Feb 17, 2022

Read Time 7 min

How to encourage your CSMs to adopt Customer Success software


9 tips to get your CSMs to adopt Customer Success software

Have you ever worked at a company where the Customer Success team had to beg for its own tools? But then once you finally secured the tools you and/or your team fought so hard for, you suddenly got cold feet. Hesitations started to creep, and then swoop, in like a doubtful bride headed down the aisle unsure of her decision ahead. Because in that moment, you realize that a new tool means changing your ways, and if you’re being totally honest with yourself, you’re not so sure you’re ready for that. Sure, your current way of working is rather inefficient, ridden with workarounds, and prone to oversights, but it’s familiar and safe – it’s what you know. And sticking to what you know and staying secure in your comfort zone is better than venturing into the unknown, right? Cue the music, Elsa.

While it’s easy to see the flawed logic in this line of thought (rationalizing complacency over change), our good sense doesn’t stop us from conjuring up those internal fears and inertia. But of course, you’re far from alone in feeling this way. That’s why despite our knowing better, we don’t always do better.

In this case, you know adopting a new tool has infinite more upside than downside, yet you remain noncommittal. And the reality is, it doesn’t matter if we are talking about adopting a new email client, a new Customer Success software, a new CRM, a new HR portal—heck, even an unexpected update to your favorite web browser can create adoption paralysis.

Now, let’s dig into why this happens, particularly with CSMs and Customer Success software, and how you can break down adoption barriers from the perspective of both a CSM and a Customer Success leader.

The CSM perspective: how to encourage the adoption of Customer Success software

With Customer Success software still relatively new to the business world (compared to CRMs and other mainstay tools), its introduction to your tech stack can feel like just another tool. Whether you are an industry veteran, or fairly new to the scene, you might not have much hands-on experience with Customer Success software and how it can impact your job (for the better). That’s okay. I have a few tips to help you drive adoption that sticks.

Tip #1 for CSMs: embrace change

As humans, we struggle with change. So how do we overcome this? While there is no simple answer, you (yes, you!) can start by acknowledging that change is hard and then grow from there. (This is also decent life advice but let’s save that for another day.)

CSMs have had to improvise and manage without purpose-built tools for well over a decade. Using Excel as a stopgap solution, we became spreadsheet masterminds and (albeit inefficient) experts at hacking the system to fit our needs. So, although you’ll need to build new muscle memory as you bake your Customer Success software into your day, trust me, it’s worth it!

Tip #2 for CSMs: practice what you preach

If you had a dollar for every customer you had to practically beg to adopt your platform…well, you get where I’m going. As CSMs, we spend our days convincing our customers to adopt our tools. We know that if they adopt, ROI will happen naturally! The same principle applies for mastering your new Customer Success software at your own company. Make sure you practice what you preach.

Tip #3 for CSMs: discuss overlap with other tools

When your manager introduces your new Customer Success software, you might internally object: “But can’t I already do that in our CRM?” Sure, there are minor functions, like adding a one-off task or logging an individual activity, that you can do in your CRM. But CRM functionality only accounts for a tiny sliver of what Customer Success software was built to do in regards to automation, adoption tracking, and journey lifecycle management. Trust me on this one, your CRM is not enough. Once you really get rolling with your Customer Success software, you will never go back to trying to bend other tools to fit your Customer Success needs.

When identifying overlap with other tools in your organization’s tech stack, work with your Customer Success leadership to set expectations for each tool’s specific purpose and use case. Eliminate the confusion and everyone will have an easier time getting onboard.

Tip #4 for CSMs: demand visibility

As a CSM and a contributor at your company, ask – nay, demand! – visibility into Net Revenue Retention (NRR). Establishing transparency around SaaS business metrics, especially ones that you directly influence, increases trust, accountability, and productivity. Because you need to understand how your work affects the organization’s performance if you want to improve and evolve. Without any insight, you don’t know what activities you need to double down on or pullback. Visibility gives you confidence to make decisions and execute. When you have all the background information on a goal and understand its purpose, you feel more comfortable standing behind it and working toward it.

