Five Ways CSMs Can Lead Customers in Transformation

Five Ways CSMs Can Lead Customers in Transformation

If there is something I have learned from my customers who embarked on their transformation journey over the last 14 years, it is that transformation is NOT easy! Digital transformation, while promising significant benefits, has its pitfalls. 70-95% of organizations embarking on their digital transformation journey - fail!

While this statistic may be daunting, it also signifies an incredible opportunity for Enterprise Customer Success Managers (CSMs) to influence customers' decisions and guide them toward successful outcomes. Recognizing these potential pitfalls is essential for any organization to navigate the transformation process successfully.

As CSMs, we often have a different perspective of the customer’s situation - and most importantly, we have the power to influence!

This article delves into common obstacles encountered in digital transformation and explores the top five tasks CSMs must do to guide customers toward achieving success.

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✔️ CSM's Role is Crucial: In the challenging realm of digital transformation, CSMs are key to guiding success.

✔️ Align Goals: Ensuring customer goals align with the solutions provided is vital for successful outcomes.

✔️ Simplify for Success: Overcomplex solutions hinder adoption; simplicity is key.

✔️ Overcome Resistance: Effective change management is essential to ease the transition.

✔️ Honest Guidance: Direct and honest feedback from CSMs can redirect customers onto more successful paths.

✔️ Encourage Collaboration: Promoting internal collaboration within customer organizations is crucial for leveraging full solution potential.

"In a digital era where 70-95% of transformations fail, CSMs are the unsung heroes who can lead customers to success, not just by being supporters but by being strategic advisors."

1. Understand what your customers really want to achieve with your product.

The end goal for transformation is to have a scalable and adaptable solution that helps your customers grow their business and serve their customers better. Your product may solve a part of this bigger vision or the entire one. In either of these scenarios, spend time with your customer to understand what challenges they are trying to solve with your product.

Understand how your product impacts their business, users (who actually use it), and customers. I typically encourage CSMs to baseline the top three KPIs that they can directly link their product to their customer’s vision. I also suggest going further to tie them to their sponsor’s KPIs. Draft a plan that you co-execute with your customer to improve those KPIs.

Result 1: Helps create the roadmap and vision for your product in your customer’s organization

2. Guide your customer to keep things simple!

We’ve all had customers who over-engineered your product, adding a lot of processes. I once had a customer who created a monster with multiple pages and fields to fill out.

Guess what? No one in their organization used the feature! Low adoption rates directly resulted from creating complex processes or unnecessary features to do simple tasks. This leads to waste of development effort and technical debt and impacts user experience.

CSMs must spend time with their customers, helping them whiteboard their processes. Encourage your customers to conduct show-and-tell sessions to give you a sense of how they are using your product. You will be better positioned to guide your customers and help them be process-driven, not technology-driven!

Result 2: Simplicity results in better performance, user experience, and low technical debt

3. Identify gaps in resistance management.

When introducing a new product/process, your customer’s organization must be prepared for change and ready to embrace that change to transform. Unfortunately, people are hard-wired to resist change.

This makes change management a crucial element in the success of your customer’s transformation. Resistance to changes in your customer’s organization could be because of multiple factors, including cultural differences, lack of skill, not understanding the What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) factor, or simply the fear of the unknown!

CSMs come with a different lens and can identify these gaps better. Review your customer’s change management plans, and most importantly, see if they have strategies to manage resistance within their organization.

Result 3: Quicker adoption of your product via an environment that embraces change

4. Speak the truth (even if it hurts!)

Customers are human, and unfortunately, humans make mistakes. I once had a customer who realized they were on the wrong path three months down their development phase. They had a choice then - A. Go back and do it the right way, or B. Continue with what they are building, knowing all the drawbacks. They understood A but chose B.

Six months later, they realized what that decision had cost them, and they then went back to the drawing board. Be fearless and call “spade a spade.” Recommendations and feedback can sometimes be hard to digest for your customers. But it helps you set your customer on the right path. Customers can always trash your recommendations. But, when they start seeing value in your recommendations, you become that trusted advisor to your customers.

Result 4: CSM becomes the trusted advisor in transformation

5. Get your customers to collaborate.

As CSMs, we interact with stakeholders across our customer’s organization. Interestingly, this goes to the extent that sometimes we interact with many parts of our customers' organizations that our other stakeholders do not speak to.

During some of these conversations, we often see some business units (BUs) trying to solve a problem already solved by another part of the same customer’s business. There is a great opportunity for the CSM to be that conduit to get the BUs to start speaking to each other!

Set up governance for your customers to meet with each other and you regularly. This allows the BUs to showcase their achievements with your product and foster team collaboration. With this increased collaboration, CSMs can identify and preempt some of the challenges their customer could face - moving away from a reactive approach to a more proactive approach to success management.

Result 5: Customers don’t need to reinvent the wheel while transforming


The road to digital transformation may be fraught with obstacles, but CSMs emerge as key orchestrators of success in this complex journey. The five essential tasks outlined in this article serve as a compass for CSMs, offering a strategic approach to guide their clients through the complexities of transformation.

By delving into the customer's goals, advocating for simplicity in processes, identifying and overcoming resistance to change, providing unfiltered feedback, and encouraging collaboration, CSMs enhance the prospects of a successful transformation and solidify their role as indispensable partners.

As organizations grapple with overhauling their technology stacks, the proactive and insightful approach of CSMs becomes the linchpin for navigating challenges and ushering in a digitally empowered future. In essence, the collaboration between CSMs and their clients transcends the traditional vendor-client relationship, evolving into a dynamic partnership that propels organizations toward innovation, resilience, and sustained success in the ever-evolving digital landscape.

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