A day in the life of a CSM will look a little different depending on so many factors – the size of the company, the product or services they provide, the individual CSM’s book of business, how CS is structured within the business, their CS organization’s maturity level…I could go on and on. The job of a CSM can look completely different from one organization to the next and even from one CSM to another on the same team! But there are some universal traits of rockstar CSMs that help them in their day-to-day work. I thought it would be fun to chat with a few of ESG’s CSMs, each working as a virtual CSM for a different ESG customer, to learn a little more about what it’s like to be in their shoes. So, I asked four ESG CSMs about their typical day, how they work with their customers, and what they love most about this incredibly unique and ever-evolving role.
The Customer Success Managers:
The Customer Success Manager (CSM): Acts as the primary point of contact for businesses selling professional training and continuing education accreditation courses on behalf of a Customer Learning Management (CLM) platform provider. Works primarily with customers in the mid-market tier.
The Partner Success Manager (PSM): Leads Partner Success initiatives on behalf of a global wireless networking subsidiary of a publicly-traded technology company.
The Education Success Manager (ESM): Manages the consumption of technical and soft-skill training subscriptions on behalf of a leading customer experience and call center technology company. Handles primarily enterprise-level customers, resellers, and strategic partners.
The Onboarding Specialist (OS): Focus of guiding mid- and enterprise-level customers through the critical phase of onboarding on behalf of a global technology corporation that provides platforms and enterprise applications for smart and connected products, operations, and systems.
What does a typical day look like for you?
CSM: First thing in the morning, I review my recent Slacks, goals, and meetings for the day. I reorganize my priorities accordingly and do any pressing outreach, right off. I usually have two client calls a day where we discuss user engagement and consumption, new release updates, their current and future needs, on-going projects, and any issues that require solutioning.
PSM: Each day is a bit different, so I’ll actually outline a typical week. I attend and contribute to several weekly internal meetings, including a metrics review, program review, team meeting(s), and working sessions. Partner meetings also utilize a significant amount of my time. Typically, two to three are scheduled per week, plus the required prep reviewing partner accounts, account health, renewal customers, etc. There may also be a partner onboarding meeting or a pitch meeting to invite partners into the Partner Success Pilot Program or to onboard them into the Pilot Program. I also support our CSMs when my partner load allows for it, so I typically have five to ten customer interactions over the week, primarily focused on the renewal process and assistance.
ESM: I start my day by checking for any urgent requests, going through my latest emails, and following up on any outstanding items. I then check my list of accounts and corresponding notes for those I will focus my efforts on for the day. I do my best to stay on top of product usage so I can take the appropriate action for those users. For those who are not engaged, I try to find out more about their role so I can understand how our training can best support them. I might search them on LinkedIn or check their title in their email signature on a recent communication. Then, I try to personalize my messaging based on my findings. For those users who are more engaged, I look for patterns. Have they only been taking eLearning? Are they taking any courses that aid in obtaining technical certifications? Are they taking classes that pertain more to the business user or the technical side? Then, I personalize my outreach to encourage them to continue with the momentum and keep taking classes.
OS: I always start by reviewing my emails in the morning, and I sort them based on importance. I check my Gainsight Cockpit to view upcoming tasks. I begin higher priority tasks that were either not completed the day before or that may be more important based on any emails I receive. At the end of the day, I review what I have not completed and prioritize those activities for the next workday.
What do you think is the most important thing you do every day?
CSM: Set expectations and reset priorities by considering the collective needs of myself, my clients, and the company I support.
PSM: Keep pilot partners engaged. If they are not engaged, they may ignore the pilot and continue on with their normal day to day. So, keeping the partner CSMs engaged and providing insights and updates regarding their customers is critical.
ESM: Provide value. For example, once I’ve developed a line of communication with a customer, I try to maintain their interest and keep the energy going to build a better rapport. That way, I can further enable them to use the product through education and provide them with tools to simplify the process, thus creating an internal advocate. When I can help them achieve certifications and complete coursework, it helps them feel a sense of pride, and the value of their training subscription is recognized.
OS: Set up a focus time to work through tasks, add notes, and drink some coffee!
What technologies or tools do you use on a daily basis that help you in your role?
CSM: Gainsight, Salesforce, Monday.com, Airtable, Zendesk, Google Workspace, Zoom, LinkedIn, Slack, and of course, the company’s own product.
