Top Takeaways from Attending a CSM Foundations Workshop

CSM Foundations Workshop Washington DC

This is a guest blog post by Chase Tinkham and Bora Lee, Customer Success Managers at ChurnZero, a real-time Customer Success software for subscription businesses.

Recently, ChurnZero co-sponsored and hosted the SuccessCOACHING CSM Foundations Level 1 Training at our offices near Washington, D.C.

We knew going into the workshop that it was going to be two information-filled days. We were excited to have the opportunity to participate in the CSM training workshop alongside an eager group of Customer Success Managers all looking to improve their skill sets, expand their industry knowledge, solve for their current challenges, and advance their careers.

To help others who are considering attending a workshop, we wanted to share some insights into what attending a workshop is like. We also wanted to share a few of our top workshop takeaways with other CSMs that are looking to expand their skills, or are maybe even considering joining a workshop or training program.

This article will cover:

  • An inside look at what attending a CSM Foundations workshop is like

  • Top tips we learned for CSMs to improve the service they provide their customers

  • Pointers for getting the most out of a CSM training experience and furthering your own professional development

  • A sneak peek into some of concepts taught at the SuccessCOACHING CSM Training Workshops and online courses

An Inside Look

First thing you should know is the CSM Foundations Customer Success Training Workshop isn’t like your typical workshop where the participants sit passively through an all day lecture.

The two days we spent in the workshop were jam-packed with group exercises and guided discussions led by an instructor who had years of practical hands-on experience in Customer Success.

One of best things about the workshop was the focus on application of the material. During the workshop we really enjoyed the amount of opportunities participants had to discuss their current challenges and work through solutions with inputs from an expert coach and other participants.

On the whole, it was a great way to invest in our own professional development and excellent way to earn an industry recognized certification.

Our Key Takeaways

During the workshop, we covered all the essential elements of Customer Success Management in deep detail. To give you a feel for what you’ll learn if you decide to attend a workshop, we’ve selected just a few of the top takeaways to share with you.

1. Apply a Consultative Approach to Everyday Interactions with Your Clients

It seems somewhat obvious, but you want to become a trusted advisor to your customer, not simply another vendor that they buy from and deal with.

Taking a consultative approach to interacting with customers is important and powerful for Customer Success Managers, and can help move you into this trusted advisor role.

When your customer asks a question, first ask yourself - do you know the WHY? This is at the core of being consultative. You want to understand what the primary problem is that they are trying to solve for. It’s not always what they present to you as the problem, so it could take a little digging, but ultimately will allow you to provide a more satisfactory answer to their issues.

To be a trusted advisor to your customers, you must try to solve for their biggest strategic problems, and not just tick the boxes on the easy tactical issues.

2. Handle Angry Customers Systematically

Every Customer Success Manager encounters an angry customer at some point in their career. It’s inevitable. So what do you do?

In order to best diffuse the situation, you need to handle them with care.

First, really listen to the complaint that is causing them to be upset. Again, the real issue may not be what they present to you on the surface, so dig deep to make sure you fully understand the problem.

Your main objective should be to try to deescalate the situation. To do this, apologize for the issue they’re experiencing, as well as empathize with their situation.

Then it’s on you to own the resolution and make it right. You should always recap what you covered with them in writing to keep everyone on the same page.

Most importantly, follow through until the issue has been fully sorted out. This is one time time when you especially don’t want to leave loose ends or drop the ball. Take ownership of getting the problem solved.

3. Effectively Manage the Onboarding Process

Onboarding is arguably the most critical time for a new customer. Getting started on the right foot is set the tone for the rest of the customer journey, and you don’t want to get off to a rough start.

Be sure there is a robust handoff or transfer of knowledge from sales to the onboarding specialist or CSM. You don’t want any important customer details, goals or special considerations to be lost during this handoff.

The customer journey should be fully understood internally, documented, and put in a format that can be shared with customers. This helps expectations on both sides to be set and agreed upon.

It is also imperative that the progress of the customer is shared with the customer to demonstrate how you are initially providing value.

Clear metrics that track progress and trigger corrective action when needed should be put into place to keep the customer moving along their journey without detours or delays.

