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Quiet Quitting: Why do 86% of CSMs want to quit their jobs? | Webinar

March 6, 2023 29 minutes read

Summary points:

Quiet quitting is not just another buzzword. In our most recent survey, we focused on quiet quitting in the customer success industry. That’s why we invited Rachel Provan, Founder and CEO at Provan Success and Nineta Ceaus, HR Director at GroupM to uncover more insights about this issue.

In this webinar, we discuss the eye-opening statistics we’ve discovered in our study, and we provide tips for CS leaders on how they can prevent quiet quitting in their organization.

Intro

Irina 00:00
Good morning, good afternoon, and happy Wednesday to everyone! It’s such a pleasure to be with all of you today, especially on the first day of spring.

I’m Irina Cismas and I’m Head of Marketing at Custify. I am going to be your host for the following hour. With me, I have two amazing speakers whom I’m sure you’re going to love. First off, we have Rachel Provan was not just a top 50 Customer Success leader, but also a coach with over 14 years of experience in Customer Success. She founded her own company, Provan Success, to help others advanced in their careers and build successful customer success departments. Welcome, Rachel, and thank you for accepting our invitation today!

Rachel 00:46
Thank you so much! I’m so happy to be here.

Irina 00:49
And then there’s Nineta Ceaus, HR director at GroupM. She’s got an incredible background in HR and organizational development with 20 years of experience as a trainer and a facilitator for national and international leadership programs. Thank you for being here today!

Today, we’re gonna talk about something that’s really interesting, and also quite surprising.
We shared a stat that said 86% of CSMs want to quit their jobs.

It’s a startling statistic, but we got some interesting insights to share with you all in the next hour or so.

Based on the study we conducted at Custify we know that a lot of CSMs are feeling burned out and are undervaluated. But we also know that there are some steps we can take to combat those feelings and build a more rewarding career in CS. And we’ll be sharing some of those tips around the conversation today. But first, we want to hear from all of you.

Experience burnout as a CSM

I am going to publish a poll and this time, I want to ask you all the ones that are joining us:

Have you ever experienced burnout in your role as a CSM?

I am going to publish the poll now. And we should give it a few more minutes for everyone to vote and contribute. And we’ll start today’s discussion by commenting on the numbers.

Up until now, 83% said that, indeed, they experienced burnout in their role as a CSM. I think it will be an 80-20 distribution. And I think, okay, 76 to 24 or 70-30. More of you were a few more moments.

Okay, so I think it’s 74-26% distribution. So, Rachel, and Nineta, how do you find the distribution? Is that surprising in any way?

Rachel 03:56
I mean, to me, it’s surprising in that I would think it would be more. And I don’t know how much of this is based in the US versus Europe or elsewhere. I think the state of CS right now is challenging. People are very susceptible to burnout because the current expectations are not particularly realistic. So if you’re not experiencing burnout, that’s fantastic. You have a good boss, you have good work-life boundaries, keep those because you don’t help anyone when you burn out. It’s not your fault if you burn out, but if you’re not in a situation where that’s the case, I’d hang on to it for the moment.

Nineta 04:43
Like Rachel mentioned, I was expecting a big number on this burnout because if you have a perfect life if you have a perfect boss, as you said, you know if you have perfect boundaries for your tasks and everything, life would be perfect, but it’s not. And right now when there’s something that’s not ok for us in the work environment, we are calling it burnout. So yeah, the numbers are a bit less than I expected. But if you ask yourself, if, in some period, you experienced burnout, the answer is yes, for sure.

Why do so many CSMs want to quit their jobs?

Irina 05:34
I want to start out with the statistic: Why do 86% of the CSMs do want to quit their job? How do you find this, Rachel, from a CS perspective.

Rachel 05:57
Yeah, the interesting thing when I posted this stat and told a couple of friends that are also thought leaders in the industry, they all said “Yeah, sounds right. Sounds a little low. We were thinking probably 89.”

Most of the comments I got said that the stat seemed right. And I would say that burnout is one thing. that can be very subjective. “Oh, I’m still upright. So I guess I haven’t burned out. I’m not in the hospital. So I guess I haven’t burned out.” It is subjective, but wanting to quit your job, wanting to go somewhere else that tells you something.

People don’t like looking for jobs. And most people I know are looking for one. Because the problem is that you can go and find another one, but right now, you’re probably going to find a lot more of the same thing. I have a feeling when the job market picks up, it’s going to be a lot of people going from one bad situation to the other. And they’re just going to switch places. And I’m hoping not, I think it will take a couple of turnovers before people realize I can’t keep a team together. So it doesn’t surprise me. CSMs are being asked to do three jobs.