Tip #5 for CSMs: stay positive

One piece of advice that you can implement starting today is to celebrate your own quick wins! You know that email message you constantly copy and paste into new emails and send out? Save time by creating a Play in your Customer Success software to automate the creation and scheduling of that recycled email. Pat yourself on the back because that’s a win, baby! Or instead of fielding questions from sales reps left and right asking if a customer they sold is live yet, point them directly to a Journey report that makes customer lifecycle data accessible across your organization. That’s yet another thing off your plate!

As CSMs, we often live off our calendar and feel like there is never enough time in the day to handle all our customer meetings as well as our internal tasks. Customer Success software makes this possible – you just need to embrace it.

Be vocal about your wins and ask your colleagues to do the same. The collective sharing of wins across the team will help boost morale and increase the adoption of your new tool.

The Customer Success leader perspective: how to encourage the adoption of Customer Success software

Implementing change requires the balancing of bottom-up and top-down approaches. Leadership roles – including your directors, vice presidents, chief customer officers – have a huge influence on the effectiveness of your software adoption initiatives. While adoption may ultimately come down to an individual’s motivation, it’s up to the leaders to ignite action and clear the path.

If you’re a CSM, I encourage you to send these tips to your leaders! And make sure to include a dog meme; it really helps drive the message home.

Tip #1 for leaders: explain YOUR role too

Hopefully as a Customer Success leader, you have set proper expectations with your CSMs on their usage of your new Customer Success software. But what about yourself? Make sure you lead by example. Don’t expect actions of your team that you are not also doing yourself. Explain to your CSMs how you too will leverage this new tool on a regular basis, what reports you will be checking and how often, and your vision for the platform’s role in decision making both today and into the future.

Tip #2 for leaders: make it matter in terms of comp

Design a variable compensation plan that aligns well with the expectations you have set forth for your CSMs. Make it clear how using the new Customer Success software will lead to full variable compensation attainment. No one will ignore this! No one.

Tip #3 for leaders: Stick to the expectations you set

Does your vice president of sales let their sales reps not use their CRM? Nope. Does your chief marketing officer let their marketing team not use email marketing tools? Nope. Do you let your toddler not eat dinner and then still get to have dessert? I hope not; that would be wildly inefficient and lead to chaos at bedtime. The point being, check in on the expectations you set for your team, adjust as needed, and make software usage a core component to your team’s operations going forward.

Tip #4 for leaders: Remain empathetic

Stay humble and understanding, leaders. Keep in mind that for existing CSMs on your team, adapting to this new tool and its associated process changes will not happen overnight. Give your direct reports time and space to adjust. But on the flip side, remember that it is your responsibility to ensure that new CSMs joining your team from this point forward know from day one on the job that using your Customer Success software is a fundamental requirement and part of your standard business practices. Invest heavily in the internal onboarding of new CSMs to your team. This will set your CSMs and your Customer Success software up for success from the get-go.

Final thoughts

The fact that Customer Success software (finally!) now exists is both recognition and validation of Customer Success as an industry, and as an important aspect of a SaaS business. We have worked so hard to get to this point! Don’t throw it all away by not embracing a tool that is specifically designed for you.

Customer Success software is an investment in your department by the company as a whole – perhaps the first major investment in your department ever. This is a gift to you. As a Customer Success department, who might have fought for years for clout and tools, here it is! Embrace it. Use it. It’s here to stay.

And lastly, let’s get serious for a sec. Protecting your NRR = job security. Retaining customers is hard work, but it’s worth it. If you can’t retain your customers, well, the company can’t afford to employ a team of CSMs. Be excited to use any and all of the tools at your disposal to reach your NRR goals.

We all look back and chuckle at how long it took businesses to adopt email into their workings in the early ‘90s. Don’t be that business. Don’t be a future meme. Don’t put Allison on the spot.

To learn more about the root causes of our resistance to change, check out our blog “How to Guide Your Team and Customers Through the Customer Change Management Process.” Only once you understand where the resistance stems from, can you treat the source and create adoption that lasts.


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