Account Managers Vs. Customer Success Managers
Remember back in the day when we referred to people who worked with existing customers as “account managers?” Now, that’s an outmoded concept. The customer-centric era has shifted the paradigm from the stagnant, less personalized role of handling “an account” to the highly personal and goal-driven position of “customer success manager.”
The paradigm shift is more than just a change in nomenclature. Managing customer success requires an action-oriented mindset and a specific plan / process. It’s a relatively new field but companies that embrace this way of thinking are seeing lower churn, higher upsell opportunities, and more repeat buyers.
At Clicktools, we made this switch several years back. Especially in the SaaS business, it’s not enough for a customer to simply make a purchase and then gallop off into the sunset. For customers to be successful, we need to make sure that they’re using the software optimally and getting real value from it. We have an entire Customer Success team as well as comprehensive onboarding and training processes dedicated to doing just that.
A recent Process Street article, 14 SaaS Companies Reveal their Customer Success Process, points out: “For products like a t-shirt, there’s no need to make sure customers get success. If they bought it, wear it and like it, that’s enough. SaaS, on the other hand, can be complex stuff. Customers are at risk of giving up on things they don’t understand, can’t figure out how to implement or can’t get the rest of their team using.”
In addition to personal outreach and regular surveys (NPS is very popular with customer success teams), smart companies should devise a specific process for keeping customers active. We distilled our 15 years experience of implementing successful feedback solutions into a proven methodology built around five simple questions. This approach is grounded in defining customer journey(s) and gathering feedback at key customer touchpoints. Using a combination of workshops, research, and solution design, we walk our customers through these key questions to deliver a blueprint for a comprehensive feedback process and solution. We check in with customers systematically to make sure that they’re still on track and ideally, evolving toward an even broader use of the solution.
Another customer success team tip (from Process Street): “Always contact customers for a reason. No one likes to get the “I’m just checking in to see how things are going” call. Reach out with value, such as a new guide to using the product, or suggestions for how they can get more of what they need.”
The move toward Customer Success teams is a positive one for customers and companies alike. No one wants to feel like “an account” when interacting with an organization. We’re more likely to continue to use a product when we feel recognized as a human being with unique needs. Companies that identify “customer success” as the aim of an entire department will earn more loyal customers as well as more engaged employees, who are inspired to build real relationships, rather than just hitting a prescribed retention number.