Now, being a CSM is hard enough, it’s very busy, and oftentimes, it’s very reactive. And now they’re often being asked to do CS, support and now sales, without any training, by the way. This is not a miscellaneous department, it’s not possible to be successful, doing 15 different things. You need to pick a lane, you need to pick what you want us to focus on what you want us to achieve. And let us do that. Because it’s just not possible to achieve all those things from one person. Or even with one small team. So of course people want to leave when you’re being tasked with things that aren’t possible. That’s not a situation that anyone wants to be in. If you can’t win, you don’t want to play.

Cultivating a culture of open communication

Irina 08:26
I want to pick on what Rachel was saying. And I want to ask you from one HR perspective, how can HR teams work with CS leaders to create a culture of open communication and feedback so that CSMs feel comfortable expressing their concerns?

Nineta 08:48
First of all, you need to be very clear, what kind of culture do you want to have? When you know what kind of culture you want. If you want to have an open culture and open communication and feedback, I think that you need to have three things in your mind. There are three areas main areas that you need to pay attention on:

  1. All your people need to have clear set expectations, because employees are looking at their job description, for instance, just to see if they’re meeting the requirements. But it’s very nice, and it’s very healthy for your organization for the HR or the leader to really look to those job descriptions too. Does the job description or the development plan describes what is required in this particular role? Is the time that a person is expected to be at work reasonable and fair?
  2. Second, it’s updating the employee experience. We are coming after a pandemic. At first, it was very hard to talk with the people through the screen. After a period, it was very easy to talk with them through a screen. And in the last of the period, okay, we want to go back, we want to see each other in person. And suddenly all this employee experience needs to be changed. Their are looking for flexibility, they’re looking for familiarity, they are looking for connection. They need to be in the same room. But you need to pay attention to what they need. So you need to be very sure what kind of experience your employees wanted, or are looking for.
  3. And the third one, it’s that you, as a leader need to be a role model. If you put boundaries for yourself and for your work, put the same boundaries also for your team. If you are looking for life balance, if you are looking for open communication, be open in your communication. If you want feedback from your team, give feedback to your team. Be a role model because our people right now are looking for role models. And if this role model is the leader, the entire thing will be the same.

In my professional experience, I saw in the same company, different departments who are totally different. In some departments, the feedback was there, and it was open communication and everybody was talking. In the next room, the other department was not talking, not expressing what we’re feeling.

I think that the main skill that a leader needs is to have to maintain and also to encourage this open communication. But first of all, you need to state this: “I’m open to this kind of culture, I want to be part of this kind of team, so I invite you to be the same and me as a leader to be the role model.” I think that speaking it’s very simple. The practice side it’s a bit different.

But I think that we have a goal. And I think that in CS is not something totally different. I think it is similar to other industries. I think that you as a leader need to pay attention to people’s reactions. When somebody’s giving feedback, for instance, what is the reaction of the others? Are they afraid of this situation? Are they participating? And after this, of course, to act if it will be the case.

Rachel 13:24
I think you’re touching on probably the most important thing in leadership, and that’s psychological safety. The feeling that you can speak up, or admit you made a mistake, or ask a question, and know that you’re not going to be punished for that.

Everyone, especially with the economy the way it is right now, there’s this undercurrent of like: “Oh, my God, am I gonna get fired? Am I gonna get fired? If I ask a question, they’re gonna realize they don’t know something, and then that’s gonna put me on top line be fired.”

It’s everyone’s got that thrumming under the skin right now. And if we can be clear, even if we can’t be clear that like “Okay, your job is safe” we can be clear that look “You can always ask a question, you can always admit you made a mistake. I am not going to penalize you for that. If you make a mistake. We’re all going to learn from it because we’re all intelligent people here.” But as you say, as the leader you have to go first. You have to be willing to be vulnerable and say “Hey, I made a mistake last week. Here’s what I did. Here’s what I learned. Okay, now you guys won’t make that mistake.” You do have to keep space for that and keep them safe to the best of your ability.

Irina 14:39
I want to share my screen because I prepare five different stats that I want to comment on, and the discussion went into the second one.

Setting expectations and clarifying roles

Irina 15:12
62% of the respondents said that they consider quite quitting because of unclear or mismatched expectations.

I wanted to ask you to what extent do you think management is responsible for setting clear expectations versus individual employees taking responsibility for clarifying the roles and seeking for feedback?

