As a manager, you’re responsible for helping new starters reach their full impact (on revenue, and culture) as fast as possible. That requires a smooth & effective onboarding process.
In this article, I'll explore how you can create an effective onboarding program for a new Customer Success Manager (CSM). We'll cover what should be included in an onboarding program, and who should be involved in creating it.
By the end, you'll know how to get someone up to speed quickly so they can start delivering results right away!
p.s. if you haven't hired yet, start here: How To Hire A Customer Success Manager!
The purpose of having a clear customer success onboarding process
The process will help new starters to:
1- Understand what's expected of them in their new role, so they can hit the ground running right away.
2- Have confidence in their ability to do the job well, which leads to feeling more confident about their performance and working relationships.
9 best practices for onboarding new customer success managers
To ensure that your new CSM has a smooth transition, here are some things you should do:
1. Clearly define the process with milestones
You should create a clearly documented process with a set of milestones & actions for you & the new CSM. That will make it easy to track the steps & progress for getting up and running, and give the new starter an idea of what’s coming next at each stage.
Defined milestones are key because they ensure everyone knows when they have finished something or reached a certain point in their journey together. More on these milestones later on!
2. Make a checklist for the basic stuff
This should include things like setting up their email account, creating an online profile on the Customer Success Platform, and so on. You can also include any training materials, recommended reading, or tools they'll need to be successful in their role.
You can also include all of the things that need to happen before someone starts working full-time at your company--including paperwork like W-4 forms or I-9 forms if applicable; office tours and introductions around campus, etc.
Create a communication plan with your team members around when they'll speak with the new hire and how often they'll check in with them throughout the first few weeks of employment (e.g., once per week).
Book them sessions with each of the other functions of the business. The goal is to provide them with a clear picture of what everyone does and an overview of how they operate.
3. Introduce the CSM to your team culture
You also need to establish early on how the company operates on various levels culture-wise. This is a major factor in avoiding conflicts due to misunderstandings. Sharing with them a document with high level information on what the company cares about most, how they go about it and what the ultimate vision is, will help your new CSM understand where his role fits in that greater plan.
What I suggest on top of that is creating a presentation (or a document if you’re less fancy) describing the CS Team’s Values, Vision & Rituals. In there, I make sure to give my personal touch on how we approach things as a Team. The values and vision sections are probably self-explanatory but the rituals bit, I believe needs a bit elaborating.
In the Rituals slides, I include things like:
- Day-to-day activities that keep our customers delighted
- Internal, recurring processes and meetings that keep us on track
- Team activities that keep the members engaged, motivated and true to each other
Which brings me to my next point if you want to go all out!
4. Create a Customer Success team playbook
That includes everything from customer handoff templates, weekly meetings and reporting expectations all the way down through who owns which tasks at what point in time--this will make it easier for everyone involved in supporting customers.
Customer handoff templates — A high-level overview of how each team member will interact with customers. This should include any tools or documents that need to be shared, as well as how often those interactions will take place.
Weekly meetings — A detailed schedule for weekly meetings that includes topics for discussion and action items for each team member attending the meeting.
Reporting expectations — Clear expectations for how reporting should be handled by each department in your company (e.g., sales reports) so everyone is working with the same information at all times.
Who owns which tasks at what point in time — This includes anything from onboarding emails and phone calls to post-sale calls and customer service tickets that need to be handled by someone on your team.
5. Guides on how to use Customer Success tools
Every Customer Success team has their own ways of doing things and uses different tools based on the industry they’re catering for. This means that even if the new CSM is perfect for the role skills-wise, they most likely need to be brought up to speed with how you specifically handle different aspects of your day-to-day.
Now, this might be a little bit time-consuming the first time you draft guides like that but believe me it will save you hours upon hours of side by side walkthroughs with every new CSM you hire. If you have teammates willing to help, I’d delegate a tool to those who use it the most and let them put their expertise to good use. On top of being recognised for their skills, people are always happy to be involved with onboarding new teammates for some reason. Personally, I believe it’s because it helps them do something creative for the team.
6. Check in with the new CSM regularly
As a Customer Success Leader, your job is to work for your teammates and the onboarding period is one of those times when your new CSM needs you the most. Try to step into their shoes or recall when you were in their position.
How would you feel?
What did you need most in your first days in this role?
What was the most difficult part of becoming part of a new team?
These and many more questions need to be addressed so your new Customer Success Manager may feel safe to express ideas and concerns.
Gather all the questions you need to ask them and schedule 1-on-1s to address them together.
I personally check in with them daily as well. I’m the first person they met, they feel more familiar with me and expect me to guide them. You’ll realize that the closer you are to them as a trusted guide instead of their “manager”, the faster they’ll unfold their talents’ full range.
Later on this article, I made sure to cover the official onboarding milestone points - stay with me for a little while longer!
