Customer Success Manager (a.k.a. CSM, a.k.a. Batman)

A few weeks ago I was asked to give a presentation to explain to a new partner what Sysomos CSMs (Customer Success Managers) do, and what makes a good CSM.

The role isn’t different from what CSMs do in other companies. We are the main point of contact for the account and we help clients and end users take the best out of their subscription to reach their goals. Internally, we are also a powerful channel for customer feedback that has true impact in the development of the product.

It’s a mix of support, training, strategy, client advocacy, marketing and a bit of sales; all of it with the goal of: ensuring clients are successful (hence the name of the role), prevent churn and facilitate growth.

As per the skills, while preparing for the presentation I came up with an idea that would allow me to fill my slides with Batman references:

good CSMs are like Batman

The main reason is that we are actually meant to be the client’s personal super hero. We don’t try to sell them anything -we are there to help. We share the good news like updates and new features, and we help navigate through everyday challenges.

A good sales person helps build and maintain this heroic image of the CSM by taking some heat from us when things go south, because as a team we know that the relationship client-CSM is a key factor to prevent churn -and it puts us in a better place to grow the account. Many organizations describe that relationship as that of a “trusted-advisor”, making clear that the CSM is a voice that the client should always be willing to listen to.

So, what makes an outstanding, Batman-like CSM?

1 – Be Responsive

Batman always responds to the bat-signal. A CSM has to respond when a client reaches out.

Of course that can be challenging some times: when you don’t have the update from the product team that you need, or when you are busy with something else (equally urgent) for another client and can’t do the proper research/debugging right away. One thing that helps me show responsiveness is to send a reply within 30 minutes. Not necessarily with an answer or the solution to a problem, but just to acknowledge that I have seen the bat-signal and that I have their back.

The potential downside is setting the expectation that you are always available, but I find that if I simply do my best and not worry too much about when I can’t reply within those 30 minutes most clients end up understanding that I get to things as soon as I can -after all, even Batman is human under the mask!

2 – See Everything

Working in SaaS, you’ll hear this a lot: the CSM is the person that knows an account the best. And I believe that’s a good thing. So I try to make sure that I really am the smartest person in the team: researching the client, taking notes of their users and the different use cases, and keeping track of pain-points that slow them down.

This way, when I receive a question from a user I know exactly where they are coming from and the best way to help them. For example, if there is a bug that breaks their workflow I’m able to quickly come up with potential workarounds, because I know exactly what they need even if their email didn’t describe it in detail.

3 – Be Resourceful

Many people understand resourcefulness as having something like Batman’s belt with all the tools and gadgets ready to go. And that’s important -to be successful, a CSM needs to have access to the right tools, documentation, etc.

But to me, being resourceful is also when you face a problem for which there isn’t a solution yet and you just go to the bat-cave and engineer something new. If  I know that the developers team is addressing my client’s pain-point int he next release but that it wont be in production until next month, I try to find or create a workaround so the client can keep working until the release is published (and here is when point 2 comes handy!).

4 – Adapt Quickly

On top of being resourceful, Batman also excels at adaptability –and so do CSMs. Always ready to change the plan and move in a different direction when needed. Think of the bat-mobile being stalled and Batman just taking off in the motorbike.

I think the best real-life example of adaptability is the client call that for some reason changes direction: it was going to be about solution A but now that doesn’t work for the project and solution B is a better option; it was going to be a training call and it becomes a brainstorm/strategy session with a demo of something new… a CSM just has to be ready to change gears.

5 – Be Strategic

Being able to adapt at any moment to face the unexpected should not be taken as a call to not be strategic when approaching account (and success) managing. As a CSM, I work with the sales account manager on a strategy for short, mid and long term; creating a journey for the account (the account is here and we want to go there).

This allows us to be proactive and get things ready: It’s a lot easier to go from point A to point B if you have a map, so we make our own map.

To involve the client, I like to schedule monthly or quarterly calls as a regular touch-point to receive client feedback and review new features and future use cases. I find this extremely helpful with accounts that are going through a harder time seeing the value of the tools, to ensure there is at least one call every now and then that is not a reaction to the users being frustrated with a specific project.

6 – Take Off the Mask

This is the one difference between CSMs and Batman (other than the pile of money to support all the R&D and engineering involved in being Batman).

Batman is the Dark Knight. He is the hero Gotham deserves, not the one Gotham needs. CSMs are the opposite: the hero the client needs, not the one they deserve.

A friendly, savvy client deserves a CSM that shares all the news and helps with everything, is constantly in touch…. but a savvy client doesn’t need that. They need space to do their job, and the occasional help or call with updates. They are good on their own, they don’t need to be constantly interrupted. I trust that they’ll turn on the bat-signal when they need me.

