CSM at non-SaaS, non-service company: where to start?

Frespian Member Posts: 6 Seeker
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edited September 2020 in Strategy & Planning

Hi all,

I'm new to this great community and to CSM so I hope you guys could give me some tips.


I've been working in sales for 5 years in a company which manufactures and sells high-tech equipment for atmospheric measurements and early 2020 I moved to a CSM position - a new role created under Tech Support department which never existed in our company before. 

Clearly the reason for this new role creation lies in ailing customer satisfaction - for years the company was product-centered and I'm glad that finally we're moving to more customer-oriented approach.


Now the big challenge I'm facing (apart from building up a CS structure from scratch) is that I need to figure out what principles and techniques can be borrowed from CSM in SaaS and applied to a classical hardware-selling company which has only a small part of services (training and maintenance offering and a small piece of software).

Unfortunately, as CSM appeared in SaaS world, all resources I can find available today talk about CSM in this context - subscription-based products.


So I'm curious to know your thoughts - what would be the main CSM components we could implement in a non-SaaS company? What metrics could I use to track customer success given that we sell hardware products? What would you do first as a CSM in a non-SaaS company?


Thanks for sharing your ideas!


  • Jarren Pinchuck
    Jarren Pinchuck Member Posts: 38 Expert
    edited September 2020
    Hi @Anna Batychko

    Welcome to the world of Customer Success, once you've moved over to this side of the fence there is no turning back.

    I may be able to help out a little. Previously to where I am now I was leading product and CS at SaaS startups in the Health-tech and Construction-tech space. Now I am Global Head of CS & Ops for a Green-tech company. We have a few verticals but all have hardware-related products. I was brought in by the new COO to bring the CS world of SaaS into this space.

    When I joined they didn't have CSMs or even an idea of what Customer Success was. The COO knew we needed to pay more attention to customers, get them to engage and in turn help us grow the business - hence customer success.
    I can tell you from experience that there are many similarities between running CS for SaaS and for a physical product, the concepts are the same.

    It is challenging to answer your questions without knowing your business but here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started.
    • Where are the challenged currently that a CS department was created?
      • What problem is the business having that needs solving?
    • Where will CSMs be required to add value for the customers?
    • What does your customer life-cycle look like?
    • What are the touchpoints you can foresee for CSMs?
    • How simple/complicated is the implementation for a customer?
    • How "easy" is it for a customer to churn (what do your contracts look like)?
    • What doe the current sales cycle look like?
    I could keep going but I would be more than happy to set up some time and discuss in more details if you'd like. DM me with your details and we can set something up.

  • Frespian
    Frespian Member Posts: 6 Seeker
    First Anniversary Photogenic
    edited September 2020
    @Jarren Pinchuck
    thanks for your detailed recommendations, it's good to know there's someone out there with a great experience who was in my shoes! 
    I'll definitely look into the subjects you listed, seems like a very good start.

    The biggest challenge I see today is promoting customer culture inside the company, especially among people who don't work with customers (development, manufacturing etc), even if it's not directly on CSM agenda, it's crucial to ensure the good quality of our services which ultimately will have a huge impact on customer experience.

    As for customer-related activities, I've put into place an onboarding procedure which seems to be appreciated by our clients so far. Nothing too complicated, but at least a first touchpoint after delivery to make sure everything went smoothly, to introduce them to our care process and to identify expectations with regards to the product.

    I appreciate your availability, will get in touch soon to discuss it in more details, thanks a ton!

  • Russell Bourne
    Russell Bourne Member Posts: 61 Expert
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    edited September 2020
    @Anna Batychko, I worked for a long time in a company with a SaaS / non-SaaS / hybrid offering and although there are slight differences in how to manage the different segments, there are mostly similarities.  So, those resources you found can actually help you!

    To highlight the similarities, try seeing your non-SaaS customers as though they're SaaS customers who prepaid for unlimited usage, and whose contract term is based on life of hardware instead of a calendar.  During that term, you want your customers to have high adoption, high engagement with the product, and ultimately realize the product's value.  If all goes well, at the end of the term (or maybe even during it), they'll "renew" by purchasing replacements, upgrades, and additional units.  @Jarren Pinchuck offered some great ways to consider how you manage the customers during the "term".

    One key difference is often times, SaaS offerings allow you to pull metrics that show you adoption/engagement whereas on-prem offerings aren't connected to your internal systems.  Do you have the ability to gather reporting on that yourself, or do you rely on customers sharing it?

    You mentioned your role was created to address ailing customer satisfaction, so really your challenge boils down to:
    • Retroactively, can you see metrics that show the reasons for the decline in satisfaction?  Preferably they'll be leading indicators.
    • What can you do to address those reasons?
    If you can expose metrics that expose leading indicators of satisfaction, then improvement on those metrics should foreshadow increased satisfaction.

