Customer Success Managers can usually rattle off a number of metrics and statistics they use to measure their customer's health and success. But it gets a little less standardized when you begin asking them how they measure their own success. I've asked fellow CSMs what their KPIs are and have heard different replies each time. This question has even been one of the most discussed points for my team as we've quadrupled in size in less than a year.
When you are a Customer Success Manager, your fundamental measurement of success is simply whether or not your customers are successful. Some would argue that an acceptable alternative is "your customers feel successful enough to renew" which is a defeatist attitude and is not customer-centric. Renewals and churn are both important metrics to keep an eye on, but they're not the only ones. Customer Success teams should own or be partially accountable for broad KPIs such as overall renewal and churn, as well as any other areas for which they are responsible. For some teams, this includes hitting customer support SLAs. Other teams own expansions and growing existing business, so they will need to track the amount of revenue that they are generating with existing customers. Customer Success Managers are guided by health scores that indicate customer satisfaction, NPS, adoption, and product usage.
These larger departmental goals should serve as guidelines for individual CSM metrics, with a focus on the part they play in their customer's successes. Support Managers within Customer Success teams report their ticket volume and the efficiency of their work within support channels. Account Managers are assessed by renewals (and sometimes expansions) in conjunction with Customer Success Managers.
If you're just getting started or are in the process of reevaluating your CSM team's goals, it can be advantageous to take a top-down approach. For example, our VP of Customer Success has departmental goals, which we then break down to the teams within Customer Success -- which for us includes Account Management (our AMs handle renewals, while expansions are owned by a different department), Customer Support, and Customer Success. Each of these teams work together to play into the success of the entire customer journey, and we have broken down our goals to reflect the areas over which we have influence.
I'll break down some KPIs that I have seen CSMs use, to show the impact of their work with the mindset that Account Management and Customer Success are siloed and have different performance metrics. If your organization combines the two roles, you'll want to include data surrounding renewals, expansions, and churn to your CSM's personal goals.
There are a few parts of the customer journey that are specific to Customer Success Managers and are directly impacted by them. The first aspect is initial training and onboarding. In addition to general adoption, CSMs often look for signs of healthy customers early on through gathering CSAT feedback after they have had a chance to use a product for a few months. Feedback should be provided by the customer when possible, so the CSAT can accurately reflect their level of satisfaction, instead of just a wild guess.
Your Customer Success software should reflect your customer's journey, and guide you through steps and tasks that have been identified as success factors for new and existing customers. From day one, our partners work with a dedicated Success Manager responsible for initial account setup, training, and the majority of onboarding. Once customers are fully onboarded, there are specific touch-points we have identified as essential for continued success. We hold our CSMs accountable for completing or overseeing these account-specific to-dos each quarter. These can be things like quarterly business reviews or new feature training. Above and beyond the predetermined items for the quarter, our CSMs are empowered to add elements and projects they see as beneficial for growth and improvement. As a final component, we have self-determined personal goals that allow our Customer Success Managers to grow their careers and skills.
As you explore and assess your team's KPIs and goals ask the following questions:
- How do we quantify a successful customer onboarding experience?
- What are our CSAT or customer NPS goals as a department? What part does the CSM play in overall customer-reported health?
- How do we hold CSMs accountable for nurturing their accounts and ongoing training?
- Are we able to report on product usage and adoption, and what role does the CSM play in increasing these metrics?
- Do we want to create metrics around customer advocacy -- their willingness to refer new businesses and/or participate in marketing efforts?
- Are there elements of community management, account management, or general support to be included in the Customer Success Manager's KPIs?
Keep in mind there is no one perfect solution or set of metrics that will fit every Customer Success team. If you're unable to determine departmental goals, or are a team of one, ask other companies what they're doing and keep iterating on your KPIs -- until you're able to find metrics that show room for improvement, indicate areas of strength, and highlight the individual Customer Success Manager's contribution to your organization's (and customer's!) success.
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