onboarding csms

Onboarding Customer Success Managers: The Definitive Guide

14 min read25th of November 2022

With demand outstripping the supply of talented customer success managers at the moment, simply identifying and hiring a dedicated customer success manager will feel like a big win for your business. However, that’s just the start of the journey. The onboarding process is a crucial step in the long-term success of your customer success managers (CSM) and the satisfaction and retention of your customers.

So what can you do to create an onboarding process that helps your CSMs hit the ground running? We’re going to cover a few of the basics before deep diving into the steps you can take to get more value from your CSMs more quickly. 

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What is a customer success manager and what do they do?

Before you can think about putting an onboarding process together, it’s worth clarifying the main responsibilities of a CSM in your business. You can then make sure your onboarding process is geared towards those specific responsibilities. 

At Cloud Coach, our customer success managers act as our customers’ advocates. They are the voice for our customers in our office. They help all our customers get the maximum value from our platform and work tirelessly to make sure they’re successful.

When it comes to their responsibilities, CSMs are typically expected to:

  • Onboard new customers and educate them about how to use the product
  • Build relationships with customers and help them solve their problems
  • Be the voice of the customer, have an understanding of their likes and dislikes about the product, and advocate their needs
  • Advocate for the company and act as cheerleaders for the business
  • Encourage cross-sells and upsells to increase the lifetime value of customers
  • Create loyal and repeat customers by following up on renewals

So that’s what you want your customer success managers to achieve, but how can you get them there more quickly? Read on to discover our onboarding tips and best practices.

7 ways to supercharge your customer success manager onboarding

1. Put your HR manager’s hat on first

You’ll no doubt be itching to introduce your new CSM to the software they’ll be helping customers with, but from a human perspective, the first few days at a new workplace are one of the moments that really matter. So, before diving into the mechanics of the role, make sure they have a good understanding of the company, know where everything is, and are comfortable in their environment. 

The first week or so is the time to focus on the basics, such as the email system, the communication tools you use, calendaring, and the other fundamentals. Even if they have previous experience with the tools, it’s still worth providing them with an overview of how you use them and discussing in-house etiquette and policies.   

It’s also important to provide new CSMs with some much-needed context, such as who reports where, who the managers are, and the teams they’ll be working with (sales, customer support, product management, etc.). This is also a great time to schedule chats between the new CSM and more experienced members of the team. That’ll help them develop the working relationships they’ll soon rely on. 

2. Make the onboarding process transparent

You can make your new CSM more comfortable and confident if they can see the whole onboarding process and understand what’s expected of them. On Cloud Coach, you can create an onboarding project for them, which includes all the steps on their onboarding to-do list by day and by week. 

Each of the steps should include links to all the resources they’ll need, such as video tutorials, e-learning resources, and the contact details of their mentors, managers, and trainers. That way, they’ll have all the materials in one single source of truth to support their self-learning. Once you’ve finished the onboarding process, they’ll also be able to revisit the materials whenever they want.   

3. Introduce your product early on

Once all your HR boxes are ticked, it’s time to introduce them to the product. Hands down, the best way to learn a new product is by using it. Even if they’re not going to be using the platform themselves, CSMs should be product experts so they can understand the product’s value proposition and better resonate with your customers. 

That said, it’s important to appreciate that your CSM is coming to it completely new, and if your platform is complex, that can be overwhelming. That’s why you should break the product down into logical learning chunks, each covering a specific area of the product. You can then start practicing the first components in the early stages of the onboarding process and add more and more as you go. By the end, the CSM should feel comfortable enough to deliver the whole customer demo.

4. Show them what real customer interactions look like

Call shadowing should be a key part of the onboarding process for new customer success managers. It gives them the chance to see and hear what real customer conversations look like and get some insight into the type of questions they’re likely to be asked. They should pay special attention to:

  • How the CSM addresses pain points
  • How the CSM explains to customers how the solution will work for them
  • How they explain the value proposition
  • What terminology they use
  • How much time they spend on each topic
  • What next steps they plan and the timeline 

The value of call shadowing increases dramatically if the new CSM then meets with their trainer or new hire to share their insights and discuss anything they’re unsure of.  

5. Get to know the customers

Your new customer success manager can’t be an effective customer advocate if they don’t understand the challenges they face or know where they’re coming from. The most effective way for new CSMs to learn about the customers’ challenges is to ask questions to understand their situation better. You can help with this process by developing a cheat sheet of useful questions. 

Another way to help your CSMs understand your customers is to hold mock calls using real customer examples. Making mock calls as close to reality as possible and splitting them up by level of complexity ensures you have a bank of calls for different stages of the onboarding process that reflect your customers’ challenges.

6. Benefit from their newness

Successfully onboarding customer success managers is not only about what you can teach them. It’s a two-way street. A new CSM comes to your business with a completely fresh perspective on your products and your processes, so there’s a lot you can learn from them, too. 

Throughout the onboarding process, encourage them to ask as many questions as they can, both about the product’s features and why you do things the way you do. It’s often the case that your existing team is too close to the product and your processes to see their faults. The fresh perspective of a new CSM can introduce new ideas and get your team to think more critically about what they do and whether there could be a better way.

7. Implement a coaching program

Peer coaching is a tried and tested way to get your new customer success managers up to speed with their day-to-day responsibilities. Pairing a new hire with a high-performing, experienced CSM can give them real-world insight into the type of challenges they’re likely to face and the tips and tricks that can otherwise take years to develop. Coaching programs can also cut out many of the common early mistakes and lead to personalized conversations and feedback that’s far more meaningful than traditional learning methods.

As well as helping to reduce confusion and uncertainty for new customer success managers, coaching programs can also become a valuable and cost-effective way of re-engaging and retaining experienced CSMs who are in later stages of their careers.

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Better CSM onboarding with Cloud Coach

Onboarding your Customer Success Managers in an efficient, effective, and timely way is critical to the success of any growing business. 

With Cloud Coach, you can create templates for the entire CSM onboarding process. You can easily create projects with the onboarding steps by day and by week to give your new hires a complete to-do list of everything they need to learn. 

You can also attach all the resources they need to each task, helping to remove uncertainty, facilitate self-study, and decrease average onboarding time.

What’s next?

Want to find out how Cloud Coach can streamline your customer success manager onboarding? Book a live demo with one of our experts or get in touch so we can answer your questions.

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