CSM Segmentation

Jeff Yeger
Jeff Yeger Member Posts: 13 Contributor
edited August 2023 in CS Org Conversations

I've been thinking a lot about segmenting the CS team, perhaps having specific CSM's for initial onboarding, and others for adoption/strategic conversations. 

I find that it's hard to be an expert at all stages of the buyer's journey, and members of my team naturally gravitate to the things they enjoy more. Some like the process part of onboarding, while others want to get into the weeds of the customers organization. I see a huge benefit in having Jacks and Masters of one trade. 

Can anyone share a successful segmentation strategy they've implemented? Would love to learn what worked (and what didn't!)




  • shamsao
    shamsao Member Posts: 9 Seeker
    First Anniversary Photogenic
    edited June 2020

    I've typically segmented either by size (potential, not what they are spending today), or by the company's strategic segmentation -- e.g., if the company sells to large enterprises but in different industries, then each industry would be a segment.

    When segmenting by size, the value per customer is higher for the larger customers, so you can have a lower ratio of accounts to CSM.  As you get to lower value segments, then this ratio goes up, and it can often become increasingly important to leverage technology to engage the customers as manual efforts become less fruitful. 

  • Jeff Yeger
    Jeff Yeger Member Posts: 13 Contributor
    edited June 2020

    Thanks Sham, that's insightful :)

    We currently segment in a similar way - we have Enterprise CSM's, focused on our behemoth customers and regular CSM's focused on our small/medium customers. The Enterprise CSM's partner with a Sales rep and are not responsible for upsell to keep them focused on account adoption. The regular CSM's own the entire customer lifecyle as engagements are typically simpler than with your IBM's and Dell EMC's of the world. 


    I'm thinking of a further segmentation within those groupings of 'specialist' CSM's entirely dedicated to a specific function within the lifecycle, making sure the customer is getting the absolute best expertise and experience at every point in their journey. 


    I'm thinking it's worth the added man/womanpower, but time will tell :)

  • Shannon Nishi
    Shannon Nishi Member Posts: 2 Navigator
    First Comment First Anniversary
    edited June 2020

    Hi Jeff,

    I worked on a team that was segmented very similarly to what you describe (Mid-Market and Enterprise CSMs) and transitioned to a similar model of what you were envisioning. 

    The implementations were often complex and required a disproportionate amount of time and attention, hence the reason for the new segmentation. We designated about 15-20% of our CSMs to become Activation Managers. I was one of the CSMs that initially helped build out the role and processes of the Activation Team.


    • We were able to designate a clear timeline for an "onboarding" phase instead of the gray area between onboarding/maintenance that CSMs get entangled in
    • Better process in place for standardizing methods of implementation which in our case meant fewer one-off custom solutions and also more attention on patterns we were seeing in contracts coming from sales
    • More opportunity to become and "expert" and move more efficiently in implementation. Previously a CSM could go six months to a year without having to onboard a new customer and then would need to go through the process again
    • The changes definitely were reflected in increased net retention for customer that were onboarded by the activation team


    • An additional customer transition (from onboarding specialist to CSM) which introduces potential for loss of communication. On the other hand, this required a baseline amount of documentation early on in the customer life cycle which wasn't always happening when the customer was being onboarded AND managed by the same CSM
    • Difficult to predict bandwidth of those on the onboarding team based on sales pipeline and complexity of implementation
    • Depending on how many verticals you support and how technical your software is, the Activation Managers had to know basically everything. Maybe this is a benefit if currently your whole team is already having to know "everything," but it's certainly something to be aware of as you scale

    Overall, I loved working in this model for the reasons you highlighted. People got to focus on what they loved about being a CSM.

    Happy to answer any specific questions that you have if I can be of any help!

    Best of luck,



  • Tobias Kederer
    Tobias Kederer Member Posts: 3 Navigator
    edited June 2020

    @Sham Sao One size doesn't fit all, so instead of giving you general feedback, I can give you specific recommendations.  Could you provide some more context surrounding a) size of overall company and CS team, b) typical onboarding durations c) approx. how many ongoing onboarding projects concurrently?  

    Having that, will help guide the conversation better.  The answer will be very different based on the above.

  • Jared Scoubes
    Jared Scoubes Member Posts: 16 Contributor
    edited June 2020

    Being a smaller startup, we do wear many different hats and our responsibilities overlap quite a bit. However, as we've grown, we are definitely starting to specialize a bit more and have segmented into Customer Support - password resets, "how to's", etc.

    Onboarding - getting integration info started, contacting correct people involved in the process, etc. and 

    Account Management - training, ongoing support, regular contact and business/performance reviews

    It is pretty basic but hopefully a solid foundation as we continue to expand. I appreciate the feedback of others here as I am able to learn and take some nuggets of wisdom with me. Thanks everyone!

  • Lauren Mecca
    Lauren Mecca Member Posts: 29 Expert
    edited June 2020

    @Jeff Yeger When I joined an early stage startup (Series A, a few hundred SMB customers and 3 in CS) one was focused on Onboarding, one in Support and one Relationship Mgmt/Adoption. But I actually walked back from this segmentation of duties because the Onboarding process was quick and simple, and I wanted more of an investment in adoption post-onboarding - 3, 6, 9 months in. So I set them up to scale with a single type of CSM - who handled both the 2-week onboarding and maintained responsibility for adoption throughout the lifecycle. For this particular product, the path to scaling was in automating onboarding in the product vs. having a dedicated Onboarding point of contact.