Account Transitions

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Dayna Trautwein
Dayna Trautwein Member Posts: 7 Contributor
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Hi all,

I am in CS at a high-growth start-up that works with Fortune 500 clients and currently has a very high-touch CS model.  Our CS team is growing as rapidly as our client is, which has led to needing some account transitions over the past year.  Some of the transitions are needed because individuals that were in IC roles are now moving into people leader roles with less account management responsibility.  

Does anyone have great positioning talk tracks when we need to make these transitions?  I try to get them excited that we're growing as a company and are adding additional Client Strategy Managers so that they are best supported and so we can continue to provide the level of service that they've come to expect from us.  That doesn't stop some protests though, which I can understand, especially when we made some account transitions ~6 months ago.

On a related/personal/selfish note, I need to make these transitions successful - as I continue to hire more direct reports, I need to shift my responsibilities from supporting accounts to supporting my reports.  

Thanks in advance for your suggestions!
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  • Mary Rosberg
    Mary Rosberg Member Posts: 14 Contributor
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    edited February 2022
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    We face the same issues. I like to emphasize something special about the new CSM that will help them be best suited for the account. Can't do it every time but where I have been able to find a connection, it's definitely helped. For example, we're in fintech and one of the CSMs coming on to an account actually has fintech experience in her past, which really helped the merchant just as we hoped it would.

    Best wishes,
    Mary
  • Dayna Trautwein
    Dayna Trautwein Member Posts: 7 Contributor
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    edited February 2022
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    Thanks, Mary - that's a good call out.  I'll think about those special reasons a CSM would be well-suited for the account.  Thanks for the suggestion!
  • Ed Powers
    Ed Powers Member Posts: 180 Expert
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    edited March 2022
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    Hi @Dayna Trautwein!

    I dealt with this problem quite a bit in a past life running a very high-touch, service-intensive business in luxury hospitality. Our Member Services staff developed very strong personal connections with customers, and account transitions for us were exceptionally difficult.

    I found it helpful to remember that this is a change management problem. Logically, customers understand that things change--it happens in their lives, too--and given a chance to think about it, they will soon become supportive and adapt. However, they must first process things on an emotional level before they can do so. You must give them time and space during this period, and show a great deal of empathy and understanding along the way.

    One approach that worked well for us was to have the employee rank their contacts in order of the strength of personal relationships and put together a plan for each group:
    • Those at the bottom of the list (the weakest relationships) received a warm, understanding email that described the change and invited the customer to call and talk to me personally if they had concerns. Few did, other than send an occasional email. 
    • The employee personally contacted those in the middle of the list and talked to them 1:1 about the change. They would then schedule a call with the customer's new contact to do a warm handoff and say good-bye. In some cases I would call to follow-up, if necessary. 
    • I personally contacted those at the top of the list to discuss the change. The employee would then follow up separately and schedule the warm handoff. In some cases I would personally follow up 1:1 after the transition to ensure the customer was adjusting and remained satisfied. 
    The specific talking points are much less important than just listening and letting the customer talk things out, just as you would support a friend or family member when they're hurting. Allowing people to unpack their feelings helps them process them. Role-play to practice. State the change and the reason for it. Don't "cheerlead" or dismiss their feelings. Tell them you value strong relationships, and acknowledge that this change can be disruptive and difficult. Get comfortable reflecting back their feelings, no matter the response, without commenting or judging. Remain firm, and expect that some will want to bargain to keep things the same (a common reaction to change). Take as much time as the customer needs to talk through it--you'll know when it's time to end the call. I guarantee they will appreciate your personal attention. Then send an email to follow up. 

    This is difficult work, but there's a silver lining: no product is 'stickier' than the strength of human relationships. When customers know, like, and trust your CSMs, they're far less likely to switch to another provider. So take solace in this fact and make sure your CSMs continue to build strong relationships, no matter the pain that may come from the changes. 

    Hope that helps! 

