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  • Writer's pictureMarc Chia

3 Different Customer Success Managers (CSM) Styles – Product Expert

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

Customer Success (CS) is still a relatively new term that organisations are still coming to grasp with. Tying together different functions like support, implementation, business advisory and more the role of a CSM is varied not just between organisations but even within an organisation.


In the following we detail 3 different profiles of CSMs with respect to software companies; the Product Expert, the Business Consultant; the Sales Orientated Manager. All 3 play different roles and leverage different strengths to support customers. In this 3 part article we examine each profile and explore how the strengths of each can be leveraged to deliver results. Today in the 1st part we start with the Product Expert.


The Product Expert


Product Experts have a deep knowledge of their product and services. Oftentimes, such CSMs formerly worked in customer support roles or perhaps come from the technical side of things. They leverage this knowledge tied together with a commitment to assisting customers to find solutions and work arounds to their needs. Product Experts usually lead training and are the first port of call when other team members have problems that they are stuck with.


Product Experts are likely more familiar with your product than any other person in the team. Even more so than the development and Quality Assurance (QA) teams, they deal with the product on a day to day basis and are often the first ones to identify bugs and problems. Product Experts often pick up knowledge of technical aspects of the product and facilitate communication of issues to technical teams


Pros

1. Product Experts are trusted by users and often become their 1st port of call.


This can be a good thing as Product Experts can pre-empt frustration by directly leading users to their desired end point. Shorter turn around times on requests for help and less confusion means less time taken to implement solutions and more time spent on value adding work for users.


Product Experts can make excellent trainers and community managers. Their ability to anticipate problems before it happens when also paired with skill in organizing information for digestion by users can mean avoiding pitfalls and ensuring a smooth onboarding experience.


2. Product Experts are trusted by your technical team.


Technical teams dealing with reported issues often appreciate the Product Expert who will thoroughly test and perhaps even hypothesis on what the source of these issues are to help the technical team more quickly assess and rectify issues. Input from product experts on issues which are most commonly encountered also helps in prioritizing development cycles and in the long run help in implementing features that can solve problems encountered in a scalable manner.


Product Experts who are able to successfully leverage their knowledge of the existing product, customer needs and technical knowledge (Basic UX/UI Design, Software Architecture, Knowledge of Competitor Offerings) can serve as a compass for product teams pointing a path of software development designed to maximise value delivery for customers.


Cons

1. Product Experts may be caught up in the nitty gritty of problem solving .


Product Experts may be caught up in the nitty gritty of problem solving for individual users and fail to consider the business needs of the organisation. While these can overlap, the business goals of the organisation will more likely determine the churn rate of customers.


Product Experts should look to get more deeply involved with tracking of customer organizational objectives and take a further interest in how these may be achieved. A easy place to start is with a good implementation plan that can serve dual purpose in focusing attention on these while also easing the burden on training and support needs and these should be laid out at the get go with the customer.


2. Product Experts are typically not sales oriented.


This means that they may have less of a focus on rapport building, cross selling, upselling and asking for potential leads. Product Experts may benefit from a scheduled and planned way of approaching these conversations. Without a plan of engagement, it is more likely than not that they may be caught up in other matters. Those that truly struggle with this aspect of the role may also benefit from leveraging on the strength of their team whether it is the Sales team or the Sales Orientated CSM.


Product Experts may also want to consider leveraging their strength with regards to product expertise by implementing data tracking functions that track customer experience progress in relation to selling. These combined with the expertise of the Sales Oriented CSM can be helpful in creating a funnel for selling to existing customers by qualifying the right timing for an approach.


Conclusion

Many SMEs and Startups often exclusively have a Product Expert type CSM in their early stages. This can be excellent in providing great customer service and supporting the product team. However, a common trap for such CSMs is becoming overly focused on the aspect of answering customer problems to the detriment of other responsibilities of the CSM. Such efforts while important are not scalable and should be balanced carefully against the long term goals and growth of the Customer Success team.


Instead, a Product Expert type CSM can and should becoming a powerful force for scaling Customer Success efforts through systemization of training and onboarding as well as leveraging their knowledge in collaboration with the product team. If selling is a requirement and their skills are not orientated to it, then they should collaborate with other team members to find a structure and approach that can support this function.



Marc is the founder of Usertip where he leads the customer success and operations teams. Usertip's no-code digital adoption platform enables anyone to create in-application walkthroughs for end users of software.

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