TAM vs. CSM

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Sejin Mong
Sejin Mong Member Posts: 2 Navigator
edited August 2023 in CS Conversations
Depending on what company folks come from, I've noticed that there are slight variations in how people define different roles. Curious to crowdsource and ask here: 

How do you define a Customer Success Manager (CSM) role vs. how do you define a Technical Account Manager (TAM) role? What are the key differences in role/responsibility, experience, and measures of success?
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  • Chad Horenfeldt
    Chad Horenfeldt Member Posts: 57 Expert
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    edited January 2022
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    Very briefly:
    • CSM owns the contractual relationship and is responsible for retention and business outcome attainment. They are essentially the main point of contact. 

    • TAM is the technical contact that provides technical advice and domain level experience to clients in support of helping the customer achieve their business objective. They work in partnership with the CSM to understand technical requirements and then determine the best course of action. For example, can they provide guidance to the client to do work themselves or does the TAM need to assist directly. They may also determine that services need to step in. We look at how TAMs have influenced renewals and overall output (we track their projects). 

    happy to provide more guidance.
  • Mark Flanagan
    Mark Flanagan Member Posts: 26 Expert
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    edited January 2022
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    I live in a different world, Chad. In mine, the customer signs a contract with Sales, and that agreement outlines the T&Cs, desired outcomes, implementation schedule, etc... CS is included in that process before the contract is signed so there aren't any misunderstandings before CS takes over and onboards the customer and steps them through their initial training. There is a Sales Engineer assigned who assists the customer with technical requirements and successful implementation.CS  owns the relationship from that point forward, ensuring subscription renewal and longer-term retention. If there are additional revenue opportunities, Sales steps in, handles the negotiation, and the process starts all over again.  Technical support handles any product-related issues that arise during the customer's use of the product (e.g., bugs, integrations, enhancement requests, etc...), working in close collaboration so that the customer always understands the status of outstanding issues/requests.
  • Saad Khan
    Saad Khan Member Posts: 10 Contributor
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    edited January 2022
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    Hi Sejin,

    In my company the TAMs are more aligned to Hybrid and OnPrem products. Their role is to be technical, with making sure the customer is successful in implementing changes in their infrastructure, point out any risks and are responsible for customer success.

    The CSMs are traditional with SaaS platform being their playing field.

    Let me know if you have any questions.

    Regards

    Saad
  • Tanya Strauss
    Tanya Strauss Member Posts: 14 Thought Leader
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    edited January 2022
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    Sejin,

    Great question and great dialog! I've seen many different models where CSMs and TAMs collaborate to serve customers. There's one other role that (sometimes more mature) companies have, which is the CAM or Customer Account Manager. The reporting structures for CAMs (or CSMs and TAMs for that matter) vary widely company to company but generally, the CAMs' role is to own the commercial aspects of the account: the renewal and any expansion opportunities like quoting, contracting, etc.

    In my experience, the TAM can be a billable resource who's job is to assist the customer with technical guidance, generally a means to a outcome-oriented end. For example, in a CS platform, the customer may be trying to automate their 1:many journey and the TAM steps into advise the CS Platform Admin on the necessary configurations. TAMs are not generally day to day resources and may only be available to customers at a certain tier or as I said before, as billable resources. 

    Then the 3rd and very important leg of the stool - the CSM is the resource who owns the "day to day" interactions with the customer. Their job is ultimately to ensure that the renewal happens and to identify expansion opportunities. To that end, the CSM brings in the TAM, the CAM, Support, Product, etc as necessary. 

    This is my experience - curious what you have seen and/or what was the origin of the question. 

    Warm regards,

    Tanya

  • Rachel Jennings
    Rachel Jennings Member Posts: 10 Contributor
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    edited January 2022
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    Hi Sejin, 

    In my last role, we had both roles and the key difference was that the TAM  had the technical acumen to solve issues for customers who were not currently using our consulting services and if the issue was too big for our technical support team to resolve. 

    The CSM was a strategic advisor and relationship owner of the customer who held the renewal number. 

    The TAM team also worked in a pool model. This meant that they worked across the global CS team and we would bring them when it was necessary to advise and solve complex technical problems.
  • James Stuart
    James Stuart Member Posts: 27 Expert
    edited January 2022
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    Hi @Sejin Mong

    I think this all depends on your company and how technical your software is. I see at TAM as someone who deals with the more technical queries and questions such as an integration for example whereas the CSM acts as the relationship builder and often middle person between the TAM and customer. The TAM may only be part of the onboarding journey then move on when the customer is all set up. Similar to @Tanya Strauss point


    Many thanks

  • Wendy Johnson
    Wendy Johnson Member Posts: 11 Contributor
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    edited March 2022
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    Tanya et al, 

    Great dialogue, indeed! We have a very similar TAM<>CSM model. The challenge we have is: not all customers pay for a TAM yet there is a clear and definite need, especially for our strategic accounts. Where customers have not paid for this resource, the CSM is forced to try to perform both roles which leaves neither the customer nor the CSM set up for success.

    How have organizations and leaders managed this quandary? It is creating significant friction within mine.

    Warmly,
    Wendy
  • Wendy Johnson
    Wendy Johnson Member Posts: 11 Contributor
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    edited March 2022
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