Rachel 15:42
I think that’s the manager’s job. I mean, if you’re not getting it as an employee, by all means, ask because you’re not doing yourself any favors if you don’t get the answer. But yeah, as a manager, you need to know what they’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to communicate that you don’t, that’s your job, it’s not your job to hover over them and make sure they’re getting every single thing done. It’s, “hey, this is what we need you to accomplish and here are some ways you can do that.”

I think that a lot of that issue is not just about that we’re not communicating what needs to be done. I think it’s changed drastically during the course of people’s employment this past year. Every single person I know is all of a sudden tasked with upsell, cross-sell, which a lot of them were before, but now it’s the driving factor. Yes, of course CS enables growth, and it results in that. But it’s growth because the customer achieved what they came to the product for. That’s what we’re here to do is to get them their desired outcome, then the rest comes along. But now, it’s like that part has gotten deleted, and it’s turned into a strict sales role. That’s not what people were hired for, and it’s not what they were trained for.

That is a big mismatch and expectations, it’s a big switch. Now, I personally think it’s a good thing for us to handle revenue. But to say that that’s always been the case, and that these people should know how to do it. I mean, you try going down to the engineering department. We’re all in tech, right? It’s unrealistic.

Irina 17:44
I want to take a question from Ashley. I publish it on the screen. She’s asking:

For startup CSMs, who have to spend multiple departments and responsibilities as a single person for the team, how can you create boundaries that resonate with the total organization and work towards the common mission while not burning out?

Rachel 18:10
Yeah, I mean, that’s something that I talk to people about every day, that’s kind of my superpower statement. I help you build proactive CS departments without burning out. That is about managing expectations and setting priorities. Now, a single person is not a team and if they’re expecting you to be a team and produce the amount that a team can, it’s up to you to gently show how this is not physically possible in the balance of space and time.

The way I recommend doing that, is taking a list of all of your initiatives, priorities, and all the things that you are tasked with, and make a list: Priority One, two, and three, right? And to track your time for two weeks, how much time are you spending in meetings? How much time are you spending with customers? Look at that and bring it to your boss and say: “Look, this is what it currently looks like. Here are all the things that you also want.”

We need to just figure out some priorities, we need to figure out what’s at the top of the list because everybody wants to do more with less right now. And the way that you do that is not by just piling on more and more and saying figure it out. It’s figuring out what’s going to be the most impactful right now. It’s that Pareto principle of 80/20. Where am I getting 80% of my results? It’s usually from 20% of the work. What is that? And let’s focus on that. Yes, we’re going to have to let some of the other stuff go for this moment. But we can still get more done. We can still be just as effective with fewer people by focusing on that, but we can’t do all the things.

Irina 19:55
How does excess workload affect the CSM’s ability to perform their job effectively? And what are some common symptoms or signs that a CSM may be experiencing this issue? What should we be looking at as leaders, but also as individuals to realize that we have an issue, and we should start saying no or stop or let’s have this conversation?

Rachel 20:24
I see this all the time in CS or CSM leaders. They think that if they can’t get done all of the work that has been assigned to them, or given to them, they are the problem. They don’t take time to look at at what they’re tasked with the hours in the day, and how long it takes them and say: “Wait a minute, this, this doesn’t make sense.” They just assume: “They told me, I should be able to do it.So clearly, people are doing this and getting it done. I guess I should work till eight o’clock, nine o’clock at night, I guess I should work on the weekends because it’s my job to get this done.”

And they don’t want to let anyone down. They don’t want to let their customers down. They care a lot. For me, as a leader, I was always checking in: “Are you working past five o’clock? Are you working on the weekends?” If there is an emergency, please tell me I will handle it, but this is not surgery. Most of these things can wait an hour, and most of these things can wait untill morning. So as the leader, you need to be looking at that. You do need to be on the lookout for if your people are looking stressed. And a lot of times, you’ll just start to see it, they’ll just start looking anxious. But most of the time, they won’t complain and that’s the problem. So you need to be checking in: “hey, I’ve given you some more things. How are you balancing that? Are you able to balance that? If you can’t, let’s talk about it. if I need to get a headcount, or I need to say some things have to go in a parking lot, then please tell me because I won’t know.”

Nineta 22:11
We are returning to open communication, Rachel.

In HR, we have an exit interview when somebody’s leaving the company. You have the exit interview to understand what is the reason behind this. But I think that right now, it’s more important to have a stay interview, from time to time, to have this conversation with the employees, and with your colleagues to understand what is happening.

In line with what you said, I made a sort of workshop and the workshop was around three questions.

