Strategizing with C-level execs when investing in high-ROI products.

Dickey Singh

Strategizing with C-level executives when investing in high-ROI automation products.

I recently asked several senior customer success leaders, their views on investing in automation products, as a learning exercise.

I am summarizing and categorizing the discussion into the following sections to improve readability. I'm also presenting the main points as an easy-to-consume bullet list.

  1. Product Budgets in this economy
  2. Tactical and Strategic Responsibilities of the CSM, AM, or the combined role: CS/AM
  3. What CS execs envision to automate
  4. How to convince C-level Executives to invest in purpose-built high-ROI automation tools
  5. What's in it for the CS and AM teams
  6. The "Customer Success/Account Management" or CS/AM combined role

Before I go into the categories, I must note that the CS execs all shared the following.  

The CS Exec profile I talked to.

  • They all have revenue expansion responsibility.
  • They have focused on changing the Customer Success department to be more revenue generation and revenue retention focused.
  • They do not have the budget to hire more team members, except those that can significantly impact the bottom line.
  • They all recently laid off several team members to keep the business profitable or cut costs.
  • Although they are decision-makers, they consult with other team execs when bringing in new products. This is in contrast to the CFO being the primary gatekeeper earlier in the year.
  • They did not agree to merge the Customer Success Manager and Account Manager roles as Customer Success Account Manager, preferred to see a wait-and-see approach, although the position is starting to show up on LinkedIn.
Customer Success decision-makers are consulting with other C-level execs when bringing in new products.

Product Budgets in this economy

They have limited budgets for new products or can squeeze the budget, but only if

  • The products take advantage of AI in a predictable manner.
  • Can coexist with their existing customer-facing tech stack.
  • They can show the ROI math clearly and convincingly.
  • The tool is not too expensive to implement in terms of cost and time-to-value.
  • They want a tool that works without requiring several expansion levels or paid services after the initial purchase.
  • Unless the ROI supports it, it does not need them to hire additional administrators to get the most from the product.

Responsibilities of the CSM, AM, or CS/AM

To understand what can and cannot be automated, let's first understand the tactical and strategic tasks of a Customer Success Manager and Account Manager.

CSMs have tactical and strategic responsibilities

Tactical Responsibilities of the CSM, AM, or CS/AM

Here are the tactical responsibilities of Customer Success and account management teams, according to execs.

  • Onboarding New Clients: Walking customers through the setup and initial implementation of the product.
  • Customer Training: Educating customers on how to use the product to its full extent.
  • Technical Support: Troubleshoot any technical issues customers face.
  • Account Monitoring: Keeping track of customer usage data and identifying upsell or churn risks.
  • Customer Communications: Periodic check-ins, status updates, and satisfaction surveys.
  • Issue Resolution: Addressing and resolving concerns or complaints.
  • Contract Renewals: Making sure that customers renew their subscriptions.
  • Upselling and Cross-Selling: Recommending additional features or products to benefit the customer.
  • Billing and Invoicing: Overseeing the financial aspects of customer accounts.
  • Reporting: Generating reports on customer health, churn risk, and other metrics.
  • Product Feedback: Collecting, organizing, and forwarding product feedback from customers to the product team.
  • Cancellation Requests: Handling all the logistics related to account cancellation.

Strategic Responsibilities of the CSM, AM, or CS/AM

CSMs and Account mangers share strategic responsibilities and here is a list of their strategic responsibilities.

  • Account Planning: Creating and implementing tailored success plans for individual clients.
  • Client Retention Strategy: Identifying churn risks and implementing mitigation strategies.
  • Revenue Optimization: Maximizing revenue from existing clients through upselling and cross-selling strategies.
  • Customer Segmentation: Dividing customer base into segments for more targeted interactions.
  • Long-term Relationship Building: Strengthening customer loyalty and establishing partnerships.
  • Customer Advocacy: Turning satisfied customers into brand advocates who will refer new business.
  • Market Analysis: Understanding industry trends to better serve current and future needs.
  • Feedback Loop with Sales and Marketing: Ensuring that insights from customer interactions are shared with the sales and marketing teams to help in targeting and positioning.

CS Exec Automation Vision

What CS execs envision to automate to alleviate what CS/AMs do?

  • Customer Onboarding: Automated walkthroughs and setup guides.
  • Technical Support: AI-powered chatbots for common troubleshooting issues.
  • Account Monitoring: Automated dashboards and alerts for upsell and churn risks.
  • Customer Communications: Automated emails for check-ins, updates, and satisfaction surveys.
  • Reporting: Auto-generated reports on customer health and churn risks.
  • Billing and Invoicing: Automated billing and renewal reminders.
  • Product Feedback: Automated collection and initial feedback categorization.
  • Cancellation Requests: Automated process for handling cancellation logistics.
  • Playbook Digitization: Digitize 75% of playbooks.

Convincing C-level Executives to invest in purpose-built high-ROI automation tools

Earlier in the year, CFOs were the gatekeepers and defacto decision-makers. The CS execs had to convince the CFO — a non-line-of-business executive — before buying products.

Now, the CS leaders are consulting and strategizing with other line-of-business C-level execs before bringing in new products.

So what do you say to the line-of-business and non-line-of-business C-level exes?

To the Chief Customer Officer and Chief Revenue Officer:

  • Scalability: Automated systems can handle an almost infinite number of customer interactions simultaneously, enabling us to scale customer support and revenue without proportional increases in staff.
  • Revenue Optimization: Automation can identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities more efficiently, ensuring we maximize revenue from each customer.

To Chief Marketing Officer:

  • Data-Driven Insights: Automated tools offer robust analytics capabilities that can inform more targeted and effective marketing strategies.

To the Chief Finance Officer and Chief Administrative Officer:

  • Cost Efficiency: Automation significantly reduces the person-hours needed for routine, manual tasks, resulting in operational cost savings.

To All:

  • ROI: Automation offers an excellent return on investment in cost savings, revenue growth, and customer lifetime value.
Read how Pure Storage gets 30x ROI using Digital CSMs

What's in it for the CS and AM teams

Finally, here is a bullet list of how high-ROI tools help CS and AM teams.

  • Efficiency: Automation handles the repetitive tasks, allowing team members to focus on strategic initiatives.
  • Skill Development: With more time freed up, team members can invest in skill development, transitioning from task-focused to strategy-focused.
  • Job Satisfaction: Eliminating repetitive tasks can result in greater job satisfaction and less burnout.
  • Customer Satisfaction: Automation ensures that customers receive immediate, 24/7 support for essential queries, improving overall customer satisfaction.
  • Data-driven: Automated reporting can equip team members with insights to make more informed decisions.
  • Alignment with Company Goals: Emphasize that Automation aligns with the larger company mission of growing efficiently and effectively. It's not about reducing the team's influence but enhancing it.

The Customer Success / Account Manger role

We also had a non-conclusive discussion on why some companies are combining the CSM and AM roles into a CS/AM or "Customer Success Account Manager" role.

I added some advantages and disadvantages here.

Final Thoughts

By taking this comprehensive approach, execs can transition a Customer Success department into a more revenue-focused and efficient function while ensuring job satisfaction and customer happiness.

Along with ROI, we should also look at the Return on Value, a newer term abbreviated as ROV.

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