3 Ways to Identify Overwhelmed Customer Success Managers (and Deliver More Value)

Scaling a customer success gameplan is unique to every organization. And, in order to offer customers the most value, it’s essential to keep customer success managers from becoming overwhelmed and overworked.

Megan Costello, Director of Client Success at UpMetrics, shares her three methods for identifying overworked CSMs, as well as… 

  • Her views on the evolution of CS

  • Her mental model for helping customers find value

  • The importance of diversity in the CS role

  • The best CS advice she’s ever received

This post is based on a Customer Success Leader episode featuring Megan Costello and host Eric Crane. To hear more interviews like this one, subscribe to Customer Success Leader on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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The Evolution of Customer Success

Being a customer success pioneer, Megan has helped CS morph into an extremely valuable role. It’s her opinion that no matter what a SaaS tool is capable of, the CSM is always going to be necessary.

One reason she feels so strongly about this is because customers need a CSM to help them get into the right mental model. In other words, clients need a human being to lay out the roadmap to their end goal.

Podcast quote by Megan Costello 1

The Mental Model

Megan’s mental model works like this:

  • Start with questions of impact. What do you want to accomplish with the tool? What does success look like to you and your company as a whole? What’s the point in which you know you’ve gotten value from our tool?

  • Then, work backwards from their answer. Take note of each step it’s going to take to get to their answer (aka, point of success).

  • Make the roadmap clear to your customer. Show them the journey you’re going to go on together in order to reach their specific point of success.

Doing this helps you set expectations with your client. Also, everyone will be clear on what value looks like with your tool.

The other important to-do is informing the rest of your organization about what customers see as valuable.

Being the Customer Advocate

Animosity can manifest if the Product or Engineering teams see CS requests coming in from their co-workers and not from the actual customers.

So, it’s vital to frame your CS team as advocates of your customers. Don’t ask for product alterations as a member of your organization — ask for them as ambassadors of your clients.

Podcast quote by Megan Costello 2

Make sure those in charge of your product understand that you have your customers’ best interests at heart. You are there to advocate for them, not to boss your co-workers around.

Scaling Customer Success in Your Organization

There’s a fine balance between exceptional support from your CS team and CSMs becoming overwhelmed and overworked.

When you’re attempting to scale your CS operations, there will likely be times when a new support feature needs to be added to your tool. The difficult part is identifying when that should happen.

Fortunately, Megan shared how she goes about identifying overwhelmed CSMs.

3 Ways to Identify Overworked CSMs

If you hired the best people, you’re likely going to have to be proactive about recognizing overwhelmed employees. Particularly in a highly empathetic role like CS, you should have a plan for identifying overworked team members.

Here are three ways to proactively identify CSMs who are doing too much:

  1. Time-tracking data. It may sound old school or maybe even punitive, but time-tracking is one of the most effective ways to see if employees are being overworked. The important thing is to make it clear to CSMs that tracking time isn’t meant to scare them into working more. It’s actually for their benefit.

  2. Regular one-on-one’s. Having weekly meetings with your CSMs is imperative to understanding what’s on their plate. In these meetings, Megan suggests asking a potentially overwhelmed employee what they think could be pushed back to make room for a prioritized item. This can be much more effective than asking the CSM what they could use help with (because they probably won’t say anything).

  3. Observe your employees. Of course, this is a little more difficult in the era of remote work. However, you can still take note of how long it’s taking CSMs to onboard new customers and if anything is slipping between the cracks. If you notice things taking longer than usual, it’s likely that your CSM is overwhelmed.

These methods of recognizing overworked CSMs might sound a little traditional or quantitative, but they’re some of the best ways of keeping your team from getting swamped.

Podcast quote by Megan Costello 3

Through these methods, Megan believes that CS leaders should be able to determine whether or not an additional support feature should be added to the product itself. 

As you’re scaling your CS efforts, you should be looking for opportunities to automate menial tasks in order for your team to do what they’re best at. Additionally, as your CS team grows, you should be looking for ways to bring in more diverse perspectives.

Diversity in Customer Success

Being a pioneer in the CS field, Megan sees the importance of scaling teams to bring on more diverse points of view, especially as the industry evolves.

Customer success is an empathetic role. If your CS team is unable to empathize with diverse customers, those customers aren’t going to glean the most value from your solution. 

Megan points out that “products being designed, developed, supported by people who share the experience of the user is extremely important.” Essentially, as your customer base becomes more diverse, so should your CS team.

The Big Advice & Takeaways

Being someone who helped customer success evolve into what it is today, Megan has a wealth of knowledge in many areas of the role. She plans on being integral in the future of CS as well.

The most impactful piece of advice she’s taking with her into the future is this:

In customer success, your job isn’t to deliver what your customers ask for. It’s to deliver what they need.

Before we close out today, here are the things to keep top-of-mind:

  • Get your customers into the right mindset, working backwards from their point of success.

  • Be your customers’ advocate.

  • Use the tried and true ways of identifying overworked CSMs.

  • In order to scale your CS efforts, you need to prioritize diversity.

Until next time!

For more CS insights, subscribe to Customer Success Leader on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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