How to Onboard New Customer Success Managers: A 30-60-90 Day Guide

How to Onboard New Customer Success Managers: A 30-60-90 Day Guide

CS Insider in collaboration with Erika Villarreal recently published an excellent guide for new Customer Success Managers on how to be successful in their first 30, 60, and 90 days.

However, people leaders also play a crucial role in helping Customer Success Managers onboard successfully.

In this article, I’ll share my best advice for onboarding new members of a Customer Success team as well as lessons learned as a people leader.

Good Onboarding Starts With Good Preparation

I’ve found that the better I plan before a new Customer Success Manager joins the team, the better their onboarding experience usually is. As a people manager, no doubt you have many plates spinning at one time – maybe even too many. However, it’s crucial to get new Customer Success Managers off to a good start.

As their manager, it’s up to you to guide and direct them through what can be an overwhelming number of faces, names, technologies to understand, customers to meet, and of course – all the acronyms your company uses.

Here are two ways to prepare for your new Customer Success Manager:

  1. Ask one of your more experienced team members to serve as a mentor for the new hire. Mentors can help your new Customer Success Manager have a smooth entry into the company and can help them feel at home. I’ll talk more about the ideal mentoring process a bit later in this guide but you should start thinking about ways to get your team involved in the onboarding process early.
  2. Create a schedule for your new Customer Success Manager’s first day. It doesn’t have to be down to the minute, but it should give them a good idea of what to expect. Let them know what time to show up to start their day and provide a broad overview of day 1 activities. In many companies, new employees start off with the HR team – signing paperwork, providing documentation, etc. Beyond that, provide them some structure and let them know how their day will play out. I’ve usually communicated this ahead of time in case there are any questions.

The First Day

Finally, your new hire joins the company. This is when all the hard work – and the fun – begins.

As noted above, let your new team member know when they should show up to start their day. If your company has returned to working in the office, you should be there to greet them. Introduce them to the other Customer Success Managers first. They need to start forming a sense of comfort and familiarity with each other early.

Customer Success seems like a very small world, and many Customer Success Managers and leaders know one another from previous companies, or at least by reputation. When introducing team members, share a little about their background and the companies they’ve worked at. Chances are, your new Customer Success Manager will have multiple connections in common with your team. It’s always nice to know when your co-workers know someone you know – it can build a sense of trust and confidence in the new Customer Success Manager

Your Customer Success Manager’s First 30 Days – The Basics of the Business

The first 30 days of your new employee’s onboarding should be about educating them on the tools they will need for their roles and giving them an overview of the company. Make sure your new Customer Success Manager has a good understanding of the company and the environment before diving into the mechanics of the role.

The first week or so should be focused on things like the email system, calendaring, communications tools (Slack, etc.), and so on. Even if your new Customer Success Manager has familiarity with these tools from previous roles, they will still need an overview of how your company uses the tools. If your company has policies on email or meeting etiquette, now is the time to educate your new team member. You want to make sure they don’t inadvertently go against company norms and policies.

This is also a good time to go over the structure of the company and a bit of its history. Knowing which groups report where, who the managers are, etc., will help your new Customer Success Manager get a feel for the groups they’ll have to work with. Understanding the company’s history is important as well. It will give your new team member some much-needed context. They’ll also have much more of an appreciation for their new company.

During this time, I’ve also found it helpful to schedule “coffee chats” between the new Customer Success Manager and more experienced members of the company. The Customer Success Manager role touches many different parts of the company, so it’s important to get new team members engaging with them as soon as you can. I’ve focused on getting my new team members introduced to sales, product management, customer support, and engineering as soon as I can. Since Customer Success Managers must work by influence and not control, it’s important they start forming good relationships as soon as they can.

Finally, during these first 30 days, it’s important that your new Customer Success Manager understands that you’re there to help them feel comfortable and be successful. I usually set up 30-45 minute 1-1s twice a week during the new employee’s first 2-3 weeks. This is the most critical time of their onboarding phase and I want to make sure it starts off well. I also set up a check-in after the first 30 days to see if the role is what they expected, what their “wins” are, etc. This is a great time to make sure everything is going well – or to course correct if it’s not.


Day 30 Onboarding Check-In ✔️

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Is the employee’s current performance as expected?
  2. Have they introduced themselves and moderately interacted with the team?
  3. What is an example of success they have had? (share w/ employee)
  4. What is something they can improve on? (share w/ employee)
  5. Are they a good fit for their current role?
  6. How is their communication?

Questions to ask your new CSM:

  1. Is this job what you expected?
  2. Do you have any successes you would like to share?
  3. Have you had any significant problems or issues?
  4. Do you feel like you’ve received access to the information and resources you need to complete your job?
  5. Do you have any expertise or experience that you think could be better utilized?
  6. Moving forward, what would you like to accomplish in the next 30 days?
  7. Is there anything else you’d like for me to know?


Days 31-60 – The Role of a Customer Success Manager at Your Company

After the first 30 days, it’s a good time to get into the specifics of the new Customer Success Manager’s role. It’s not yet time for them to take on their new book of business, but it’s important to prepare them so they’re ready when they do start engaging with accounts. You may consider having the new Customer Success Manager’s mentor engage in this part of their onboarding. An experienced Customer Success Manager will likely provide some good insight, and this also helps build strong relationships with other team members.

