Scaling your customer success program: 4 goal-setting tips for Customer Success Managers

This post is a part of our Customer Success series written by Francoise Tourniaire and follows the last post about segmenting customers. You can read the first post in the series here and the post about scalable methods for customer success here.

This time, we turn to the issue of how to structure goals for customer success managers (CSMs). If you are a CSM and your manager has not set formal goals for you, keep reading! You will be able to suggest meaningful goals for yourself.

1. Match the goals to the mission of the customer success organization

Customer success has five big jobs: onboarding, monitoring customers’ health, retaining customers, upselling, and of course advocating for customers. Goals and objectives for CSMs will depend on the balance between the five.

ft_onboard-advocate

Most customer success organizations focus on onboarding, monitoring, and retention, as discussed in steps 2 and 3. If your organization owns converting prospects, or is in a situation not covered in steps 2 and 3, read step 4 as well.

(Goals for the important role of advocate are usually carried by the manager of the team rather than by the CSMs.)

2. Goals for Onboarding

Customer success teams often choose to have onboarding specialists, whose goal it is to help customers adopt the product quickly through a series of training sessions, guidance to tailor the service, and adoption campaigns. The goals of onboarding specialists usually focus on the number and speed of onboarding projects. It is even better to measure the success of the onboarding projects. Were customers satisfied with the training and coaching? Did they correctly complete the assessment instruments (if any)? Did they manage to use the product without requiring additional assists from support or the CSM?

Onboarding specialists may receive a bonus based on achievement of their goals, or sometimes a fixed compensation.

3. Goals for Retention & Expansion

The goals of CSMs that are not pure onboarding specialists are sometimes based on customer satisfaction (as measured by a periodic survey) but are almost always driven by customer retention. There are many ways to measure retention so the computation mechanism matters, a lot. It can either be:

new MRR / old MRR

or

renewed MRR / MRR up for renewal

The first formula includes upgrades (expansion revenue); the second does not. This is an important distinction. If the goals include expansion sales, CSMs may neglect smaller customers who are unlikely to expand—and that may be just what you want. If not, either use a pure retention goal (i.e. use the second formula) or set two goals, one for retention and one for expansion. Set targets based on historical data, with careful uplifts added each quarter.

Note that neither formula relies on the activities that CSMs perform (onboarding sessions, QBRs, regular updates), only the results of the activities.

CSMs’ compensation usually includes a base and a significant bonus based on retention and/or expansion. (CSMs do not normally receive a commission, which is reserved for sales reps.)

4: Special Cases

Startups

In startups with no reliable history of renewals, it’s often difficult to set meaningful individual retention targets. Instead, use a group target, with the added benefit that group targets promote teamwork. (It’s not a bad idea to give CSMs both an individual and a group target, even in established teams, as recognition of the importance of teamwork.)

When Customer Success is all about Sales

If CSMs are deployed mainly to convert prospects or to push expansion purchases, their goal should be based on conversions (and their compensation may well be in the form of commissions.)

When Account Segments Behave Differently

Large accounts tend to renew at much higher rates than smaller accounts, regardless of the industry. New accounts churn a lot more than established accounts. And “at-risk” accounts, those that demand the most effort, are much more likely to churn.

If all CSMs handle a variety of accounts, no problem: you can set the same goals and the same targets for everyone. But if they specialize the CSMs by customer segment, take the mix into consideration. For instance, the retention goal for “at risk” CSMs may be only 50% while for others the target is 90%.


Francoise Tourniaire is the founder of FT Works and co-founder of ChurnSquad.  Both companies provide consulting, training, and coaching to create and improve customer success initiatives. Her latest book, The Art of Support, provides guidance for both customer success and support executives. Contact Francoise at FT@ftworks.com or 650 559 9826 for more information.