The opposite extreme would be a client that complains every day about bugs that are not bugs but user errors, maybe because they haven’t taken the time to learn how the tool works and expect that you do everything for them… they deserve to be ignored. But those are the clients that actually need their CSM the most. They need more training, more detailed and faster responses, and more hand-holding. And maybe some day they won’t need so much help.

So, as I see it, a CSM is meant to be the opposite of a Dark Knight. And a big part of that is that you don’t hide. You pick up the phone even if you know they are going to yell at you. And you don’t hide or delay news either. Being transparent might be a bad idea for Batman, but for a CSM transparency always wins long term, because the client needs to trust you. Plus it’s actually a lot easier to handle expectations if you just tell things as they are.

My pro tip here is to get used to really take off the mask and turn on the webcam when having calls with clients. There is something about seeing the other person’s face that automatically creates a stronger, more trusting relationship. There is a reason why onsite visits add so much value, and a video call is the next best thing.

7 – Be Resilient

And some times you just need to power through the rough times: a feature your client has been waiting for gets delayed to the next release, or there is a service interruption and as a CSM you can’t really fix it yourself, or you have four different deadlines to meet by EOD…  and you feel you are going to give up.

But you don’t, because you are Batman and you can be drugged with poisonous gas and set on fire, and still find the strength to jump out the window and run.

If you are a CSM, what other skills would you highlight? And more importantly, Which super hero do you see yourself as?

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The Toilet Glyph Project

Isn’t it amazing that, no matter in which country you are, you can always tell which door sign marks the bathroom for women and which one marks the bathroom for men? Think about it: you go to a country where you don’t speak the language (maybe they even use a different alphabet), enter in a restaurant where there is no chance you know what you are going to eat… and you can still find your way to the right bathroom.

It might be that we all understand the awkwardness of going into the wrong bathroom (specially if you are in a foreign place) and have developed a global set of symbols that work for everyone.

Or it might work the other way around. Maybe our brain is specially good at reading bathroom signs to avoid the feeling of embarrassment and the funny (sometimes offended) looks from anyone who sees us making the fatal mistake.

I find this fascinating.

Simons (Square One) – Mississauga, Canada.

A post shared by Toilet Glyph Project (@toiletglyphprj) on

Each bathroom sign is an incredible mix of creativity, functionality and social context. From the public and corporate impossible-to-miss icons (think of what you would expect to see at an airport) to full on art pieces; and from inoffensive drawings to obvious sexual references or strong statements about gender equality. From accessible bathrooms to family friendly.

It almost feels like toilet glyphs have now become the universal representation of gender: everyone knows what they mean, even if they have never seen that glyph before or come from a place where the meaning of that symbol is something simply inconceivable.

That’s why last year I started to work in what finally became The Toilet Glyph Project. An Instagram account (that spreads to a Twitter account and a WordPress blog) to collect these signs and think about their meaning -because someone made the choice to put that specific sign on that specific door, and it might be a bigger responsibility than you think.

I hope you have as much fun following @toiletglyphprj as I do finding new signs.

Cómo prevenir y actuar ante una crisis en redes sociales

Este post fue publicado originalmente en el blog de Sysomos.

Puede que sea por un fallo en la cadena de producción, un anuncio que se malinterpreta, unas declaraciones fuera de lugar de un empleado… o por mil otras cosas, pero una cosa es segura: cualquier organización, por pequeña o bien preparada que esté, es susceptible de levantarse una mañana y encontrarse con una crisis de comunicación para desayunar.

Por eso los departamentos de comunicación bien preparados tienen, desde mucho antes de que existiesen las redes sociales, planes y estrategias para actuar ante una situación de crisis. La diferencia es que la facilidad, y sobre todo la velocidad, con que una crisis (una noticia, una filtración, un rumor, o incluso un simple .gif animado) se extiende a través de plataformas como Twitter y Facebook hace que ahora sea obligatorio prestar especial atención a estos canales para proteger la reputación de nuestra marca.

Pero no todo son malas noticias. En primer lugar, en realidad no hay que reinventar la rueda. Una crisis es una crisis, y los factores a tener en cuenta son los mismos que antes: cuál es la causa, cómo nos afecta, en qué canales se está hablando del tema, y qué fuentes (medios o personas) están influyendo más en la conversación.

La segunda buena noticia es que, a diferencia de lo que ocurre en otros medios, las conversaciones en redes sociales dejan un rastro que podemos seguir en tiempo real con herramientas de escucha y monitorización (aquí nos gusta usar MAP y Heartbeat) para entender exactamente qué ha pasado, qué está pasando y qué podemos hacer para mejorar la situación.

