  Do you have other ideas for organizing your day?  Share them with The League!

The Success League is a customer success consulting firm based in San Francisco, CA.