One of the most common ways that Customer Success teams unintentionally sabotage themselves is waiting until after they've hired a few CSMs to bring on a Customer Success Platform (CSP).
Choosing a CSP should be one of the first decisions you make while standing up a CS function at your company. By doing so, you'll allow your CSMs to ramp up faster and be fully set up for success from day one. Trying to implement a CSP well after your team is onboarded often leads to chaos and disorganization, as we'll get to later.
This article will explain how CSPs make it easier to train new CSM hires through the power of prescriptive playbooks, easily accessible customer information, and efficient task organization. We’ll also dive into why having a CSP in place from the beginning is essential for understanding your hiring needs.
How Customer Success Platforms Allow Your CSMs to Quickly Get Up to Speed
Customer Success Managers have to rapidly adapt to customer needs while delivering exceptional value. Fortunately, Customer Success Platforms have emerged as powerful allies in this endeavor. In this section, we'll explore how CSPs empower your CSMs to ramp up faster and more effectively.
CSMs Can Learn Their Jobs on the Job
“Learning by doing is the quickest way to digest information,” says Vitally Sales Manager Carly Bennett Hickey. “With a Customer Success Platform in place, newly hired CSMs can successfully jump into projects and playbooks that tell them what to do at exactly the right time without missing a beat.”
If you hire new team members before adopting a CSP, “CSMs will have to dig through documentation — if they even have any available —then use tribal knowledge on the fly to get something done,” Carly says. “A CSP like Vitally is prescriptive about how they need to do their job. It combines best practice documentation and all the information on how to actually get the customer from A to B.”
Here’s exactly how Customer Success Platforms help CSMs learn by doing:
- Centralized Data and Information. Customer Success Platforms typically provide a centralized repository for customer data, including historical interactions, preferences, and customer health scores. This information can be invaluable for new CSMs as it allows them to quickly get up to speed on a customer's history and current status, reducing the time it takes to understand the customer's needs and challenges. But having information all in one place isn’t the only benefit.
Carly says it’s also about “coming into a new organization and being forced to look through five different systems to understand how customers are successful. From internal process documentation, to historical information in your CRM, to customer usage data for past behavior — it’s a lot. For somebody new just coming in it can be hard to piece it all together without a prescriptive tool that can eliminate that analysis paralysis for you.”
Having a CSP makes it easy to “pick up where the last CSM left off,” Carly points out.
- Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing. Some Customer Success Platforms include collaboration features that facilitate knowledge-sharing among CSMs. New CSMs can benefit from the collective wisdom and experience of their team members, helping them learn and adapt more quickly.
For example, Vitally’s Customer 360 provides a comprehensive and centralized view of customer data, interactions, and history. This feature makes it easier for teams to hold a unified understanding of each customer’s needs.
“If a new CSM using Vitally has a question, they can simply chat with their teammate directly within the platform and ask for clarification," Carly says. "Or if you’re responding to an email with a customer you can simply @-mention tenured team members right within Vitally. That will automatically ping them in Slack to draw them in where you need help.”
Vitally also offers a collaborative document feature (Vitally Docs) and @-mention functionality for customers that makes actual collaboration that much simpler. “You can collaborate with customers on a shared project plan and get live feedback through that shared workspace,” says Carly.
“A shared workspace also allows you to respond to customers even faster through an open feedback loop. That means a newly hired CSM is no longer cold communicating with customers who are virtually strangers to them. Instead, they’re building on existing relationships through an established way of working.”
- Playbooks and Templates. Customer Success Platforms often include pre-built playbooks and templates for common customer interactions and scenarios.
As Carly explains: “If a CSM doesn’t know when or how to help a customer, they can actually be alerted by their CSP. For example, Vitally will automatically alert CSMs about clients considered to be at risk and provide real, strategic action steps for them. That means no wasting time looking for answers or waiting to hear back from more experienced team members. You just get the exact prescriptive and standardized next steps for a variety of different scenarios exactly when you need it.”
- Reporting and Analytics. Customer Success Platforms provide robust reporting and analytics capabilities, which can help new CSMs track their performance and understand which strategies are working best. This feedback loop is crucial for continuous improvement and can help CSMs refine their approaches over time.
CSPs Help CS Leadership Understand Their True Hiring Needs
Carly notes that “if [CS leadership] have a platform that manages inefficiencies and automates redundancies, they'll know what is actually required from their new CSMs.” They’ll also know how many CSMs are actually needed and have the data to back up their decision.
Here’s how CSPs drive productivity and allow leadership to run a successful CS operation even with a lean team:
- Task and Time Management. Customer Success Platforms often include features for task management and time tracking. These tools help new CSMs stay organized and ensure they are allocating their time effectively, reducing the risk of getting overwhelmed or missing critical customer interactions.
- Automation and Workflow. Many Customer Success Platforms offer automation features that can streamline routine tasks and workflows. This automation can help new CSMs by reducing the learning curve associated with complex processes. For example, automated email campaigns or task assignments can ensure that CSMs are following best practices from day one.
