Why Your Customer Success Team Needs a Coach

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Owning a customer-facing organization is a constant roller coaster of wins and challenges. One day you're firing on all cylinders, and everything is looking great. The next day you receive an emotional turd of an email from one of your "valuable" customers threatening to leave you, and he cc'd your Head of Sales, CEO, and CFO who are now all wondering what the heck is going on. All of the positive progress and vibes derailed in less than 100 words. 

It's sometimes difficult to keep yourself, and your organization focused on the prize of increased CLTV and negative churn while executing your success strategy and dealing with the daily fires that spring up. What about ensuring that your team members receive the training and guidance they need to be the best customer-facing individuals that they can be and need to be? That's where engaging with a CSM Coaching Program pays huge dividends. Below you'll find three reasons why you should seriously consider having your team members participate in a Customer Success coaching program.

1. You don't have time to coach your team.

Most post-sales team leaders in small to medium-sized companies lack the organizational structure and budget to have a formal management structure that includes mid-level managers who can ensure that team members are giving the type of coaching and mentoring they need to be successful. Customer success is considered a cost center. Regardless of how critical it is in the grand scheme of things You're under constant pressure from your CEO, CFO, and board to do more with less. That means that even if you do have a middle management layer, those individuals are generally in a player/coach type of role. 

2. You don't have a formal CSM training program, and you don't have the budget/resources/time to build one. 

Guess what? Most companies don't. Even some of the largest companies can lack a formal post-sales training curriculum. Functional training on products or services is available for employees because your customers require it. Training on the skills and techniques unique to success, including those that help address planning, value realization, soft skills, driving customer advocacy, and organizational politics, don't exist. It's usually something that one of the more senior individual contributors presented as a hastily thrown together slide deck at the end of the onboarding process. 

3. You're unable to hire experienced customer success managers with the exact background to address your customer-facing needs.

Customer success is a very hot and growing profession with its roots from the client success and professional services organizations of the past. The best success teams have individuals that possess strong business acumen (ideally in your solution offering and/or within the vertical markets you focus); product knowledge to expose and leverage the value of the customer investment; combined with the methods and techniques to deliver customer value resulting in renewals and expansion. 

The subscription model has created both unique challenges and opportunities which can and should be leveraged to drive success and expand the vendor-customer partnership. You can teach solution functionality. Even though you can train business acumen to a certain depth, you're better off seeking candidates with business experience and ideally a background in the markets that you serve. In all likelihood, they have the necessary foundation for customer-facing interactions. You can then bridge any gaps in soft skills, methods, and techniques with a coaching program that enables them to make great customer-facing individuals while taking advantage of building long-term customer relationships. 


What to look for in a Coaching Program

A good customer success coaching program should offer relevant and meaningful content, delivered in a style that your team members can easily and efficiently consume and absorb. Studies have shown that traditional "binge and purge" learning doesn't produce durable learning that is well absorbed. Spaced education, or "grazing," presenting information over spaced intervals, has shown to result in information being retained more easily and for a longer period. A spaced interval coaching program offers the added benefits that come as part of experiential learning. Participants will be able to implement the techniques and apply the methods, as they learn them, in their everyday work life.

I would recommend looking into a program that offers an opportunity for participants to take part in periodic live group coaching sessions with engaged industry experts who can answer questions or address topics in more detail to further solidify the delivered content. When I use the term "industry experts," I'm not talking about people who wax poetic about a particular subject or who have even written a book or publish a popular blog. I'm talking about individuals who have held positions of authority within the customer success field; former operational executives that can draw off of their experience and be relatable; people with the "war-wounds" and experience trying what has worked and knowing what hasn't worked. 

Every customer success team in every company is like a snowflake. There will always be differences. Coaching is not about telling your team what to do or how to do it. Good coaching programs rely on frameworks to teach to the concepts that will help your team think and act differently. Investing in a coaching program for your customer success team can pay big dividends. Think about it this way. If the techniques and methods taught to your team members saved 2 or 3 of their book of business customers, how much would that be worth to you and your company?

About the Author

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Andrew Marks

Andrew Marks has spent nearly 25 years in high tech, mostly building highly effective post-sales organizations that drive customer lifetime value and improved customer satisfaction. Since founding SuccessHACKER, Andrew has spent a good portion of his time matching people to Customer Success roles from individual contributors to senior executives.

Andrew Marks

24 years experience in Operations, Customer Success, Services and Account Management.