    Ed
  • Dayna Trautwein
    Dayna Trautwein Member Posts: 7 Contributor
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    edited March 2022
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    @Ed Powers This is excellent.  Thank you so much for your insights on this.  I appreciate the suggestion of leadership reaching out for some of the strongest relationships to have a candid conversation.  We've tended to slot this discussion into meetings that aren't set up specifically to discuss the change, which is likely a miss.  Again, appreciate the insights and experience behind this.
  • Jeffrey Kushmerek
    Jeffrey Kushmerek Member Posts: 96 Expert
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    edited March 2022
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    I agree with Ed here. As a leader, you will need to expose yourself, or a CSM team lead, to let them know that they are not being cast aside, and that they have a person that they can reach out to if they ever need to escalate or talk.
  • James Conant
    James Conant Member Posts: 37 Expert
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    edited March 2022
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    @Ed Powers' is spot on. I led a team of CSM's who provided high touch service to our Fortune 500 clients and I utilized the exact same strategy that Ed used. I love his comment regarding "change mgmt"...thats exactly what it is.

    Be sure to carefully analyze the relationships between your team and your clients  as well as the tasks your team performs prior to making any moves, especially in a high growth start-up. Its not unusual in startups to see members on your team (and other teams) performing one off custom tasks/reports etc that are outside the scope of their defined duties as they seek to retain clients that account for the early growth of the company. Those actions have probably created customer expectations that a new CSM hire (or team member whose been reassigned) may not be aware of and/or may need help with when setting new expectations going forward. To help identify such situations I had each CSM document ("desk instructions") the tasks they performed, due dates, relationships, etc to aid in transition and risk mgmt should they suddenly not be available.
  • Dayna Trautwein
    Dayna Trautwein Member Posts: 7 Contributor
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    edited March 2022
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    Thanks, @Jeffrey Kushmerek.  Agree 100% - what we've done right is including leadership in these communications.  Even in lower-touch models, no customer wants to feel like a number or is being cast aside.  Minimizing that perception is critical.
    • Those at the bottom of the list (the weakest relationships) received a warm, understanding email that described the change and invited the customer to call and talk to me personally if they had concerns. Few did, other than send an occasional email. 
    • The employee personally contacted those in the middle of the list and talked to them 1:1 about the change. They would then schedule a call with the customer's new contact to do a warm handoff and say good-bye. In some cases I would call to follow-up, if necessary. 
    • I personally contacted those at the top of the list to discuss the change. The employee would then follow up separately and schedule the warm handoff. In some cases I would personally follow up 1:1 after the transition to ensure the customer was adjusting and remained satisfied. 
    The specific talking points are much less important than just listening and letting the customer talk things out, just as you would support a friend or family member when they're hurting. Allowing people to unpack their feelings helps them process them. Role-play to practice. State the change and the reason for it. Don't "cheerlead" or dismiss their feelings. Tell them you value strong relationships, and acknowledge that this change can be disruptive and difficult. Get comfortable reflecting back their feelings, no matter the response, without commenting or judging. Remain firm, and expect that some will want to bargain to keep things the same (a common reaction to change). Take as much time as the customer needs to talk through it--you'll know when it's time to end the call. I guarantee they will appreciate your personal attention. Then send an email to follow up. 

    This is difficult work, but there's a silver lining: no product is 'stickier' than the strength of human relationships. When customers know, like, and trust your CSMs, they're far less likely to switch to another provider. So take solace in this fact and make sure your CSMs continue to build strong relationships, no matter the pain that may come from the changes. 

    Hope that helps! 

    Ed
  • Dayna Trautwein
    Dayna Trautwein Member Posts: 7 Contributor
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    edited March 2022
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    This is a great point, @James Conant.  You are spot-on that there are likely one-offs happening at each account level that isn't part of any "best practices" documentation.  It would be interesting to capture these "above and beyond" tactical efforts across the team to also see if there are opportunities to reassess what we call a best practice.
  • James Conant
    James Conant Member Posts: 37 Expert
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    edited March 2022
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    Great point @Dayna Trautwein - Yes, through that process we found and shared best practices. We also found opportunities for training and development, tasks that my team shouldn't be doing that had been kicked over the fence to us, processes that needed to be eliminated, built or improved, and more. 
  • Bri Adams
    Bri Adams Member Posts: 16 Thought Leader
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    I actually just wrote a blog about how we do this internally, we're hitting a lot of the same issues! https://churnzero.net/blog/how-to-transition-customers-to-a-new-csm-in-4-steps/

    Hope this helps!

    Bri Adams

    Director of Customer Success, Commercial

    badams@windfall.com

    www.windfall.com