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The tremendous speed and momentum of organizations abandoning the traditional purchase and consume model in favor of the subscription model has created the need for a new role and function within many large and small organizations who are providing their products and services on the ‘pay as you go’ model.  The role is often titled Customer Success Manager (CSM) and the person with this title is given the responsibility of ensuring client success in maximizing return on their ongoing investment.

Considering that the CSM function is relatively new, the role is experiencing tremendous growth in complexity and practitioners, putting stress across organizations in building, scaling and delivering on the promise of ensuring customer success and generating stable (and growing) revenue stream.

To help others avoid some of the pitfalls I have come across in establishing and driving successful CS organizations I am sharing five biggest mistakes I have seen in organizations trying to build and manage their Customer Success teams:


  1. Not defining what customer success means FOR EACH CUSTOMER: It seems like a no brainer, right? but it is amazing that many companies make assumptions about what their customers need or want without objective analysis, research and questioning.

As the old saying goes ‘if you don’t know where you are going, then you never get there’.  This is exactly what happens with many Customer Success Managers.  In the absence of having clear goal and destination they are aimlessly working very hard.  There is a simple and straight forward solution that is so simple, most people don’t do it.  JUST ASK.  Make it one of your first questions you ask your clients/prospects (the right stakeholders): ‘ How do you define success on this XYZ project/product/service?’

  1. Happy & successful are not the same: I hear a lot of CS and sales leaders talk about happy customers.  It is certainly good to have happy people, especially customers.  Nothing wrong with that.  But when it comes to making sure you have customers who will continue to renew their contracts, buy more stuff & become your best source of referral, being a happy customer is not enough.  I have seen some of my clients being shocked when they find out that a client of theirs, who seemed to be perfectly happy with their services just got up and left.  It is not about being happy. It is about getting the return they expected from the service.


  1. Don’t forget the customer journey: As a trainer and coach for the Challenger Sales I am a big believer in ‘Customer Experience’. In the subscription business model the buying and selling never stops; therefore the CE does not end at any one point. The Destination (getting the desired outcome) is certainly crucial to the client. But the journey of how they get there is just as important.  That journey and experience includes all the touch points the client has with the service provider.  One of the activities we often do in our CS programs is the customer journey mapping where we have the CSMs & leaders put themselves in their clients shoes and take the journey, experience the whole customer lifecycle and identify all the crucial points and how to create the best experience possible.


  1. Focusing only on customer churn: Customer churn in cloud business is very unpleasant and in a large enough volume could be a catastrophe. But that does not mean that vendors should only focus on this lagging indicator.  By the time a client is threatening or initiating service cancellation it is often too late to make any meaningful or long-lasting impact on the relationship.  Looking to avoid customer churn all the time makes the CS team and the company reactive and always dealing with symptoms rather than the source of the customer dissatisfaction and cancellation further up the chain.


  1. Customer Success is everyone’s job: I often come across companies (big and small) who seem to miss the whole point of being in the business they are in, which is to make their customers more successful. At the end of the day customer success must be part of the organization’s DNA and not just a job title and job description given to a few people in the company who are tasked with creating successful customers. No CSM can make a customer a success without the whole team and organization behind her.  If the whole organization does not have a culture built around its customers and their success, then the CSM alone cannot deliver on her title.


Contact us for a 30 minutes conversation on how to generate new opportunities, grow revenue and improve your client engagement.

About the author:

Mark Ghaderi is an international revenue growth consultant, author, sales coach, mentor, entrepreneur and social selling evangelist with twenty five years of driving business results across the globe.

Vital Strategies Pte Ltd. Provides Revenue Growth Services to companies across the APAC region, helping organizations to grow their top line through digital transformation, improving sales execution & leverage Customer Success to grow revenue across the entire customer lifecycle.

contact us at: sales@vital-strategies.com


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