Low morale is a problem for any team in a SaaS organization, but especially customer success. An upset customer, a lost account, a stressful week – these common occurrences are just some of the ways your team can get worn down.
It’s hard to create a positive experience for customers if the office is filled with tension and disappointment, so CSMs (and their team leaders) have to take steps to keep the energy and job satisfaction high.
Today, I’d like to offer some advice to improve the morale of your customer success team.
Customer success is a proactive discipline. The most successful teams create solutions that improve the experiences of all customers, not just customers who are upset right now.
CSMs’ job is to identify weak points in the product and the service, and then roll out changes that smooth out the entire journey. This is the best way to fight churn – by never giving the customers a reason to cancel.
But many (possibly most) customer success teams are working in a reactive manner. They spend a majority of their day solving immediate problems.
This “putting out fires” type of work isn’t good for the customer because it creates tumultuous experience. It’s not good for the organization who inevitably loses customers. And that type of work is bad for the customer success manager who doesn’t want to deal with the stress and headache of yet another emergency.
A good CSM isn’t designed to work like that. They can’t solve tomorrow’s problem if they are constantly bogged down in yesterday’s problem. That’s a pattern of survival, not progress.
Start by isolating your team’s biggest problem. What will squeeze out more time in each day? What will nudge your retention up just a bit so you have one less customer on your back each month?
Pour all of your resources into that big problem. Even if it’s just an hour per day. All hands on deck here. Create a real solution, not just a Band-Aid.
Snowball what little time you have into the next problem. Then the next one. Eventually your retention will creep up and you’ll squeeze out enough time each day to devote several hours to working proactively.
Then you can spend time and resources on legitimate improvements, like overhauling your documentation and creating a process for quarterly business reviews. Those types of tasks are how customer success teams add real value.
Early SaaS organizations tend to assign work based on availability. When you’re bootstrapping, you don’t have the luxury of hiring a new person for every new task. You give it to someone who has room in their schedule.
This only works for a short time. Eventually the work requires a level of expertise that isn’t available in just anyone. If you ask Jim, the help desk support representative, to create a quarterly business review, he’s going to fail (through no fault of his own).
Everyone has their strengths. When people perform work that is best suited to their individual talents, overall efficiency increases. They will naturally work faster and harder. (Productivity can rise as much as 12.5% just by employing a strength-based task system, which is a lot considering you don’t have to introduce any new resources.)
Assigning work based on strengths improves engagement, as well. Employees are six times more likely to be engaged on the job if they get to use their primary strengths every day. It’s hard to lose morale when you feel like you’re adding value to your organization. Alternatively, it’s easy to feel defeated when you’re forced to use your weaknesses each day (because it likely comes with a fair bit of failure).
You need to be honest with your team and recognize their strengths. Have open conversations about their skills and where they fit best in the customer success program.
Then delegate tasks or roles based on those strengths. Give work to whomever is best equipped to handle it. If Frank is an exceptional writer, he should be crafting your documentation. If Janice is an excellent presenter, she might be the one to lead your business review presentations.
Customer support, account managers, and customer success all have customer-facing roles, but their jobs are distinctly different. Unfortunately, many organizations confuse those roles.
Often, customer success managers end up performing tasks that are better delegated to other teams. Why? Because the trade is relatively new. Some executives are tentative about hiring for customer success because they don’t understand it well. They fill the program with extra duties so they feel like they’re getting some immediate return on their investment.
In other cases, customer success just evolves weirdly. An account manager or salesmen is nudged into the customer success role, but they still spend time wearing a different hat. As positions change, the purpose of the customer success program get muddied (if it had a defined purpose at all).
Your CSMs should not be resolving basic technical problems with your product or handing day-to-day customer issues. Even an upset customer who can’t log into the application isn’t a CSMs priority. Let customer support handle these issues. Support professionals usually excel at dealing with problems that require a fast response anyway.
Account managers are fundamentally different from CSMs. Where the CSM supports the client, the AM supports the organization. For instance, when it comes time to request that renewal or to pitch an upgrade or expansion, the AMs should lead the conversation. You don’t want your customer to perceive your CSM as another salesmen.
Furthermore, the customer success team’s role in sales and marketing should only be consultative. Share your information with those teams. Advise them as best you can, but don’t build yourself (or allow yourself to be built) into their process.
So you can boost the morale of your customer success team by taking tasks off their plate that never belonged there in the first place. That doesn’t mean they get less work, just less unimportant work.
In customer success, it’s easy to lose a semblance of work/life balance. If you work in an organization with a retention problem, your CSMs can get swept away in the constant state of emergency. There’s always another problem that needs immediate attention.
Even if the leadership doesn’t require late nights and at-home work, hardworking people will feel compelled to devote themselves more. When they aren’t working, they’re stressing about not working because they have to bring that retention number up.
I’ve seen this personally. It’s really easy for a CSM to get burnt out. I’ve seen good CSMs quit their organizations and the field of customer success because of unsustainable work conditions.
No matter what role you play in your customer success program (or if you’re the executive who put the program in place), it’s important to help your team balance work and life. Make them go home at reasonable hours. Insist they use their vacation and sick time appropriately. Don’t worry if they arrive 10 minutes late or check Facebook at their desk.
Most importantly, if a CSM seems frazzled, recognize that it takes a while for a built-to-serve person to become stressed in a service role. They were made to serve customers, they could be near their breaking point.
Instead of pushing for more work and effort, focus on their results. Are accounts being serviced properly? Do customers report that they’re happy with the product’s value? Is that retention number getting better?
In customer success, you have to keep morale high if you want your team to have positive interactions with your customers and strive to produce lots of value.
Address your team’s morale before there’s a problem. Happy, satisfied employees who like their jobs and feel respected are far more productive than disgruntled workers who just want to go home. It’s much easier to keep morale high than repair it later.
How do you keep morale high in your team? Let me know in the comments.