    Happy to help more as needed - best of luck.
  • Jarren Pinchuck
    Jarren Pinchuck Member Posts: 38 Expert
    edited September 2020
    Hey Anna, I am glad the questions I posted gave you a good starting point.

    Regarding "promoting customer culture". I am happy to let you know, you are not alone here. No matter the company, industry and I'd even say country you're in, you'll be challenged with creating a customer culture. SaaS companies may be slightly better at it but there will still be departments who are so far removed from the customer that it's challenging for them to take that culture on.

    The upside is there are some simple and interesting ways to create this in your business, I'll list a few examples that have worked for me below.
    • Share customer stories (success and challenges) - you can do this via a monthly "Customer Newsletter" or maybe your company has a monthly all-hands meeting where you as leader of CS can share customer stories with the whole company.
      • Sharing specific stories with the specific department that effects the customer will be even more powerful
    • Customer Show 'n Tell - once a quarter, organise one of your champion customers to come to your office and run a short show 'n tell session for the whole company (depending on the size of course). You should prep your customer and help put together the presentation but they should run it.
      • Let them talk about their company and industry
      • Challenges they faced before using your product
      • What they love about your product and how it's used in their business
      • Then open the floor for your colleagues to ask questions (have a few prepped to get the Q&A flowing)
      • The show 'n tell is amazing and your product teams will love it. They'll get insight and direct access to customers
    • Invite colleagues from other teams into your CS meetings 
    It doesn't happen overnight so you'll need to keep driving this within the company. If you have CSMs in your team you could task them with quarterly "projects" to get the rest of the business more in line with customer culture.

    Update me on how you get on.
  • Frespian
    Frespian Member Posts: 6 Seeker
    First Anniversary Photogenic
    edited October 2020
    Hi Russell,

    thanks a lot for your input and especially for the parallels you draw between non-SaaS and SaaS customers, it's reassuring to see that finally the same CSM principles can be used for both.

    It is true that today we are really bad at measuring adoption/engagement, we only rely on annual survey and flash surveys sent after Technical Support Tickets are closed. I'll definitely look into ways of getting some indicators from indirect usage data which should provide me with more insights on the adoption level compared to the survey replies which cannot ensure a constant data inflow.
  • Frespian
    Frespian Member Posts: 6 Seeker
    First Anniversary Photogenic
    edited October 2020
    Hi Jarren,
    these are great ideas, thanks a lot for sharing!

    I really like this Show'n tell idea, I hope when we come out of the current Covid-related restrictions we could organise something similar. 

    I was thinking about something like "live my life for a day" sessions inviting guys from product development team to come and spend a day in Technical Support for example - answering urgent customer calls, resolving technical issues. Now it's true that it's more hardcore version of helping our internal teams to understand what it's like to be on a frontline of customer service and serve customer interests in priority.
  • Chrissy Hines
    Chrissy Hines Member Posts: 11 Contributor
    edited October 2020
    Hi Anna,
    Welcome! I'm  happy to jump on a call with you. I'm a CS Director at a SaaS not SaaS company where I've structured and in the process of rolling out CS from the ground up... I've also been a CSM for many years at NON SaaS companies. Happy to help!
    Chrissy Hines
  • Antti
    Antti Member Posts: 5 Seeker
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    edited October 2020
    I am building CS functions from scratch.

    I had that same problem with promoting culture. I realised that while I was doing the time consuming tasks of research and doing my first versions of customer journeys. I had to show some quick wins for the other departments and execs.
  • Frespian
    Frespian Member Posts: 6 Seeker
    First Anniversary Photogenic
    edited October 2020
    Hi Antti,
    it's exactly what I'm facing currently! to do the job properly, one needs to do some research and build some processes from scratch while the whole company is waiting for a quick return on investment (investment into a CSM position creation I mean).
    what quick wins did you manage to show internally?
  • Frespian
    Frespian Member Posts: 6 Seeker
    First Anniversary Photogenic
    edited October 2020
    Hi Chrissy,
    I'd definitely love to hear more about your experience!
    I've just sent you a LI connection request, hope to talk to you soon.
  • Daryl Colborne
    Daryl Colborne Member Posts: 50 Expert
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    edited October 2020

    Hi all,
    I'm in the same boat as a lot of you! I think it's a relief to know that Customer Success is not only a B2B SaaS function.

    The software product we sell at Zerto is an on-prem software used primarily for IT resilience (disaster recovery/business continuity). We also have very little visibility into what the customer is doing with the product. Thankfully, our Developers created an Analytics platform, which does a minimal amount of "call home." That at least gives us some eyes into how the customer is using the software. 

    Ultimately though, whether the product is hardware, on-prem software or SaaS, there are many parallels in the way Customer Success should be created. Ultimately, we want all customers to achieve positive business outcomes and obtain as much value out of our product and ecosystem. Using that as the starting point and working backwards is the way to go. I'd be happy to discuss some of the things I've put into play so far.