Interim CSM/Customer Support Model during a hiring pause?

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tjwwheel
tjwwheel Member Posts: 18 Thought Leader
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Recently our team had a CSM leave on the West Coast who was managing around 25 customers. Since we are currently on a hiring pause within Customer Success, we elected to move someone from an acquisition of ours over to help with these accounts who is located in the Mid-West/East region. Ideally, for the longer term, we'd like to have someone on the West Coast own those accounts while then using the new team member on the East Coast to help support our growth in that region. 

 

My question is.. how have you all handled a period of 6-9 months where you may not have a geographically ideal CSM setup for a group of customers? We will hopefully be hiring for the West Coast role sooner than later, but we can't leave those accounts untouched. Do you just take the hit and transition 2x in 6 months? Do you provide these accounts a hybrid management approach of some sort? Also, I understand that communication to the customer is key, so the question may be answered directly by polling that customer group and asking what they'd prefer. 

 

Any best practices are appreciated. Thanks!

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  • Nisha Kappillil
    Nisha Kappillil Member Posts: 2 Navigator
    edited July 2020
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     My company is in a very similar situations and would love to know your thoughts

  • Alex Tran
    Alex Tran Member Posts: 38 Expert
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    edited July 2020
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    Although we don't segment our customers based on geographical location, we have a pretty remote work environment with CSMs spread across the USA.

    With that said, my company implemented a "Flex" program where anyone interested in "trying out" CS or considering it as a career can help out the CS team during this time. The goal of the Flex program is to not let go of any employees, help existing CSMs, help other team members during this time while meeting the business need.

  • tjwwheel
    tjwwheel Member Posts: 18 Thought Leader
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    edited July 2020
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    That's a great idea, I could see it working well in times like this. At this point though we don't have any employees that are on the verge of being let go, as the business overall is very strong. We have simply put a few job types on hold that were in areas of rapid growth. My main concern here in this model, specific to us, is that these customers I'm referring to are used to having a named resource with industry & product knowledge, so I'm not sure someone "new" ish to CSM and our Org would be valuable to them after what they've come to expect so far in our partnership.  Either way, something to consider, thanks for the feedback!

  • Ashton Liu
    Ashton Liu Member Posts: 29 Expert
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    edited July 2020
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    I don't have a great solution but am happy to share my experience. My company expanded geographically quite aggressively, which brought about similar challenges. At the end of the day, something's got to give. A few years ago, we had changes in our APAC team and I stepped in to assist. While I had the great opportunity to travel to our APAC office, I came back and was handling both US accounts and APAC accounts. In situations like this, someone is going to have to suffer time zone wise. We split APAC accounts so different teams took different regions in APAC, but the result was that we often worked overtime and inevitably suffered as a result. We had to articulate this to our customers, letting them know that we would support them but couldn't always respond same business day due to time differences, and we pushed them to be more self sufficient (something we've continued regardless). We also hired someone to work with us part time in the region, which did help while we recruited someone full time. All of this did mean multiple transitions in a year. Our product is rather complicated and does necessitate someone to guide, train, and support and so this was probably the best option at the time. 

  • Paul Mason
    Paul Mason Member Posts: 8 Contributor
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    edited July 2020
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    I have always found that it is better to align CSMs based on the best fit and skill set rather than geography. The few times in the past we have tried to align accounts based on geography it did not work out as well as we would have liked since the customer needs were somewhat ignored.  

    If the customer requires a CSM in their region then I would be transparent that the current set-up is temporary and that when the timing is right we will be transitioning you to a CSM on the West coast but that may not be for 6+ months.

  • tjwwheel
    tjwwheel Member Posts: 18 Thought Leader
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    edited July 2020
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    @Ashton L @Paul Mason Thank you both for the insight, greatly appreciated and nice to see that you've  encountered a similar situation. Our main challenge here is that (in a normal environment) we do bi-yearly on site business reviews with all customers which is why we generally try to align geographically. The reason for this is that our CSMs are responsible for product oversight/best practices across about 8-10 core solutions and 3-4 power app solutions. For context, we are in the P2P space covering products that range from contracts, sourcing, procurement, expense management, AP automation, contingent labor management, etc. Some of our customers are "used to" the higher touchpoints and on site ability of their other large enterprise platforms such as Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, etc. so we are trying to find a model to give them that attention without investing hundreds of employees into the function. 

     

    It does sound like in the short term yep, something has to give. We've been able to speak to a few and they've been understanding of the changes. Most people are being quite flexible given the current situation on biz travel, etc.