It’s a difficult time to be in the workforce right now. An estimated 47 million people quit their jobs last year. In customer success, the stats aren’t quite so dire, but CSMs still show the same signs of being dissatisfied with their jobs.
According to a recent survey, 69% of CS teams have quiet quitters - i.e., CSMs who only do the bare minimum and are generally unengaged at work. This should ring all sorts of alarm bells for CS leaders. For over a decade we’ve been trying to prove our department’s worth. If CSMs are dissatisfied, performance will lag, and if performance lags, we’re right back to being seen as a cost center rather than a growth engine. And that’s a big red flag.
Today, I’ll look at current CSM expectations and see how heads of CS can meet these demands. I’d also love to know what you think, so fire up the post related to this article - it’s sure to be a fascinating discussion!
The Demands of Today’s CSMs
CSMs’ needs are diverse and speak to the overall desires that permeate the business sector. Things like better management, improved company alignment, higher compensation, and a positive career outlook with more opportunities.
Breaking it down even further, according to the same survey cited above, 88% of CSMs would stop quiet quitting if they had:
- A clear direction and support from management
- More career growth and development opportunities
- Better wages and benefits
- Improved alignment of job responsibilities with company goals and customer needs
- Better work-life balance and a realistic workload
- Improved company culture and open communication
- New leadership and management changes
- Proper resources and support from other teams
- Promotions and intellectual stimulation
The results show an even spread among all of these demands, proving there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to keeping CSMs happy. As one would expect, different people want different things, and so it all boils down to your ability to listen, to be there for your team, and to ensure the workplace provides a positive environment for CS to thrive.
Beyond this simple but oh-so-vital advice, here are some concrete things I believe we as a community can do better:
What CS Leaders Can Do to Meet CSM Demands
1. Champion CS Alignment and Constantly Work Towards It
Look at the list above - how many items have to do with direction, alignment, goals, and communication? These are 4 pillars of good customer success. And they could easily be solved through simple customer success alignment.
Company-wide CS alignment helps keep the focus on customer outcomes and makes everyone’s work lives easier by simply giving them a target and guidance to reach that target. This removes the guesswork from a CSM’s daily routine and aids with decision fatigue (according to the American Psychological Association, a third of adults and half of millennials struggle with basic decisions).
So - help keep everyone in check with adequate support from their colleagues. The following teams should always be talking to each other:
- Customer Success
To solve this, make a plan for alignment moving forward and champion it. You’ll mostly take baby steps until you can get the message across, but you’re still moving in the right direction.
2. Help Overwhelmed CSMs with a Hands-on Approach
Instead of trying to “fix” high-level issues, CS leaders can occasionally take some of the workload off CSMs’ shoulders. This goes beyond managing escalations, which should always be the responsibility of the CS team leader. I’m talking about helping CSMs with menial, day-to-day tasks that might otherwise drag their productivity down.
Don’t think it’s a great use of your time? You’re not framing it correctly. You’re not just doing the tasks, you’re also actively promoting a supportive work environment, exercising good management skills, and fostering honest, productive work relationships.
Another plus is that CSMs will understand what you’re doing and appreciate it. In CS, we’re all used to providing this level of support to our clients. All it takes is to flip the script and offer it internally.
3. Be Organized, Set Correct Expectations, Be Open to Feedback
It’s always a good moment to get a reminder of good management practices. So brush up on your skills and remember:
- Promote open and honest communication within the team and with others
- Be organized with workflows, goals, and proper resources to support your team
- Set correct expectations by outlining exact job responsibilities
- Be professional, don’t show your weak spots, and respect your teams’ work-life balance
- Always be open to feedback and make sure everyone knows how and when to deliver that feedback to maximize efficiency
- Engage with your team and help them succeed
- Regularly check in with your team and be honest with them
4. Set and Hold Recurring One-to-One Meetings
To that last point, recurring one-to-one meetings are a somewhat undervalued management tactic that can in fact bring great returns because:
- It allows for honest and clear conversations that wouldn’t otherwise happen
- It encourages your team to present issues or ideas they may have
- It builds trust and confidence in you as a manager
From a CS standpoint, aligning in this way will help you set accurate customer goals and calibrate workloads in order to achieve them. It will also promote emotionally intelligent ways of approaching difficult topics, serving as a model for CSMs in their own meetings.
5. Reduce Workloads through Automation and Scalable Team Assets
Automating customer success is a great way to help your CSMs keep their day-to-day tasks in check. While it works best for low-touch or tech-touch engagement models, some level of automation can be useful for any type of customer.
Automation flows are ideal for:
- Monitoring customer health scores
- Sending emails at specific moments in the customer journey
- Handling proactive engagement
- Notifications on upsell / cross-sell opportunities
- Account assignments and task assignments with stakeholder visibility
Beyond these playbooks, CS leaders can also benefit from having scalable team assets such as:
- A simple product change that removes unnecessary and tedious work for all CSMs
- Onboarding documentation and product tours - kickstarting an account is always a difficult task, so having a list of resources you give to every customer (adjusted based on your needs) can remove unnecessary friction from the process.
- Customer success content - guides, tutorials, blog posts - anything that can help your customers get the job done.
- A community around your customers - this will enable customers to help each other, particularly when they encounter similar issues.
Good Managers Make Good Teams
Remember that your customer success team is a reflection of your management style. So it’s your responsibility to support the team and work with them to drive customer outcomes, CS alignment and help keep their workloads in the achievable realm.
Got any other CS management tips? I’m particularly curious to see what this community thinks, so don’t forget to check my discussion post for more info!
Irina Vatafu is the Lead Customer Success Manager at Custify. As an ANC Certified Trainer and a Customer Success Manager, Irina uses her technical background to better understand SaaS businesses and drive them to success.
 Roughly 47 million people quit their jobs last year: 'All of this is uncharted territory'
 STUDY - Quiet Quitting & Employee Retention in CS
 Decision Fatigue Is Real. Here’s How to Beat It This Year. - WSJ