  1. How would you describe your workload now, too little or too much, just right?
  2. What percentage of this is down to you via colleagues, clients, your boss, and what it’s from you? And after this based on your responses:
  3. What can you do to either maintain or, more frequently change the situation?

It’s very important to understand that not all the tasks that you have are yours or are part of your responsibility, or you need to react immediately. You need to try to prioritize it in a way. And what is funniest is that the top performers are willing to do more and to do all the tasks immediately on the time, to not overlap the deadlines. That’s why top performers can go into burnout very fast.

Rachel 24:27
You mentioned something really interesting “What comes from you?”. This happens in CS so much because, again, we want to help, we want to be helpers. And there’s the other thing if someone else isn’t getting the work done, it’s going to impact us because it’s going to make the customer mad. So a lot of times in CS we end up putting band-aids over other people’s mistakes or if someone else can’t get it done, we’ll get it done for them. Because we don’t want the customer to mean bad, we don’t want to have to deal with the churn that will then be blamed for.

And there are only so many times you can do that you’re going to be plugging holes with your fingers, you only have so many fingers. And I see this with CS leaders all the time. “Where’s your work? When are you having time for your work? You’re busy papering over everything.” You have to solve the thing that caused the problem. You can’t just Band-Aid over everything. And we do that because we don’t want to upset the customers. And it’s a bad strategy. You need to I don’t want to say you need to let a plate drop, but you need to let people be responsible for their own responsibilities.

Irina 25:41
Richard is asking: CSMs are part of the customer happiness department. Agree or disagree?

Nineta 25:54
We are not ice cream sellers.

Rachel 25:57
Happiness is such a hard thing to nail down. It’s not our job to make them happy. That’s an inside job. It’s our job to make sure that they receive value from the product. And that’s clear. It’s not about making the customer happy. It’s not about having a great relationship with the customer, the customer can have a great relationship with you, and they can be very happy with you and hate the product, and they won’t tell you because they like you. So you got to keep your eyes on the prize. Customer experience. Yes, very important. Make sure they have a good customer experience. But that comes secondary to making sure that they get what they came for. And they didn’t come or they didn’t buy a product because you’re lovely. No, it’s a losing battle. And we’re smarter than that. We’re smarter than people who are there just to like, make you happy. We’re strategic. We get it done. Rant over.

The responsibilities of CSMs

Irina 26:59
We’ve been discussing about responsibilities. And the third thing that I want to share is about what our CSM is responsible of. The part that strikes me is support. 58% of them said that they are responsible for support. Why is support on a CSM?

Rachel 27:37
Well, first of all, it shouldn’t be.

CS isn’t meant to be proactive, support is meant to be reactive, and you do need both. Reactive is not worse, it’s just you can’t be doing both. And to me support should be technical issues. They help you with technical issues, we help with strategic issues. And we should be syncing up because if support is handling things like “oh, they don’t know how to use this feature”. Yes, that is on us. We need to teach better. But we cannot be handling bug reports.

If you are a 20-person startup, and you have 12 clients. Yeah, CS and support can be the same thing. 100%. If you have 100 clients, no, they cannot. It’s a matter of what do you want us to do here. What do you want to achieve? We can’t do it at that point. It took a while for people to understand that customer success was a thing. And after a while they heard all these benefits, like wow, customer success is so great and improves retention and improves expansion and improves advocacy. This is amazing what people are accomplishing with it. I’m gonna get a CSM. We got a CSM, and they’re like, where’s my 130% NRR? You have a Google Sheet. Like it’s something that requires tools, and headcount processes, just like any other department. If you want your salespeople also doing marketing, they’re not going to have as much time for sales. Generally, you’re not going to do that.

Customer Success is a revenue department. So stretch them thin at your peril. You know, it’s this mismatch of understanding of what it is. And that’s something I focus on a lot. Like, here’s how you build the house of CS. You know, there are four distinct phases. You start reactive, and everyone starts there, but there are a bunch of things you have to put in place to get to informed to get to proactive to get to predictive, it’s always going to go in that order. But there’s a lot that has to get set up. And it’s not magic, unfortunately. So you can’t just throw everything out them and expect the result of something like a Salesforce something like a Slack or even a Calendly. That has been around a while and has a full Customer Success department. And those people are certainly not handling support. So you have to manage your expectations to what are you enabling. What are you create it?

Irina 30:20
Because we are talking about responsibilities? Richard the asked earlier question, I’m gonna publish it.

CSMs typically have a very well component to their compensation, such as NRR, ARR, or retention, are we hearing from CSMs, that they do not feel their targets are realistic anymore?

