Fractional CS seats

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Yehuda Zahler
Yehuda Zahler Member Posts: 5 Newcomer
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edited August 2023 in CS Conversations

I was recently thinking about the concept of a fractional CSM as a way for smaller companies to implement a CS structure on a tighter budget.

As a CS organization grows more nuanced seats are added and I wondered if smaller companies would want something like a "fractional Head of Implementation" or something like that.

One concern I could think of is allowing these people to have access to sensitive data, but otherwise, I'm not sure of the downside.

Anybody have any thoughts?

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  • Michelle Wideman
    Michelle Wideman Member Posts: 54 Navigator
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    @Yehuda Zahler I've never used a fractional CSM, but have had success using fractional or outsourcing companies for BDR/SDR role. Given Success is such a cross functional role, if possible, I'd lean into hiring the first CSM to wear multiple hats: pre-sales(do demos, evaluations), pso(onboarding/training), customer success(growth retention), and support, and as the company grows and budget allows start building out the individual roles. If you're looking for someone to just do implementations, is there a partner network you could leverage for that? I've worked at and with a lot of large companies that set up a strong partner network to do implementation work vs. building out a large internal professional services organization.

  • Jeffrey Kushmerek
    Jeffrey Kushmerek Member Posts: 96 Expert
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    @Yehuda Zahler I actually do (and others here) this for startups (fractional Head of CS)- it makes total sense for companies without the volume needed to justify a Full time person. You also get the benefit of having your framework setup for the future from a very experienced resource.

  • Yehuda Zahler
    Yehuda Zahler Member Posts: 5 Newcomer
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    @Jeffrey Kushmerek that's great to hear. What do you think the need is for those same companies using fractional CSMs like you, to also want more niche fractional CS positions (like a fractional Head of CS Ops or Onboarding)

  • Yehuda Zahler
    Yehuda Zahler Member Posts: 5 Newcomer
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    @Michelle Wideman that's a fair point when it comes to CSMs.

    But what do you think about certain CS roles that you will only find at large corporations?

    Is there no reason for a smaller company to have a Head of Onboarding even if that's not a full-time position?

  • ShawnRiedel
    ShawnRiedel Member Posts: 2 Navigator
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    As Jeff mentioned, Fractional Customer Success ™ makes a lot of sense from a VP, Director, Head, and Ops perspective. When it comes to fractional CSMs, in the conversations that I have with my fractional clients, I try to steer them away from this approach for their high/medium touch models. It is definitely a strategy to consider in pooled, hybrid, and digital models where there is no expectation of a deep personal customer relationship or deep product knowledge.

    There is a HUGE pool, as we know right now, of CSMs that might be a good fit for the fractional model...the challenge is that there is no "infrastructure", if you will around fractional CSMs. No fee schedules, no fractional CSM entrepreneurs. It is going to take an enterprising group of CSMs to start down the Gig path. 

    Personally, I LOVE the idea of CSMs not beholden to the same companies that will lay them off with the whiff of economic uncertainty. A true "Fractional CSM" is going to offer you an outcome...not an hourly service.

    Also consider that a fractional CSM is only going to give you a fraction of their time...as per the model...they are offering CSM outcomes to other companies as well. They could be a CSM for 5 different companies at the same time...each operating off of an NDA.

    There are companies that offer CSMs for hire...but those are a different kind of arrangement where they work for the services company, get paid by the services company, and you pay a premium in mark-up for their staff-augmentation...and the outcomes are still your responsibility.

    Another model you might consider is just going with a Contract model. The CSM is hired as a contractor. No benefits, hourly rate, and they are paid based on how much you need them.

  • Yehuda Zahler
    Yehuda Zahler Member Posts: 5 Newcomer
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    Thanks for this @ShawnRiedel .

    I agree that the right approach to a fractional CS seat is not for CSMs, but more in that VP or director space.

  • Michelle Wideman
    Michelle Wideman Member Posts: 54 Navigator
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    @Yehuda Zahler for Head of roles absolutely, for they can provide the strategy blueprint for you to go execute on.

  • NaomiAiken
    NaomiAiken Member Posts: 8 Navigator
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    edited August 2023
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    Breaking news: Fractional customer success is NOT just for execs and VPs anymore!

    It's become very common for young companies to engage skilled professionals for fractional CS services - whether it is being a CSM, serving as a renewal negotiator, or being your CSP admin. Some beautiful benefits include:

    • Cost effectiveness - Only pay for what you need. No benefits, no equity.
    • Flexibility - You can scale cs headcount according to demand.
    • Access to specialized skills - Fractional professionals hold expertise in niche areas you need help with.
    • Productivity - Fractional hires are not distracted with daily company operations so they can truly focus on the work given.
    • Quick TTV - Fractional hires hit the ground running!

    Naomi Aiken

  • Norman Currie
    Norman Currie Member Posts: 1 Navigator
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    I agree with the reluctance around fractional CSM use, although I could rationalize it with systems that aren't critical to operational or security functions. As a CX leader in the cybersecurity space I would never consider it.

    More interestedly, your initiative around consulting in the space is quite necessary. Specifically for early stage start-ups, how to care for customers when shifting from MVP (minimal viable product) to general release is planned too little, too late. Early stage founders typically utilize their networks and relationships around first customers and design partners, but that simply doesn't scale. By the time CS/CX is invested in, organizations are behind the 8-ball since Sales normally receives earlier stage investment. Trying to design, build, and implement CS strategy, process and ultimately resources once Sales is already in motion is shortsighted. Building templates and process, planning the customer journey and mapping cadence for communication are minimal requirements that can be accomplished through engagement with CS expertise before having to hire and build the org. I'm looking forward to seeing growth in this space. While fractional CSMs are problematic, I think early stage 'fractional CX leadership' through consulting solutions makes a lot more sense.