The SuccessCOACHING CSM Foundation Training should be a basic requirement for the individual contributors (and managers!) on your team. James and the SuccessCOACHING team have done a phenomenal job providing the basics in a way that is not only relatable – but allows you to leave with actionable items for your team. From the material to the conversations in the room – it was time well spent.
— Chase Tinkham, Certified Customer Success Manager, ChurnZero

4. Think Like Your Customers

Often, it’s hard for non-customer facing teams (e.g. product or marketing) to think like a customer, and they end up being inward focused. This does nothing to help serve your customers better.

To help with this problem, try introducing your customers into decision-making meetings to get an idea of what your customers would think. Simply imagine that they’re there or involved in the decisions.

Whatever it might be that you're discussing, ask the questions, “How do you think this would impact our customers?” “Is there a way we could do this that would be better for our customers?” “Would they want us to do this?”

By looking at things from the customers’ perspectives and not just what is better for your organization, you are setting everyone up for more success.

5. Make Certain You Can Deliver Impactful Business Reviews

Nearly every CSM has to deliver business review meetings with their customer on a regular basis. This meeting should be strategic, not tactical; it’s equal parts reflection and future planning, but not down in the weeds.

A simple thing to help keep your meeting on track is an pre-agreed upon agenda. All key stakeholders should be present, from an executive presence to power users, so that everyone is on the same page on the goals and challenges and there are no surprises later.

A well-run business review is a chance to gain deeper understanding of the customer’s business and future developments. You can use this meeting to pinpoint how you can help them and map out a plan together for the next 6 to 12 months.

By working together in this way, you are ensuring you’re in lock-step with your customer as they continue on their customer journey.

6. Measurements are Critical to Success

A shared success plan is a must-have between a Customer Success Manager, other internal stakeholders and the customers. This helps everyone to understand the outcome that the client desires.  

(Quick side note: the SuccessCOACHING CSM Foundations Workshop has an entire section dedicated to how to create a simple but impactful success plan.)

As with any plan, you need to be able to measure how well you're doing against it. They’re necessary to adjust, guide and reinforce those outcomes as you move through the customer journey.

You should have key metrics for success for both short term and long term goals, and these metrics should be specific.

Ideally, measures of success should be able to be mapped back to the key benefits the customers are expecting because then you can go back to the customer on a regular basis and say, "Here are the key benefits you're expecting and here's how well we're doing in absolute terms against achieving those benefits."

Having those metrics and discussions are paramount to measuring how well a customer is doing on their journey, and a leading indicator of customer health.

The SuccessCOACHING course presents a great foundational understanding of Customer Success while providing a solid knowledge base for CSMs to drive more value for their customers.
— Bora Lee, Certified Customer Success Manager, ChurnZero

These six takeaways are just a couple of the highlights of the two-day jam-packed workshop, and of course, are just the tip of the iceberg. The CSM training workshop delves deep into these topics (and more), with real-life examples. And you walk away with templates and actionable knowledge that you can start using right away.

If you are a CSM looking to gain more knowledge and get on the “fast track” to becoming CSM certified, we at ChurnZero would recommend you look into attending a SuccessCOACHING CSM training workshop in a city near you or sign up for one of their online courses.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Attending a CSM Training Workshop

  • DO bring an open mind to the training. You’ll be learning ways to do things that are different than what you’re used to, and it may take some adjustments to fold them into your regular workflow.

  • DO invite your coworkers to take the course with you. Having people on your team learning the same strategies makes it even easier to incorporate them into your processes. If not, don’t be shy to share what you’ve learned!

  • DON’T just be a casual observer. Be an active participant in the course to get the most out of it. Apply your real-world scenarios to what you’re doing during the course, and get a jump start for when you’re back in the office.

  • DO sit and write down some learning goals prior to the course, and then check in with them throughout the course to see if you’re on track to achieve them.

  • DON’T be afraid to ask questions! You’ll have the benefit of the instructor and a room full of your peers willing to give advice and share how they’ve solved problems in the past.

About The Authors

Chase Tinkham

Chase Tinkham

Chase is a Customer Success Manager at ChurnZero. He is an advocate for his customers to get what they need to be successful and is responsible for ChurnZero customer on-boarding, implementation, adoption, expansion, and retention. Strategizing with customers, delivering on critical goals and deadlines, and ensuring they have what they need to be successful are his top priorities.

Bora Lee

Bora Lee

Bora is a Customer Success Manager at ChurnZero. She is passionate about helping customers succeed by crafting big picture strategies executed through automated, streamlined processes that puts the right data in front of the customer at exactly the right time. She works hand in hand with customers to create fruitful long term relationships and to maximize customer satisfaction.