From an interview with



Directors and VPs in Customer Success tend to quickly learn how important it is to coach and develop their CSMs. In some companies, Success manages less budget and therefore needs to hire ambitious, junior CSMs and then grow them into senior CSMs. But another major reason why this pattern exists is that companies don’t tend to clearly define the Customer Success Manager role. It can serve as a catchall bucket, which forces the CSM role to play second fiddle to other functions.


The best way for Directors and VPs to up-level their CSMs is to clarify the role of the CSM. And the best way to do that is to answer these five questions:

  1. Why does the CSM role exist? This isn’t a philosophical question about why CSMs exist in general, but rather a question of why the CSM exists at your company. It can be written as a “purpose statement,” which should be simple and easy to remember, and focused on the customer and tied to the company’s mission. It takes time and iterations to articulate what your team is all about. At Degreed, here’s our statement: “Degreed CSMs exist to cultivate in our Customers a curiosity, capability and commitment to building experts in their people.”
  2. What are CSMs responsible for? After understanding the purpose of the CSM role, get clear on the responsibilities that CSMs have to fulfill to achieve that purpose. There are two high-level categories of responsibilities: 1. The first is core to Customer Success across all companies. In order for customers to be successful, CSMs need to be responsible for helping customers realize indisputable value worth more than their investment, and for delivering exceptional experiences that leave the Customer with full confidence that you sincerely value the relationship and are helping them realize value. 2. The second category may be a list of responsibilities that are slightly different depending on the company’s product, growth stage, etc. This should be a list of outcome drivers like alignment, readiness, enablement, adoption, engagement, advocacy, or something else.
  3. How do CSMs do their job well? This should be a document outlining the mindsets (“how we act”) and skillsets (the combination of technical and soft skills required to be successful) the team should practice and work towards. At Degreed, we include Authentic Altruism, Relentless Ambition, and Extreme Ownership, (among others) in our list of Mindsets. Strategic Insight, Disciplined Execution, and Intentional Agility are a few of the Skillsets we look for and build. Every characteristic or behavior listed is defined. They also serve as a guide in recruiting and hiring, managing performance, building team culture, and more. 
  4. What do CSMs need to do their job well? When we enable CSMs to give their best and focus on the Customers, they deliver indisputable value and exceptional experiences to Customers. To do that, I regularly assess how we’re doing across this operating framework: there are four operational dimensions that CSMs need to thrive. 1. Organizational alignment around the company’s ‘why’ and the expectations of their role. 2. Operational Infrastructure—do the CSMs have the tools, data, processes, documentation they need to do their job well? 3. Team enablement, meaning are CSMs equipped with the right messaging and content, training, and tools and templates to do their job at the right level of quality and consistency? 4. Relational Engagement—are we building authentic relationships with CSMs and a cohesive environment? 
  5. How do CSMs know they’re doing their job well? The final question comes down to metrics. These should be aligned with what you defined in #2 - the outcome drivers that CSMs are responsible for.



The top articles this week: 

This week's newsletter features posts on: 

  • 6 Ways to Drive Revenue Performance in a Downturn
  • Evolution the Customer Success Org
  • Why You Should Eliminate the Title "Implementation Consultant" 
  • How to Structure Compensation for a Customer Success Team




6 Ways to Drive Revenue Performance in a Downturn

Here’s a list from Brex’s CCO Roli Saxena and Operator Collective Founder Mallun Yen with ways to drive revenue in the midst of an economic recession. Here’s some of the advice they share: 1. Make sure you’re aligning your product to areas of immediate customer need, 2. “Creating champions is more difficult in a virtual environment,” so strive for executive alignment early in the sales cycle, and 3. Track an updated set of leading indicators. “Understand the outcomes your customers strive for, and measure your team’s success against those goals.”

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Evolution of the Customer Success Org 

Russ Drury, Manager - Strategic Customer Success at InVision, offers a model to help visualize how the responsibilities of CSMs change as a company moves through the stages of maturity.

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Why You Should Eliminate the Title "Implementation Consultant" From Your Startup

Dave Kellogg, enterprise software startup consultant, makes the case for eliminating the job title implementation consultant in favor of consultant. He says, “What do implementation consultants think they do? Well, implementations.” And “what customer equates implementation with success? None.”  

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Policy: How to Structure Compensation for a Customer Success Team

Here’s an example compensation plan from Tomasz Tunguz (Partner at Redpoint Ventures). While I don’t agree with the objectives he’s selected to evaluate CSMs on (e.g., Product Adoption is a lagging metric, so we should measure the leading indicators of that outcome), I like the format—outlining the comp plan in this way can help set expectations and drive focus.

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