Rachel 30:44
Were they ever? Sometimes I think the upsell can be fairly unrealistic. Sometimes I’ve seen the retention one be fairly realistic. And again, it really depends on where you are, I’ve seen plenty of companies where they are setting realistic targets, but it is on preferably the CS leader if they’re being pushed down targets from above saying, you know, okay, so how do we come up with that number? What is this based on other than, like, we want that? We need to achieve that to survive, I get that. But we need to be able to achieve this strategically, if we are at 80%, retention, 100% retention is not going to happen in a quarter. 100% retention is probably not going to happen because companies close.

But what I like to do is look at year over year, quarter over quarter, what is our retention rate. What is our logo rate, what is it, and how does it look like? And then do it a little bit higher so that it’s achievable, but a bit of a stretch. People got to get a little creative, they have to try a few different things. So generally 10 to 15% higher is where I like to set it, and I like to do it quarter by quarter. So that it kind of resets and you’re not like “Well, that’s down the tubes, so might as well not bother.” Also, bonus people on their particular performance. If it’s something where it’s like, well, this is not realistic by any stretch, people aren’t going to try. Generally, there’s an 80/20 split. If you’re not getting that full 20%. And at least in the US bonuses are taxed at 50%. It’s not such an incentive anymore. So you really got to make it achievable, but a little stretch. People think that people are going to work more if the targets are like big, hairy, audacious goals. They’re just gonna give up.

Supporting the well-being of CSMs

Irina 32:51
I want to ask: How can companies support the well-being and professional development of their CSMs while still meeting the needs of their customers, whereby it’s still achieving their business goals?

Nineta 33:08
First of all, well-being is not about being happy all the time, everywhere, and also, in the workplace. Well-being is the ability of individuals to address normal stress. So to address work productivity, to realize ones highest potential. So it’s not about being happy. You need to manage how to face stress in general. What I want to say is that well-being is not about not having stress at all, or not having either no tasks at all. Well-being and the responsibility of the company of the tribe and also the leaders, the responsibilities is around making employees aware of what they can do.

Also you can do many things around this topic. You can, for instance, have wellness events in the office.You can go to the services area, for instance, you can have medical insurance, you provide coaching because it’s something new on the market. And a lot of people are certified in health coaching. You can have a lot of resources like online training. You can find it everywhere.

But the most important thing is to talk with your team and to be sure that you will invest in what they need. Because what I can see lately is: “Okay, well-being is important, we’ll have a big event about this.” But people are not willing to participate in this event because t’s another task for them. Even if the topic is well-being . Some people might like to have a discussion with a health coach, for instance, Other people would be more interested in having one day off, for instance, when they are not feeling well, and to have the capacity to discuss with the leader.

What kind of culture do you want to have? An open communication, feedback, and also focus on wellbeing? It’s also a state, and you need to follow this state. If you said, Okay, this company will have a well-being program or be well-being focused, then you need to be focused on this. Otherwise, it’s just simple words.

Rachel 36:06

Those things can be especially frustrating, because it’s like negative irony. It’s like, great, we’re having a two-hour meeting on mental health. This is stressing my mental health because I’m now going to have to work two hours later and not take care of my children and that is not good for my mental health. Because, let’s face it. Talking about it does nothing, you have to put it into action, you have to live it. If you’re not, it’s worse, because you’re just signaling and people feel that you’re not really taking care of them as humans.

So yeah, I have found that to be a huge thing, like somebody being upset over something. Do you need a couple of hours? Take them and let me know when you’re up and running. If you treat people like adults, like humans, they will usually knock themselves out for you. That kind of real human-first leadership, my employees have done like triple the work I would expect from a typical employee, because they’re so engaged, and they know that they’re valued, and their thoughts and their work is valued. That’s how you get all this work out of people.

It’s not by being like, go go, oh, we have to get it done. It’s by being sensitive and saying: “You get to call time.” But the other thing is also when we were talking about the stress thing that you brought up having no stress. I think that also comes back to the psychological safety thing of if you can’t get it done, you need to be able to talk about it and why and go into problem-solving mode. Your boss shouldn’t be like you need to get it done. It’s like, okay, so what are your blockers? Let’s try and figure this out. Let’s all work together. As a team, what has been working for us? So there really are solutions to this. It’s sometimes they’re counterintuitive.

Automating to survive with limited manpower

Irina 38:22
I want to discuss a controversial topic about hiring freeze and layoffs. And we’ve been we’ve been discussing about this. 36% of the companies have implemented a hiring freeze and 26% have undergone layoffs in the past month.

