How to Avoid Burnout as a Customer Success Manager

Burnout happens gradually, then suddenly.

Sorry to put a gloomy spin on Hemingway's famous quote, but it highlights an undeniable truth: if you aren't careful, your work life can take a heavy toll.

As a Customer Success Manager, you've got a lot on your plate. You're juggling anywhere between 10 to 200 paying customers, building relationships, meeting expectations, handling account management and admin tasks, and that might not even be half of what's on your current to-do list.

Unfortunately, all this reactive firefighting can really mess with your mental and physical well-being. It piles on the pressure, leaving you stressed, overworked, perhaps even depressed — a situation we want to help you avoid. 

That's why we've put together this guide, to help prevent Customer Success Manager burnout in the first place. By drawing from the experience and expertise of seasoned CSMs, we'll show you how to serve your client base without being overwhelmed.

For a deep look at the anxieties and stressors that keep CSMs up at night, read Vitally's latest research report The Secret Lives of CSMs.

1. Don't Take on the Work of Other Departments

“As CSMs, we naturally want to do all we can to serve our customers, but we’re not a be-all-end-all resource,” says Taylor Pettiford, a Customer Success Manager at Vitally. "Throughout the day, we encounter situations where a customer's request or inquiry is better suited for another specialized team. The key is to identify those moments and do a prompt and warm handover to the appropriate team, ensuring your workload remains manageable."

Take, for instance, technical troubleshooting questions from a client; it's not within the CSM's purview to address them directly. Instead, your company likely has a dedicated team equipped to handle such technical issues. Similarly, when faced with contractual inquiries, directing them to the renewal team ensures that the right experts address these matters promptly.

By adhering to these organizational swimlanes, you establish a clear division of responsibilities while relieving yourself of unnecessary work pressure and distractions. You can focus on your core responsibilities, ensuring you’re at your best as a CSM. This realization not only lowers stress levels but also acts as a protective measure against burnout. 

2. Seek Out a Mentor

An internal mentor at your organization can be a powerful ally, helping you to prioritize tasks and gain insights on potential challenges. With their valuable guidance, internal mentors can help you enhance your competencies, optimize your schedule, and strike a healthier work-life balance, which means less risk of burnout from overworking.

But it's not just about work challenges — your mentor is also there for emotional support. They lend an empathetic ear, helping you navigate stress and frustration in your day-to-day experiences. This invaluable support resource builds resilience, further shielding you from burnout.

In addition to an internal mentor, Shawna Partin, Senior Customer Success Manager at Catalyst, recommends having an external mentor. 

In an interview for the Customer Success Collective podcast, Partin said, "External mentors create a safe space where you can be more transparent about your long-term career aspirations without fearing how your current manager might perceive them. Moreover, this external perspective can offer unique insights, helping you approach challenges in new and innovative ways, ultimately leading to increased efficiency and faster achievement of your desired goals."

To find an external mentor, begin by exploring your personal network. If you deeply admire someone, don't hesitate to reach out and ask for their guidance. Chances are, they'll be happy to support a fellow CS professional and provide you with valuable insights for improvement.

For more tips on finding an effective mentor, check out this LinkedIn post from Donna Schilder, MCC, where she delves into the process further.

3. Set Expectations Upfront

Customer Success Leader Rachel Jennings-Keane emphasizes the importance of managing customer expectations from the get-go to avoid burnout. 

In a Gainsight podcast, she candidly shared her experience working at a Sydney-based tech startup. "I realized that I unintentionally set the wrong expectations for my clients. I used to respond to messages and take meetings even outside of my regular work hours, often apologizing when I couldn't reply immediately. Unfortunately, this created the impression that I was available 24/7, which wasn't the case," she reflects.

Learning from this, Jennings now advocates for setting clear boundaries to provide focused and effective service.

To start, establish specific working hours and communicate your availability clearly (e.g., "I’m available between 9 AM to 5 PM EST from Monday to Friday.”). For customers with different time zones, consider flexible arrangements within your availability.

Furthermore, put escalation protocols in place to manage important customer requests without compromising your work-life balance. Make sure these protocols outline customer expectations and provide a structured process for reaching out, troubleshooting, and sharing updates.

By taking this proactive approach, you can expedite issue resolution and avoid the feeling of constant vigilance, which is a key contributor to burnout.