En la presentación adjunta, que también está disponible en formato de seminario web en nuestro portal de soporte (en inglés), repasamos los pasos básicos para preparar y afrontar una crisis de comunicación en redes sociales:

Definir qué es una crisis y trabajar para prevenirla

El primer paso para responder a una crisis es definir exactamente qué es una crisis, y esa definición es específica para cada organización. Una buena forma de empezar es realizando los análisis SWOT (Strentghs, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats / Fortalezas, Debilidades, Oportunidades y Amenazas) y PESTLE (Political, Economic Socio-cultural, Technological, Legal and Ecological / Político, Económico Socio-cultural, Tecnológico, Legal y Ecológico) para identificar puntos débiles y posibles situaciones adversas.

Y no se trata sólo de entender que los posibles problemas en una fábrica de cerveza son distintos de los que podemos encontrar en una oficina de una aseguradora, sino también definir por ejemplo qué es “normal” en cada caso: mientras un político puede recibir cientos de comentarios negativos en un día sin que suponga un problema (es probablemente normal porque todo el mundo se queja de los políticos) esa mismo volumen de comentarios negativos puede arruinar a un restaurante.

Una vez definidos los distintos escenarios de crisis, y gracias precisamente a esa definición, podemos empezar a trabajar con las palabras clave que nos permitan identificar y evaluar una posible crisis. Es importante hacer este trabajo antes de que se produzca la situación de crisis para crear nuestros puntos de referencia: qué volumen de comentarios y qué tipo de comentarios podemos considerar habituales. Así será fácil señalar y crear alertas para cuando esa conversación se sale de la normalidad, indicando la posible crisis. Además, es recomendable crear los puntos de referencia no sólo para nuestra propia marca sino también para la competencia y toda la industria.

Toda esta información, junto con otros datos (como posibles influenciadores y plataformas clave para nuestra organización) y respuestas predefinidas para distintos escenarios, debe quedar recogida en un documento al que todos los equipos involucrados tengan acceso: la estrategia de comunicación de crisis. En situaciones de crisis es difícil reaccionar, y es mala idea hablar de memoria. Un manual escrito permite reaccionar de manera rápida y racional.

Gestión de una crisis: identificar el problema y decidir cómo responder

Pese a todos nuestros esfuerzos por evitarlo, las crisis suceden. Pero si hemos hecho los deberes afrontar una crisis resulta mucho más sencillo.

Gracias a la estrategia de comunicación de crisis conocemos nuestros puntos fuertes y débiles (análisis SWOT y PESTLE), tenemos un sistema de alertas basado en puntos de referencia, un listado de canales y usuarios (influenciadores) en los que centrarnos para recibir información, y hasta respuestas predefinidas. Es decir: sabíamos que esto podía pasar así que sabemos cómo reaccionar.

Armados con nuestra estrategia, cuando estalla la crisis lo primero que debemos hacer es identificar cuál es el problema exacto y cómo ha aparecido la crisis (un rumor en un blog, una noticia, varios consumidores quejándose…). A través de herramientas como MAP y Heartbeat podemos analizar los comentarios en torno a la crisis para ver el origen del problema y estudiar la conversación; y también podemos encontrar a los usuarios más activos e influyentes que están amplificando la crisis o nos pueden ayudar a contenerla.

Pero también debemos analizar el desarrollo de la crisis, si es un tema que está ganando o perdiendo interés, y responder en consecuencia -o no responder, porque la respuesta inadecuada en el momento inoportuno genera más problemas que soluciones.

Conclusión

Como dijo Warren Buffett, “se tarda veinte años en construir una reputación y cinco minutos en destruirla”. Y eso, en redes sociales, podemos dejarlo en un minuto. Pero aunque las crisis de hoy en día se propagan más fácilmente (la famosa “viralidad” de este medio), también es cierto que disponemos de las herramientas necesarias para que sea más fácil detectarlas a tiempo, encontrar los factores que las definen y reforzar la reputación de la marca.

Lo que debes saber sobre influenciadores y embajadores de marca

Este post fue publicado originalmente en el blog de Sysomos.

Una de las principales características de las redes sociales es que han transformado la estructura de los medios de comunicación. Hemos pasado de los grandes medios de masas (televisión, radio, prensa), donde sólo unos pocos autores tienen la capacidad de enviar un mensaje a miles de personas, a los medios sociales donde cualquier persona puede asumir ese rol -es tan fácil como abrir una cuenta de Twitter, un Blog o una cuenta de Instagram.

En este nuevo escenario los influenciadores (influencers) y embajadores de marca (brand advocates) se han convertido en una pieza clave de la estrategia de comunicación y marketing de empresas de todos los tamaños. Pero,  ¿cómo distinguir entre uno y otro? ¿Cómo saber quién puede ser un influenciador para nuestra marca? ¿Cómo podemos trabajar con ellos para alcanzar nuestros objetivos?

En esta presentación analizamos las diferencias principales entre influenciadores y embajadores de marca, así como la forma de encontrarles utilizando herramientas de inteligencia social como Sysomos Influence  y consejos para trabajar con ellos de forma que tanto nuestra marca como nuestros influenciadores y embajadores de marca obtengan el máximo beneficio de la relación.