Customer Success is all about relationships. Your relationship with your customers, of course, but also the CS team’s relationship with other internal groups, and even their relationship with executive leadership. One critical relationship that tends to get pushed to the bottom of the priority list is CS leadership’s relationship with their own team. It’s easy to get lost in outwardly focused CS activities, especially in the early stages of CS maturity. CS leaders are often thrust into the spotlight, expected to grow Customer Success capabilities at a record pace, and prove the organization’s value by demonstrating ROI. That kind of pressure can trickle down to their team – sometimes to disastrous effect. When so much depends on that vital connection between customers and their CSMs, good leaders need to pay attention to both sides of that equation.
After all, how can CSMs help their customers thrive if they aren’t thriving themselves?
If you’re happy and you know it…
“If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.” – Sir Richard Branson
Happy employees lead to happy customers. I know, I know, it sounds obvious, and we all know that fostering outstanding internal engagement is easier said than done. But fulfilled and flourishing CSMs are so incredibly important to building a strong Customer Success organization that we really need to take this adage to heart. All businesses need happy employees to succeed, but so much of Customer Success depends on the strong connection CSMs develop with their customers. If CSMs aren’t supported, they won’t be able to fully support your customers, and then all the customer journey maps and CS playbooks in the world aren’t going to save you.
…and you really want to show it
Not quite convinced of the power of internal engagement? Here are some fun statistics that might help bring you around.
9 tips to cultivate a happy and thriving CS team
1. Communicate with your team like you want them to communicate with your customers
The ebook, 10 Principles of Modern Employee Communications, by the employee communications and advocacy firm Smarp, claims that there is no Customer Experience (CX) before Employee Experience (EX). What they mean is that the relationship between a company and its employees will define the relationship between its employees and its customers. This is especially true for how you communicate with your employees. For CSMs, your company’s style of communication will flow down and impact how they interact with their customers.
2. Make them feel heard
There is a big difference between listening to your employees and actually making them feel heard. Listening on its own is crucial, but to encourage your team to feel like their contributions matter, you need to take their experiences and suggestions to heart. A CSM’s relationship with their customers gives them a unique perspective with an unprecedented level of insight. They might just know what their customers need better than you do.
3. Give them autonomy and trust
Because proactive engagement is so important in Customer Success, your CSMs need to feel comfortable making decisions and acting on them on their own. They need freedom to iterate, take risks, and introduce new ideas and strategies to your customers. Essentially, they need autonomy to collaborate with your customers on a deeper level. By empowering your CSMs to make their own decisions, you’re also gaining a more agile and efficient CS organization overall.
4. Be consistent with your expectations
As I said above, being a CS leader can be hectic and stressful. Especially if your company is in the middle of making some big changes. What’s being asked of CS can change from one day to the next. As much as possible, try not to let the chaos filter down to your CSMs (more on this below!). This means keeping your expectations for your team clear and consistent, even as the world shifts and resettles around you.
5. Keep your CSMs in the loop on all customer communications
We can all do better at communicating with other groups, but Customer Success really relies on good interdepartmental collaboration, awareness, and information sharing in order to be successful. Help your team out by working with other customer-facing groups to keep your CSMs in the loop whenever customer communications are rolled out. Make sure they know about product updates, big announcements, or voice of the customer initiatives before your customers hear about it.
6. Make CS systems easier to navigate
There are so many reasons to embrace digital CS tools, from improving customer experience to optimizing your resources. Here is another – they make your CSMs’ lives easier. But getting a shiny, new CS tool and calling it good isn’t going to cut it. For your team to truly benefit from a CS platform, you have to make sure it actually works with your current systems and truly saves time. If you think you’ve already done this, but your CSMs tell you that they are still running into issues, I’ll refer you to number two on this list.
Bonus tip from ESG Digital CSM Madeline Evans: incorporate your CS team’s needs, wants, and current workflows into developing and implementing your CS tool stack.
7. Show your appreciation for their hard work
CSMs are some of the hardest working, most passionate people out there. They genuinely want their customers to succeed, and they put their hearts and souls into their work. Recognize their dedication and show appreciation for all their amazing achievements! Start simple with shoutouts in team meetings or in your internal slack channel, peer-nominated prizes, or company-wide award celebrations. Then get creative with recognition that will be the most meaningful to your team (psst…ask them what they would enjoy most!).
8. Be their cheerleader
People outside of Customer Success don’t always have a clear idea of what CS does or the value CSMs are bringing to the table. While you’re recognizing your CSMs for all their hard work, don’t forget to shout about it from the rooftops! Let everyone know when you’ve had a big win or when a CSM tried something new and innovative that made a difference to your customers or your business.
9. Be a bridge and a buffer
The best CS leaders build bridges between CS and other orgs, but also buffer their CSMs from the pressures of corporate expectations. It’s your job to stand up for them if others think of CS as the “do everything” department, or to correct misperceptions of CS being “support on steroids”.
The moral of the story
In CS, we get caught up talking about customer retention all the time, but retaining your best and brightest is just as important. Keep your employees happy and they will keep your customers happy.