What can see CS teams do to automate their processes and survive with limited manpower? I’ll pass the question to Rachel, I have one prepared HR specific forever. I want to know because those things are happening.

Rachel 39:10
Yes, these things are happening. I don’t want to come in here and be all “It’s not doable. It’s not fair.” You know, what do you do to address it? So once again, it’s about figuring out priorities. What do we want to focus on right now, we had 10 CSMs, we have 7 now, or we have 4. Now, we’re not going to be able to cover the same number of clients if we haven’t done any automation to this point, if we don’t have a tool to enable that. Also, don’t get a tool until your data’s clean, please.

But if you do have a tool like a CS tool, not Salesforce, then that can start to enable you to scale a little bit you can start to say: “Alright, we know we always send this welcome email, So we don’t have to push the button on that and write it every time, we can have something sent from our address.”

You can start doing one too many programs with onboarding, which is one of the things that takes the longest, I tend to think, a weekly webinar with recordings of just like: “Hey, here’s how you use the product. Here’s how you use the product if you have this use case, versus that use case.” Automated programs are amazing and solve a lot of issues.

And then you can have office hours or something where people have questions. But there’s no need to spend an hour, two hours training every single new client. Anything that you’re doing repeatedly, where it doesn’t really matter, make a recording. Loom is freaking amazing.

For CS, you don’t necessarily have to have a call with every client, sometimes you can send a Loom which would have been 45 minutes an hour is five minutes of each of your time and customers love it. Nobody wants to get on a meeting. So these are all lightweight ways of accomplishing it. But the answer is not. Okay, now you have 200 clients, and you need to QBR with every one of them.

Irina 41:18
Amanda asked:
What is the realistic amount of clients that a CSM should oversee to make an impact and be in control?

Rachel 41:29
That’s a big old, it depends. I mean, if you have an Enterprise Client, where your company is threaded throughout their company. If you’re working with like a Coca Cola if you’re working with a Disney, and you’re dealing with different locations and different groups of people, 3 to 5. If you’re a product lead growth focused and you’ve been around for a little while and found ways to scale with a CS tool, and automate a lot of different things, 200 might not be a problem. It’s really the level of touch and the level of strategy needed. And really, how well-defined your ideal customer profile is. Because if you’re trying to serve everybody, there’s no scaling.

So, again a ballpark and I don’t like the whole “Well – X amount of revenue”. I mean, you could have a product that people say $2 million in revenue, well, you could have a product that’s a $30 a month subscription. Are you’re really supposed to handle that many customers? So it really has to make sense of what do the customers need to achieve. How are we a part of that? And what can we fit in a day? What is the average amount of time it takes? It’s through scaling, which requires time processes, programs, and products, it’s through that you’re able to handle more over time. But it’s not something where you can just say this is your book of business now. Not possible.

Irina 43:03
You mentioned something and I want to ask you to elaborate on it. You said to get the tool if you don’t have your data right. Please explain this because I see this as a common challenge.

Why do you need the right data in order for a tool to help you?

Rachel 43:29
I wrote an article about this because I think that CS tools are treated much the way customer success is in general: as an easy button. There isn’t one. I’m so sorry, I wish there was too. But basically, what you can do with a tool? A tool allows you to automate what you’ve already figured out. And you direct it with data. So you’re going to use a tool for something like when a customer onboard sends this email, what if their usage dips 20% month over month, send an alert to the CSM to check in on them.

If you don’t have data, or if your data is messed up, it’s going to send inaccurate signals. And all that’s going to do is one of my favorite sayings from a CS ops person. We were talking about getting a tool and she was looking at the data and she’s like: “No, no, no. Right now, all this is going to allow us to do is f- up at scale.” I was like: “Yeah, I think you’re right. It’s just going to send the wrong information to a lot of people and make a big mess.”

You have to make sure that the data is right so that it’s giving you the right information. Otherwise, you’re just causing more work for yourself. So before you get a tool, your data doesn’t have to be perfect, but it can’t just be like duplicate accounts all over the place. Please have account numbers. You’d be shocked how many people don’t have account numbers. You can’t just base it on the customer’s name, if they change their name, just really please account numbers, and people, make sure your CRM is up to date and make sure any user data is being pulled in accurately from your data lake.

I understand this? Not at all. But I don’t have to, I get someone who does understand this, to put these things together and to look at it before you buy a tool, because the biggest mistake I see is people putting this in place first, and then it taking six months to roll out. And you get to the point where it’s a year, you’ve spent 30- $50,000. And the C suite is like: “Your numbers haven’t changed. What’s going on? You wasted the money.”

