Evolution of the CSM

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Customer success has been a discipline for over 10 years now and what started out as a proactive account management position has now evolved. Companies have teams, including customer marketing, account executives and product managers who work directly with CS to deliver a customer first product roadmap. CS has now become the heart of most SaaS organizations and the role of the Customer Success Manager is more important than ever before.

In this episode our host Anika Zubair chats with Ray Rauch, VP of Customer Success at Concord, an all-in-one contract management platform that helps increase revenue and achieve flawless compliance with features that drive business results.

Ray Rauch is an accomplished entrepreneur, leader, and CS mentor. With over 20 years of experience in customer-facing leadership roles, Ray has dedicated his career to helping his teams deliver exceptional customer experiences. From fledgling pre-revenue startups to public companies with thousands of customers. Ray has a broad background in the support of the fortune 500 down to the small and medium enterprises. Over the past 10 years, he has deployed multiple business process management platforms aimed specifically at helping customer success professionals maximize their efficiency in serving their customer's needs.

Ray's journey to a CSM started before client success or CS was even a thing but he has always been super activated by customer value. Sales would sell the dream and it was his passion to then see the customers activate and get value in the product. When he first started it was commonly called account management, which initially started as an offshoot of inside sales and evolved to customer centricity.

“Pre-sales was the pre-customer success role, it was understanding the customer needs and then mapping that to your solution or platform.”

Silicon Valley has long been considered the birthplace of CS. Ray's experience of this came from his background in corporate development, with Silicon Valley as a natural place to find great companies to purchase. It was a one of a kind in a genesis but now there are Silicon Valley look-alikes all over the world, from the Silicon Roundabout in London, Tel Aviv in Israel, Singapore, Berlin and France. The advantages of being in San Francisco meant there was a great talent pool of innovators but as the pandemic hit, a lot of companies started hiring wherever they could find talent, which opened up the market and opened up possibilities to bring in people all over the world.

“The earliest adopters in CS, and the leaders today, a lot of them got their start there (Silicon Valley). It did start there but I would say it’s not remained there. There’s been fantastic players all over the globe that have really contributed to that and that is super powerful.”

Having been in the industry for 20 years, Ray has been in CS since the beginning. In his very first job, the role was called CRM but since Salesforce created a category called CRM, it meant shifting and renaming the team. This was back in 2004, when they were one of the first to call the team CS, they may or maynot have been the inventors but they were definitely very early adopters.

“If you’re interested in understanding a business's problems and the puzzle work of mapping that to how your solution solves those problems, then CS deserves a really hard look.”

At the start, CS meant different things in different companies. In some cases it was account management but this was a way to avoid being called “inside sales” and CS was just in the name. Then in other cases they took the time to understand and promoted CS to drive sales and customer expansion.

“When you help your customers activate and achieve value, then they in turn will help you grow your business. There’s this notion of a customer driven engine, where the customers can be the biggest activator to your company's continued growth.”

These companies understood that net retention rates increased when there was organic growth inside the customer base. Ray has been fortunate enough to work in a number of unicorn companies that achieved fantastic NRR from focusing on their customers and focusing on their value.

Ray would also recommend sales awareness in CS. It is important to work tightly with the sales organisation to understand the customer but when you take the commercial aspect away then it allows the CSM to be the trusted advisor and the customer knows that their CS team truly has their best interest at heart.

“Seeing a customer get activated, if you have a retention business it means they will renew, if you have an expansion business it means they're going to grow and more importantly and more neglected is that customer is going to be out there as your advocate.”

Ray has more insights and stories from his 20 year career in CS so listen to the full Podcast to find out more on the evolution of the CSM.

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