Tools such as Vitally offer workflow automation features that allow you to set up rules and triggers to automate various tasks and processes within your Customer Success operations. Not only does this improve efficiency but it also ensures that key actions are taken promptly in response to specific customer behaviors or events. You’ll be saving time for new hires and managers alike by simply automating both administrative and strategic tasks.
- Management Level Reporting. “A CSP can help gain visibility into how successful your CSMs are,” points out Carly. “It can also help leaders monitor capacity per CSM. For example, they can look at reports that aggregate customer health plus the size of a book of business per CSM and make informed decisions from there.
“Let’s say you’re looking at one dashboard that shows you a summary of all your CSMs and their accounts. You quickly see that between your ten CSMs, one of them has 50 accounts while another has 20. Your CSP shows you at a glance that the CSM’s book with 20 accounts is healthier than the CSM with 50. Then the tool itself lays out exactly how to course correct by divvying up the workload or other next suggested steps,” Carly says.
“Or you can even prevent issues like this from coming up by using your CSP to determine when your CSMs could potentially be over capacity with diminishing marginal returns from managing more customers. Then all you have to do is plan accordingly.”
How To Set Up CSMs For Success From Day One
The first days and weeks in a new role are pivotal for CSMs as they familiarize themselves with your company, product, and customer base. In this section, we'll explore essential strategies and best practices to ensure that your CSMs hit the ground running. The goal: Deliver value to your customers and contribute to your organization's growth right from your CSM’s very first day on the job.
Find a Customer Success Platform You Love
Begin by defining your specific requirements. Reflect on the unique challenges your Customer Success team faces, such as customer communication, data management, and reporting. No need to drive yourself nuts building the perfect CSP in your mind’s eye — a bulleted list is enough to help jog your memory after you dive into all the options.
When comparing tools, look for features that align with the requirements you’ve just outlined. Just in case you haven’t already thought of these, we recommend the following essential features for CSMs:
- Customer data centralization for smoother onboarding and organization
- Automated task management so that CSMs can focus less on admin and more on higher return activities
- Customer communication tracking to keep everyone on the same page in terms of where the client is in their journey
- A user-friendly interface so that daily use is intuitive and easy to navigate
- Seamless integration with your current software stack including your chosen CRM, email, and other tools in order to maximize efficiency
- Look for automation capabilities that can help CSMs streamline routine tasks. This will allow them to focus on higher ROI activities. Workflow automation can simplify processes like onboarding and renewal tracking too.
- Robust reporting and analytics tools are a must for newly hired CSMs. These features help track customer health, identify at-risk accounts, and measure team performance.
- The ability to centralize customer communication, including emails, calls, and notes, is crucial for maintaining a holistic view of customer interactions.
- Ensure the platform can scale with your team and business growth. That means accommodating new team members and increased customer volumes.
- Look for a platform that offers comprehensive training and support resources to help your team make the most of the tool. This leads to higher adoption rates and makes onboarding that much easier for newly hired CSMs.
Ensure Lighting-Fast CSP Adoption for New Hires
There are two highly effective ways to do this. The first is to create internal CSP guides, as Avid’s Head of Customer Success & Support Roi Kiouri writes. “Every Customer Success team has their own ways of doing things and uses different tools based on the industry they’re catering for,” shared Kiouri in a recent LinkedIn Pulse article. “This means that even if the new CSM is perfect for the role skills-wise, they most likely need to be brought up to speed with how you specifically handle different aspects of your day-to-day.”
Short on time? Kiouri says delegate this task to teammates who are willing to help and who use the tool the most.
The second highly effective way to get CSMs to adopt your CSP from the get-go is to choose a tool that is actually scalable. “Let’s say you come up with a new customer onboarding process and it's something CSMs agree they want to change,” says Carly. “You don’t want that request to be sitting in a queue for an operations person. It'll just get delayed. Ideally, as a CS leader you want a platform where you can adjust something on the fly and roll it out in a matter of days, not weeks.”
“Gone are the days where you have a CS platform that is completely administered by the CSP company,” Carly explains. “You can always make your process better and Customer Success is evolving every day. You need a platform you can adjust however and whenever you want.”
CSPs Are the Secret Sauce for CSM Onboarding
Investing in a Customer Success Platform is not just a smart move — it's an essential strategy for the future of newly hired Customer Success Managers and their team leaders.
Not only does it enable CSMs to hit the ground running with a single source of truth, automated processes, and access to intuitive templates, but it also provides strategic managerial tools CS leaders need to put together a winning team in the first place. If you wait to bring on your CSP until after your team is in place, you’ll face real opportunity costs and lose out on these plus other essential benefits.
In fact, waiting to adopt a CSP can even be actively detrimental to the team. How? “If you're teaching your CSMs to ramp a certain way, then introducing a different way when you bring a CSP on, you’re perpetuating illogical change management,” warns Carly. That means having at least double the work if you decide to adopt a CSP after hiring or switch things up down the road.
By integrating a robust CSP into your tech stack as soon as you launch your Customer Success efforts, you not only streamline your onboarding procedures but also empower your team to be more productive. Schedule a demo with a Vitally CSP expert today and take your Customer Success strategy to the next level.