You don’t want that. You want to be set up for success. So to do that you need your data. And you need to know what you’re going to tell it to do. You have to know what your processes look like. You can generally do this in a year. Your first year get that stuff in order, start work, and get someone else to start working on cleaning that data yesterday. That is if you get buy-in for nothing else from your CEO, get that because that’s what will allow you to scale to get more revenue. That is what is the key to it.

You can be figuring out what works for these customers. You have different use cases, right? So it’s not going to be the same thing for every customer. If a customer wants to get from A to B, it’s going to be different steps than to get them from A to C. So that’s what you should be spending that first year figuring out. What are the steps? What are our desired outcomes? What are our ideal customers?
What steps do we need to take them where they want to go? And from there, what steps does it take to get them to buy more and to tell their friends. If you don’t get them where they want to go, none of that happens. But once you have those steps, it starts to be really a lot more simple to program them in. And then you’re cooking with gas. I love a CS tool. They make me so happy. But if they’re not enabled to be able to work, they can’t do it for you.

Irina 47:17
I have a question from Julie.

What are the automation tools you recommend or have used?

Rachel 47:28
A CS tool is great. If you don’t have one then Zapier. Generally, I hear Zapier being the most popular, I personally am terrible at it, which is why you don’t have to be good at everything. Find somebody who’s good at it. And you know, say this is what I’m trying to achieve. Plenty of people hire a contractor for this, and that’s okay. Have them sign an NDA. And get somebody who knows what they’re doing to set up your automation it will save you so much time. Mike Cortona is an amazing person to look up on LinkedIn he has a program called Busy to leveraged where he teaches you to do these things. So that’s a really cool thing to look into as well if you’re interested in being able to do them yourself.

Irina 48:19
I’m trying to group the questions and okay the ones that I missed we’re gonna leave them at the end

Do CSM typically help with sales prospecting?

Rachel 48:43
No. We’re doing enough already. I see this happening. I’m sorry, but if you can’t do your own sales prospecting, you’re being lazy. “Oh, you know the products so much better?” Watch a recording of one of our trainings. No, that’s a hard No, that’s an easy boundary. We are post sales. Prospecting among existing customers, should this be an expansion of theirs? Absolutely. And we can be handling that if well enabled. But no, you are not dealing with new clients, you are not showing them the product because someone else can’t be bothered to learn it.

Irina 49:22
Before we move to our last statistic that I want to comment on, I wanna ask you a question, Nineta.

Preparing for a hiring freeze and layoffs

How can a CS manager best prepare for difficult conversations with employees during a hiring freeze or layoffs? And what are some key messages that should be communicated during these conversations?

Nineta 49:46
First of all it’s a difficult conversation for everybody, for HR for leaders for everybody. Also, between colleagues, it’s a difficult conversation, you know, when you’re talking about this. I think that you as a leader, need to lead with empathy. And I’m talking about empathy not only with the existent colleagues and also with the future ones, or with the former’s ones. You need to lead with empathy and to understand what are the feelings that they are facing in these kinds of situations.

On the other hand, recently, we were hearing all the time companies are reorganized, and of course, they’re making a lot of layoffs. And also, they are looking in the market for new joiners. And for you as an employee, it’s a very messy message.

Big companies are restructuring, but at the same time, other big companies are looking for new employees. What am I doing here? It’s a moment in every employee’s life, when they’re thinking about they are doing at their current job. “Am I doing the right stuff? Am I doing the right role for me? Am I where I want to be in my professional career?” And a leader needs to be here to discuss with them about this, because you don’t need to have a lot of resignations.

We discuss before starting this event about the fact that quiet quitting it’s something after the great resignation. The great resignation, it was very clear to see. People are quitting and are not here tomorrow. But in quiet quitting, you cannot say if somebody is in quiet quitting or not. You cannot say if you have a productive team or not. It’s very difficult for you to predict what will happen.

And when you are in a situation of layoffs you need to lead with empathy for everybody around you. And also to treat your team with respect, and be honest, and transparent. When you are honest: “Okay, we need to reduce the FTAs due to the fact that the business was reduced”. Be transparent and genuine. In this manner, the people will understand.

I experienced moments when the other said, “Yeah, of course, it’s a normal decision that you need to have, because from 10 clients we have 3.” It’s normal that we need to find ways. In some cases, they will help you to find ways: “Okay, let’s automate what we can.”