Related: Watch this great discussion of the CSM burnout topic courtesy of the Lifetime Value podcast:

4. Carefully Prioritize Your Accounts

In the same podcast, Jennings-Keane shared another fantastic tip that can really make a difference: Prioritize your customer accounts. 

"When I joined Domo, I was given 45 accounts. Treating each one equally would have given me just 18 minutes per month to spend with them — not exactly the best way to make a real impact. That's when I decided to create my own priority ranking metrics to prioritize my customers," she recalls.

Here's how Jennings’ ranking system works: First, take into account factors like annual recurring revenue, upsell potential, engagement with marketing, team structure, and renewal dates. Then based on this info, assign each customer a ranking and sort them into high, medium, and low priority buckets.

While the high-priority customers warrant most of your attention, don't neglect the others. Handle your medium- and low-priority customers with resourcefulness and efficiency, ensuring they feel valued and heard without monopolizing your time.

5. Boost Your Efficiency With Powerful Automations

In Customer Success, efficiency is your ultimate ally in preventing burnout — and embracing CSP automations to reduce repetitive work is the game-changer. It's like having a powerful assistant at your side, seamlessly managing routine tasks, making you more effective in your role.

Take automated journeys for tech-touch customer success, for example. They simplify onboarding and management processes, optimizing experiences with minimal effort from your end. Similarly, setting up an onboarding workflow delivers consistent experiences while saving time.

Now, you're probably wondering how to automate your workflow. It's actually simple: with Customer Success Platform (CSP) software

CSPs are designed to automate various aspects of your job, from onboarding processes to customer communications and data tracking. And not to toot our own horn, but Vitally is an excellent option to consider. Our platform offers a suite of tools to reduce manual effort and keep you efficient and focused on what truly matters.

Vitally csp software customer success csm burnout

For example, you can use Vitally to:

  • Capture notes in meetings and automate repetitive work
  • Build a robust knowledge base for self-service options
  • Manage projects and tasks seamlessly for your team and customers.
  • Create and track Health Scores and NPS in real-time
  • Collaborate with customers using interactive docs for smooth interactions
  • Optimize conversations to engage customers at the right times

Don't worry about losing your personal touch with customer success automation. On the contrary, these tools empower you to focus on building meaningful relationships and delivering exceptional customer success.

As Idiomatic Founder Chris Martinez puts it, "When the menial tasks are automated, CSMs are able to focus on the larger picture. They can then identify areas for improvement for the company or product as a whole as opposed to putting out fires."

6. Delegate Tasks as Much as Possible

CSMs often feel driven to pursue perfection, taking on everything themselves to ensure flawless outcomes. However, there's an important lesson to be learned: Letting go and embracing delegation is crucial for personal and team growth.

Matthew Ramirez, the founder of Rephrase and a Forbes 30 under 30 alumni, experienced this firsthand early in his career. Fueled by a desire to be fully hands-on with clients and his business, Ramirez pushed himself relentlessly, neglecting rest, only to realize this approach wasn't sustainable.

Recognizing the need for change, Ramirez made a transformative decision to delegate and train his team. "I started outsourcing tasks and expanding my team. I then provided them with weekly training sessions to help them excel in areas I once managed alone," he told Vitally.

Embracing delegation and refining his systems proved to be a turning point for Ramirez. In just two years, his company's revenue surged by over 35%.

Note that delegation isn't micromanaging. Instead, it's about building a team of capable individuals you can trust to handle tasks efficiently without constant supervision. Having enough manpower is crucial too, so don't hesitate to request additional support from top management to ensure that mission-critical work gets done.

Find Your Balance and Avoid Burnout as a CSM

​​As a Customer Success Manager, your natural instincts may lead you to be a "yes" person — always eager to solve problems, learn, and help out. But as time goes by and your responsibilities grow, it's easy to become overwhelmed with a backlog of opportunities, tasks, and responsibilities.

That's where finding balance becomes crucial. You have to take control of your time and calendar to avoid burnout. Prioritize wisely and avoid overworking yourself with every demand that comes your way. 

Take the first step toward alleviating burnout with Vitally and better manage your workload and responsibilities. Request a personalized demo with our team, and let us help you deliver proactive customer experiences with significantly less effort. 

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