Helping Customers Achieve Value: The Role of Customer Success Managers

This post was originally published on Medium by Shane Ketterman

After reading a recent article from Customer Success Collective, it got me thinking about what Customer Success Managers (CSM) can do to add value to the customer relationship and the organization. 

Value is often talked about to increase expansion opportunities, increase retention, facilitate upsells, and ultimately build deeper relationships with the customer. Even with that said, what exactly is value? Value, in my opinion, must be embedded into every CSM team and Customer Success organization, but let’s get into the why

Adding value shouldn’t be an afterthought. After all, the mission of Customer Success is to help customers achieve their desired outcomes. Customer Success is both a driver of value and realization for the customer.

So, how can we add value to the customer? To add real value to the customer journey, CSMs must have a proactive approach. Creating value for the customer shouldn’t be a reactive practice, it should be proactive. Adding value to the customer journey should be a part of onboarding, adoption, and expansion.

Two key skills that help add value to the customer journey are empathy and active listening. CSMs should use these two skills as a way to get to the epicenter of customer needs, ensure they feel listened to and provide a pathway to a trusting and deeper partnership 

Business Objectives — Defining Value

Once there is a better understanding of the customer’s desired outcomes, now it’s time to focus on business objectives.

If CSMs can connect the customer’s desired outcomes to their broader business objectives, it sets the stage for a stronger customer connection. It also demonstrates and communicates to the customer how the CSM is making a positive impact on corporate goals. It’s a win-win situation, so here are three ways to get CSMs started on determining business objectives:

Ask Questions: Simply ask the customer what their goals are. Even if your contact does not know, that is okay because it provides the opportunity to find someone in the organization that does know. It’s important here to approach this situation with curiosity to not come off as being too “nosey.” 

Research. Customers that are public companies will have publicly  accessible annual reports and a plethora of information that the CSM can easily find on the web. For private companies, it can be more challenging, but there may still be things you can find on their website. Researching the company can give insight into its objectives and goals.

Assume (with care).  Make assumptions with a bit of care. If the CSM can’t gain valuable insight into the business objectives by asking or researching, consider making light assumptions based on what you have learned about the customer and their business.

Driving Adoption = Furthering Value

Value is tied to adoption, and adoption is (most likely) tied to corporate objectives. So, in turn, driving adoption goes hand-in-hand with the customer achieving value and their objectives.

This is a challenging aspect for the CSM because adoption is an exercise in change management. Helping people change their habits is a difficult process, but there are several ways CSMs can assist:

  1. Share the benefits: Backing the change with its benefits can help alleviate the pain and challenges that come from such a transition.
  2. Communicate: Communication is key for customer adoption because people need to understand what is changing and, most importantly, why the change is needed.
  3. Customer Impact: How will this change affect your customers? Be crystal clear, set expectations, and communicate openly, honestly, and transparently with the customer. Note the frustration of the current situation must always be greater than the outcome following the change to prove it was worth it. 

To drive adoption and value, it’s important to stay prescriptive. This means CSMs must provide their full support to executive sponsors and key stakeholders that are responsible for driving change within the organization. It’s also important to note that CSMs should also want to make them look good. This is about them, not us. Remember, their ego is at stake. Finally, leverage their success. By helping them look good, we can gain access to sponsorships at the C-Suite level.

Communicating and Proving Value

A lot of thought and planning goes into adding value for the customer. But value is nothing unless CSMs effectively communicate it and can prove that. 

Here are a couple ways to communicate and prove value to the customer:

  1. Clearly define success: When business objectives are clarified, ensure they are crystal clear to the customer. If the objective is to improve efficiency, clarify by how much. If the objective is to increase revenue, clarify by what percentage. Connect success to the value created. 
  2. Link success to business outcomes. Once success is defined, tie that directly to business outcomes. Is it efficiency? Revenue? Lower expenses? Clarify which one(s). 

At the end of the day, it comes down to creating compelling reasons for that customer to renew with your product or service, and they will if they are gaining value with your solution. 

Put simply, business objectives are what the business wants to achieve to consider itself successful. Ultimately, it’s about them. The solution the CSMs are providing needs to add value by helping them achieve these objectives. The job of a CSM is to prove value and clearly communicate that value. Communicating value is a huge driver of the Vitally platform, providing a centralized location for customers and CSMs to collaborate and have full visibility into projects and internal/external communication. This not only drives productivity for both teams, but the visibility it provides to customers can also further drive adoption and further value impact.

This blog was written and contributed by Shane Ketterman. Vitally is proud to distribute thought leadership content to the Customer Success community. If you know of an article or author with some Customer Success knowledge and wisdom worthy of endorsement, we would love to expand its reach. Reach out to with all the details, plus visit our blog to read more Customer Success content worthy of your time.

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