PSM: Top Tech: Totango, Salesforce, Company Support Portal; Supplementary Tech: Survey Monkey, Qualtrics, Company Ordering Tools.
ESM: My team has minimal access to tools and technologies that automate the process. We can use Salesforce as a tool for investigating customer history and information. But, by and large, we work out of Excel, which requires a significant amount of effort, attention to detail, and summarizing data so I can act on it and it’s easy for the customer to absorb.
OS: I use Gainsight, Salesforce, Tableau, Microsoft Teams, Velocity, Excel, PowerPoint, and Seismic.
What interested you most about becoming a CSM?
CSM: The ability to increase client engagement and buy-in on the ideas innovative companies have to offer by looping customers into the conversation.
PSM: Helping customers! It is great to have that feeling that you are supporting someone in a meaningful way and making their job easier.
ESM: I’ve spent most of my career on the sales side in technology solutions, but I realized that my strengths are how I can empathize and communicate effectively with my customers and how I inherently love to research to find the answers or simplify things for them. I never felt “at home” making sales calls and pushing customers based on my deadlines and quotas. So, although I was doing well in sales, I realized Customer Success was where I should be. It gives me more of a sense of purpose, seeing how I can provide credible value to customers by simply being an internal advocate for them.
OS: When I learned about CSMs and the customer journey, it provided a definition for the work I had already been doing. Helping people and seeing the results of that effort is fulfilling, and CS provides that happiness.
What advice would you give to someone new to a CSM role?
CSM: Be sure to listen carefully and really get to know your clients’ use cases as well as how they imagine their future. Get permission to record meetings, particularly technical meetings, so you can easily look back on any confusing areas.
PSM: Rely on the processes that exist, but don’t feel like you need to follow templates and actions 100% to the book every single time. Every customer is different and, as a CSM (or PSM), you should feel empowered to understand the differences and take the necessary steps of the journey with them.
ESM: Be yourself. When you don’t know the answer, be honest, transparent, and confident in knowing you can find the answer. Always be curious about the customer and about the company you represent.
OS: Your first presentation is likely new to the customer. They have no expectations. If you mess up, don’t worry because the customer likely has no idea because they’ve never seen the presentation before. Also, it’s okay to tell a customer “no” sometimes. Be kind when delivering that message and clear on the why behind it, but I’ve found that 99% of the time, a customer will not be frustrated with that response.
What is the most challenging thing about your role?
CSM: Accepting the things you cannot change (technology or product limitations, busy schedules, personality differences, etc.) and consistently working to improve the things you can impact.
PSM: Understanding the technology and terminology of my ESG account’s very complex products. We’ve recently brought on more technical resources to the team, which has been really useful in helping CSMs understand the value proposition better, where customers are headed on the technology roadmaps, and where technology gaps could mean upsell opportunities.
ESM: When I cannot provide customers with something due to system or resource limitations and have to convey that in a way that acknowledges their frustration and still maintains the integrity of the company I represent.
OS: The relationship between Customer Success and Sales. After the Sales to Customer Success hand-off, I’m the first person the customer interacts with after the deal is closed. So, if expectations weren’t clearly set prior to that, or the suite of products purchased isn’t right on point, after all, it’s my responsibility to get the customer back on track, which can be a real challenge.
What do you love most about being a CSM?
CSM: Connecting with people. I have some amazing and super interesting teammates and clients who I love getting to know. They send me home remodeling pictures, vacation updates, let me talk to their dogs and kids on Zoom, goof around, and send me some bomb recipes.
PSM: The sense of satisfaction from helping my customers.
ESM: I love being able to help people, especially when I can surprise them by going above and beyond their expectations.
OS: Completing my objectives and seeing the customer successfully reaping the benefits of my work.
You can tell from these responses how much passion CSMs bring to their role in Customer Success. Their day-to-day work varies depending on each CSM’s current arena, but their dedication never wavers. It’s also interesting to see how their day-to-day work can vary depending on each CSM’s specialization. The Partner Success Manager is adjusting their approach because they are working with a different kind of customer than, for example, our Education Success Manager.
Each has their own set of unique tasks for the day, but it all adds up to having killer instincts for customer engagement and extraordinary organizational skills for managing their book of business. Thriving CSMs come from all walks of life, but the core of what makes a successful CSM remains the same. No matter who they support or how the role shifts, CSMs are always giving their all to each and every customer interaction.