Start with an overview of the role of Customer Success at your company. CS is different from one company to another, so it’s important to provide clarity. This overview could contain things like whether the Customer Success Manager is responsible for revenue generation (or not), what a book of business looks like for your company, and what their measures of success will be.

After this, start reviewing the customer journey with them. They will need clarity on when they start engaging with a customer, what the expected lifecycle is, etc. It’s also good to combine this overview with a discussion of any playbooks or processes you have in place. They may not need a deep dive at this point, but it’s good for them to be able to put everything into context. If you have a dedicated platform for Customer Success (something like Gainsight, ClientSuccess, etc.), then this is a good time for an overview of the tool as well.

Towards the end of this period, the new Customer Success Manager should start shadowing experienced team members on customer calls and visits. This is a great way to learn the job and to see a peer in action. I usually schedule a quick call with a new Customer Success Manager before having them shadow a call – that way, their mentor or I can share any insights about the customer or specific things to be aware of. A call after the customer meeting is also valuable so the new Customer Success Manager can ask questions about the customer or the call.

As you approach the end of the new Customer Success Manager’s first 60 days, make sure they feel equipped and ready to start engaging with customers. A good level of comfort with the processes and tools for the job is critical for the next phase – starting customer engagements.

As with the first 30 days, I set up a dedicated check-in time to review how they’re feeling about the job, to understand if they’re feeling supported, and to see if there are roadblocks to their progress.


Day 60 Onboarding Check-In ✔️

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are you satisfied with the employee's current performance?
  2. Have they displayed the ability to adapt and learn quickly?
  3. Are you confident they are able to fit the job role expectations?
  4. Have they excelled at something? (share w/ employee)
  5. Is there something they need to improve on? (share w/ employee)

Questions to ask your new CSM:

  1. Do you like what you are working on and are you feeling challenged?
  2. Who do you talk to when you have questions about work? Do you feel comfortable asking?
  3. How do you think you are doing with the goal we set at your 30-day check-in?
  4. Moving forward, what would you like to accomplish in the next 30 days?
  5. Is there anything else you’d like for me to know?


Days 61-90 – Customer Introductions and Engagement

After the first 60 days on the job, the focus should be on engaging with customers in the new Customer Success Manager’s book of business. They will likely not be ready to operate independently at this point, but it’s a good time for them to start the process.

This is the point where you will begin introducing customers to their new Customer Success Manager. If the new Customer Success Manager is taking over an existing territory, it’s good to have the prior Customer Success Manager provide the introduction. If the customers were previously owned and managed by the sales team, the account manager should provide the introduction.

New Customer Success Managers should also drill into their customers’ data. This includes knowing their upcoming renewals, health scores for all their customers, and a sense of the customers’ priorities and milestones. This will give them a good point of view of what’s important to their customers when they start engaging.

The new Customer Success Manager should also set up meetings with their top customers. These can be focused on an introduction and a quick review of priorities, goals, etc. that the customer has. This would also be an excellent opportunity for a mini business review with the customer to ensure they’re still headed towards success.

It’s important that you and your team support the new Customer Success Manager during these calls. There should be someone on the call to assist the new Customer Success Manager as they begin customer engagement. Either you as their manager or a more experienced Customer Success Manager should be there to help them during the meeting. It’s also good to plan a call both before and after the customer call – before to review the game plan, and after to provide feedback and answer questions.


Day 90 Onboarding Check-In ✔️

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. What are some things they can improve on? (share w/ employee)
  2. Are you satisfied with the employee's current performance?
  3. What are three things that they have been doing well? (share w/ employee)
  4. Are they able to do the majority of their responsibilities on their own?
  5. Do you see any areas where improvements need to be made or additional skills can be learned?
  6. Have they adequately bonded with the team?

Questions to ask your new CSM:

  1. Do you need clarity about anything related to your job, or the organization as a whole?
  2. Do you believe your ideas and suggestions are valued? Can you give me an example of some type of change you've recommended that's been implemented?
  3. What are 3 things that you feel you have been doing really well?
  4. Is there anything you feel you could improve?
  5. Is there anything else you’d like for me to know?


Beyond 90 Days

Congratulations, your new Customer Success Manager has made it past their first 90 days of onboarding. They now should be rapidly approaching a steady state and should be operating independently.

After the first 90 days I typically move into a cadence of weekly 1-1 meetings. I stress to my entire team that I’m always available anytime they need me. A standing 1-1 gives us time to step back from the day-to-day and the urgent and focus on their priorities and progress.

This is also a great time to review the onboarding process. Ask your new team member what went well, what should change, etc., so you can improve for the future.

Always remember that the first 90 days of a Customer Success Manager’s tenure with your company are crucial in helping them be successful. Good execution here won’t guarantee success, but poor execution of an onboarding process can lead to failure and frustration.

Need a quick reference guide? Download my check-in template cheat sheet here!

30-60-90 Day Check In Cheat Sheet
30-60-90 Day Check In Cheat Sheet

This article was edited by Kenneth Sinensky.

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