CSM vs. Support team- Roles & Responsibilities

Brett Eslinger
Brett Eslinger Member Posts: 1 Navigator
edited March 2022 in Metrics & Analytics
Hello everyone,

Wanting to get some insight from others to help delineate responsibility between CSM vs. Support team.   We are a medium sized Saas organization and most of our CSM's have a 1:1 relationship with clients (at least for larger clients; we also do have a shared support model for smaller clients that is relatively new that we are continuing to tweak and improve).  In our model, almost all of the questions to us are funneled through our main points of contact at the client organization (vs. end users).  We do have a "Product Support" team that fields the questions that do end up coming from end users (which are relatively few and only in certain instances), as well as from internal employees, sometimes client sponsors, etc. as well as help support the Technical team to identify bugs, issues post-releases, etc.

My question: how do you delineate the responsibility between when a CSM should support a troubleshooting question vs. having the support team handle the request?  IE I have always been of the belief that it is important for CSM's to become relative experts in the platform to be able to support any issue that comes in from their client sponsors.  But I also recognize that their time could be better spent in supporting larger initiatives to drive usage with the client vs. basic technical issues.  In addition, I also see the value in the visibility of the support team having visibility and tracking these requests to understand true volume (our support team uses Zendesk to track requests).

Would love to hear if anybody has it a clear separation of the two, and how you set that up.  Thank you in advance!


  • Bentley Davis
    Bentley Davis Member Posts: 4 Seeker
    First Comment
    edited March 2022

    Hello Brett,

    We don't have a clear delineation.  That said, for our more important clients, their dedicated CSM handles most questions.  We also have someone who is dedicated to answering support tickets, issuing release notes, and updating the help section of the platform.   We also have CS team members in place to answer more support-type questions from end users and/or basic training when the CS Leads are overloaded (these CSMs have a book of business, but far less demanding ones).  Finally, if there are technical issues such as bugs, our team interfaces with the tech team instead of the client doing that directly.

    I'm not sure if the above helps, but it is the structure we currently have in place.  I would love to hear how others are doing things.

  • LouiseC
    LouiseC Member Posts: 8 Contributor
    First Anniversary Name Dropper First Comment Photogenic
    edited March 2022
    Hi Brett,

    Your set-up sounds quite similar to mine.  It's hard at times to differentiate, but i would say whilst your CSMs should be product experts, if they spend time dealing with troubleshooting, small quick questions or bugs, it's less time analysing accounts and making a strategic difference (adoption, QBRs, renewal discussions).

    I typically say if it's an error message, an easily answered 'how do i' or 'where do i find', this goes via our support team but CSM's still have full visibility of questions being asked and can be tagged into tickets that support team feel is more changing a strategy/process/is an escalation potential and needs more 1:1 attention. 

    Support typically deal with all the reactive client things versus success looking out for areas to be proactive - drops in utilisaton etc.  I've found this article to be helpful before: https://churnzero.net/customer-success-vs-account-management-professional-services/ 

    Louise Cunningham

    Director of Customer

    Firefish Software

  • Jamie Billig
    Jamie Billig Member Posts: 2 Navigator
    edited March 2022
    Hi Brett,

    I am happy to talk through how my team currently works through these scenarios. Lets connect!

  • Piyush Wason
    Piyush Wason Member Posts: 2 Navigator
    edited March 2022

    This is one of the most intriguing questions that a lot of leaders have and they fail to understand and answer what is the core differentiator  between two teams. 

    Some says, its the extended support team, and some says CSM teams are there to keep the customer happy and engaged, does that mean support teams are not to make the customer happy or engaged?

    The core differentiator between the teams are motivation. 

    A classic example: Support teams are behind the wheel and are driving to the destination, which is customer delight. But who's giving direction, the co-driver, which should be our CSM teams.
    They are sitting in one car, does mean they are part of the same team, and have similar destinations, but they have different roles and responsibilities and to understand what is different, we all need to know how it is different. 

    A lot of times, I was told,
    CSMs are proactive and customer support are reactive. 
    CSM are involved in upselling and renewal where as customer support is involved in resolving customer queries. 
    CSM are known to show value to the customer about the product, where in customer support teams are only the experts on the product. 

    Trust me, these are in head and practically it only degrades the experience of the customers if we follow this approach. 

    CSMs are strategic leaders, work for a CSM shouldn't involve resolving issues and answering queries. Their work should be involved in questioning the processes why does this customer has issues and why they are asking these questions. 

    This doesn't mean they don't have to product experts, they absolutely should have similar knowledge and step in as product experts or consultant when the customer needs.

    If a customer has an issue, expectations are - it should go to customer support. 
    But most of the times, the customer tends to send email and expect a CSM would do that on their behalf. Customer education and confidence in support teams needs to be built by CSMs, without it, CSMs would be involved in so many activities that they shouldn't.

    CSM should never be point of contact of the escalations and there has to be defined processes for customer escalations. 

    Zendesk is a lovely tool, make it easy for your customer to log issues, and make it strategically possible to enable the escalations for the customers. Your customer support team should be trained and made super efficient that the customer only feels the need to log an issue and not route the queries to CSM. If this happens, customer needs to be educated.

  • Michelle Jardine
    Michelle Jardine Member Posts: 1 Navigator
    edited March 2022
    Hi Brett,

    We have the same hurdle.  Right now the way we delineate is to have the CSM knowledgeable enough on the product to be able to identify whether the issue is training, technical or a feature request.  Then we create a case and assign it to the appropriate team.  If it is a training issue that we can resolve immediately with a high level of confidence, we do it during the meeting.  If it is more involved training, we pass it to the trainers and if it is technical we pass it to the techs.  Feature requests follow a path of review and follow up communications.  I am looking forward to continued conversation on how to delineate - hope this helps.
  • Mark Flanagan
    Mark Flanagan Member Posts: 26 Expert
    First Comment
    edited March 2022
    In our experience, the CS organization is responsible for managing the customer relationship. If the customer has a technical issue/problem, the CSM relays that to Support. Support, in turn, works with Development to 1) quickly diagnose the issue/problem and 2) provide a timeline for addressing it. The CSM then provides feedback to the customer, letting them know what the issue/problem is and how long it will take to fix it. From that point forward, the critical issue is timely communication. We've found, even if the issue/problem turns out to be more complex/challenging than originally thought, if CSM keeps the customer informed in a timely way, and the issue/problem is addressed in a reasonable timeframe, a positive relationship with the customer will have been reinforced.
  • Stavros Aivaliotis
    Stavros Aivaliotis Member Posts: 1 Navigator
    edited March 2022
    I have used this slide before, to differentiate the two.
  • Saad Khan
    Saad Khan Member Posts: 10 Contributor
    First Anniversary
    edited March 2022
    Consider  if the following would work for you.

    1) If the request will require troubleshooting with log files, traces or any other technical gathering, guide the Customer to open a case. The CSM shouldn't be troubleshooting

    2)  Compile a Knowledge base with articles, guides, videos etc that consists of how to steps, the CSM can manage those requests and send those  to the customer. If the customer needs more technical help, they can go to support.