Keep communication lines open. Keep all the channels open. Back to our first discussion about open communication organization. It’s very important in these moments when you face in with layoffs, to not reduce the communication. “Okay, I send an email, I informed them about this and that they will understand what to do.” No, no, no, in this period, you will not be in the situation to over-communicate. Take the polls, and ask them, what are their suggestion? Make them partners, business partners, you know, because in some cases, you will find out very nice ideas from them. Because, of course, they have a network, they have other experience outside the experience from your company. So, yeah, based on them and treat them very open, and transparent.

Irina 54:30
The last thought that I want to comment on is a consequence of the question that we basically started with that:

Nearly 53% of CS staff in North America is looking to switch jobs. And I want to ask you, Rachel, how hard is it to replace a CSM and what is the real cost of recruitment for a CSM?

Rachel 54:56
I mean, again, always depends the situation, but I’m seeing this a lot. I’ve been talking to my CS leaders “Who’s your top performer? Give them a raise now. What are you paying them? No, no, no, no, no, no, no, they can get $100,000 somewhere else.” And they’re going to and they’re like: “Okay, I’ll talk to, to my CEO about it.” I’m like: “No, now.” And then they are like: “They took another job.”

Everyone is very much at risk for this. And it’s a tough position because you probably are not Trump, you want to pay them more, you want to give them less work, it might not be an option right now. People are gonna leave, and having to replace one is, it’s not just “Okay, we’re gonna be without a CSM for a little while.” What do you do with those clients? Either the CS leader has to take them on a lot of the time, and then they’re not able to move any sort of strategy forward.

Another CSM has to take them on, the customers are getting bounced around to people either way. But not only do you have to hire someone. So you’re out a person for months, three, six months. So not only do you have to hire them, you have to train them for another three months to get them fully, you know, up and running like the old person was. So six months to a year, you don’t have that employee and your customers aren’t being served and you’re going to see churn, you’re definitely not going to see the growth that you expected from those accounts because they feel unimportant, they’re not being treated well.

It’s a very big deal when you lose a CSM because you’re losing those relationships. And that trust and the customers like what’s going on.

What I will say about this is there is a way to retain your CSMs by being a good leader. Part of that looks like understanding what their personal goals are, what their professional goals are. What do you want to do with your career moving forward? Okay, so here are the things you need to be able to do if you want to move up to team lead. You want to move up to manager, here are the requirements you will need to be able to do. If you want this, I will give you every opportunity to gain these experiences so that you can put them on your resume.

This upskills them, this keeps them staying longer. You don’t have to pay them more while you’re doing this. But it’s so rare to have a boss who will do that for you. They actually stay longer, and they benefit you more, because they’re getting more skilled, and they’re more engaged because they’re excited. And guess what it takes some work off your plate as a boss, it benefits everyone. So that’s the best advice I can give you is to try that tactic if you can’t give them more money, if they’re feeling overworked, enable them in that way, because you can always do that.

Irina 58:02
One last question from Richard:

If CSMs are looking for another job, curious about what they are looking for. Is it sales, support or another CSM role elsewhere?

Rachel 58:16
Most of the time they’re looking for another CSM role thinking is going to be better somewhere else. I do think it will get better very soon, I think six to nine months. Because it’s switched so far away from what it was, I think that retention will suffer. And when that happens, there’s going to be a swing back to customer experience and a focus on retention. But I think that’s going to take a good a good six months. We’re already about three months in and CS has lagging indicators.

So it’s going to take a while before it’s like “oh, we’ve lost a lot of people”. But at that point, you will be able to find a job where it is closer to perhaps what you were looking for. I know a lot of people are looking because they’re doing triple the work for no more money and now they’re being tasked with quotas that they’ve never had before. And yet they’re like I want what I had before. And they’re not necessarily going to find it at this moment. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look if that’s what you want. But be aware of the current situation and that it will change.

Irina 59:23
I want to thank you both. I think we came to the end of this event. I want to take a moment now to thank you all for joining us. I hope you found this session informative and engaging. I want to thank both Rachel and Nineta for sharing your knowledge and expertise.

I’m grateful for your time and your contribution! And before we wrap things up, I shared with the group the quiet quitting in CS report for everyone who wants to dig deeper into it. Drop us a line to let us know your thoughts. Thank you, Rachel! Thank you, Nina!

Nicoleta Niculescu

Written by Nicoleta Niculescu

Nicoleta Niculescu is the Content Marketing Specialist at Custify. With over 5 years of experience, she likes to write about innovative tech products and B2B marketing. Besides writing, Nicoleta enjoys painting and reading thriller books. 

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