7. Gradually handover accounts & responsibilities
The last step of onboarding a new CSM is facilitating the account handover process. What I usually do here before introducing them to each of their portfolio accounts is go through the accounts one by one and explaining key details such as:
- Current state/metrics
- Goals & objectives
- Pain points that need to be addressed
Hand off existing customers gradually over time as opposed to dumping them all them right away is crucial if you want to avoid rookie mistakes. This will help ensure a smooth transition between teammates while still allowing each individual plenty of time to get acclimated before taking full ownership over their first set of customers.
Set clear expectations around when someone should expect ownership over their first set of clients/customers/subscribers etc., depending on what type(s) exist within your company's offering(s).
8. Involve the rest of the CS Team
As I mentioned above, senior CS members are quite eager to help new ones onboard most of the time. If you think about it, it feels good to be helpful and a source of knowledge for somebody else. So, ask your teammates if they’d like to be involved and create a small group of onboarding minions!
Chances are that each of your teammates are gifted in a certain area of your work and by leveraging their expertise, you can create a team of experts. The new CSM can go to each of them instead of pinging a specific person with questions. This way, you balance the workload and your new teammate gets to know the team by working closely with them from day one.
9. Ask for feedback
One of my favorite aspects of bringing new blood in my teams is they can see our shortcomings better than we can after a point. A new teammate experiencing your internal processes for the first time is the ideal person to get feedback from on what works and what doesn’t.
What’s more, this person brings their own expertise in your company as well. They’re most likely able to identify growth opportunities that you might not have thought of yet. So, I suggest you approach this time with an open mind and provide room for their thoughts to be expressed. Don’t assume you know everything or present the status quo as the best version.
CSM onboarding milestones: day 1 to day 90
The first day
The first day is an important time for you to get your new CSM up to speed. You'll want to spend time introducing them to the culture of your company, as well as its processes and practices. You'll also want them to meet their team members and manager, as well as other departments they will be working with.
Introduce the CSM to your company culture and processes
Once the new CSM is onboarded, it's time for them to get their feet wet. But before you throw them into the deep end, there are some things you can do to make sure they have an easier time getting acclimated.
Introduce them to your company culture and processes. The more time you spend explaining how things work at your organization, the less time they'll spend figuring it out on their own (and potentially making mistakes). If there's anything from Slack etiquette rules to customer success metrics or KPIs that they need to know about--or if there are any specific policies or procedures in place--this is when you should introduce them!
Introduce them around by introducing yourself first; then introduce everyone else in turn so that everyone gets their name right when talking about each other. This helps build rapport among coworkers as well as helping new hires feel more comfortable within their first few weeks here at [insert Company Name].
First 30 days
The first 30 days of onboarding a new CSM is all about getting them to know the company culture, processes, tools and product. The goal is for them to feel comfortable enough in their role that they can start helping customers quickly without needing much hand-holding from you or other team members.
Here's how you can get your new hire up to speed:
I’ll reiterate once more: introduce the new person around! Show off your office space (if you have one), and help them get involved in social events.
Show them how everything works. This includes showing them how all of our tools work, explaining how we track customer interactions, walking through our Customer Success process, walking through our Customer Support process; etc.
Don’t make things too intense. New hires need time away from work just like anyone else--they're still figuring out how things work here!
Give responsibilities early, and remember not to micro-manage
What if you could take a hands-off approach to onboarding your new CSM? What if they had the space to learn and grow, without feeling like they were being micromanaged or controlled?
By delegating tasks and responsibilities, you'll give them the opportunity to do their job with minimal supervision from you. In turn, this will allow both parties (you and your CSM) more time for other things that matter in life--like family, friends and hobbies!
Progress check-in questions to ask
Now that you have set up the right expectations, it's time to check in with your new CSM and make sure they are on track. You'll want to ask them a few questions. Here’s some ideas:
- How are you feeling about your progress so far?
- What do you think will be your biggest challenge as a CSM? And how can I help overcome it?
- What do I need to do in order for this role to be successful for both myself and my company/client (if applicable)?
Days 31 to 60 of your new Customer Success Manager
After the initial 30 days, you should be feeling pretty good about how things are going. Your new CSM has been able to get their feet under them and start getting into a rhythm. They've also had time to learn more about your company culture and processes, which is essential if they're going to be able to provide value beyond just customer service.
Things will probably still be a little hectic at first--you'll have some training sessions with them, and help them get acquainted with everyone who works on your team (including yourself). But once this initial rush dies down and things settle down into more of an everyday routine for both parties involved in the onboarding process: it's time for us all to take stock of where we stand now compared to where we were when we started out together!
This is an opportunity for you, as their leader, to get a feel for where they are at in terms of their understanding of the role and what they want out of it. The goal here is not only to help ensure that this person has everything they need but also to make sure they're excited about what comes next!
Here's how I recommend conducting this session:
1. Start by asking your new hire how they feel about being on board as a Customer Success Manager (CSM). Are there any questions or concerns? What do they think about the role thus far?
2. Next up: What would like me as your manager/business owner/etc., do differently so that I can help you achieve success more quickly?
3. Finally, ask if there's anything else we should cover before moving forward with training plans or onboarding materials creation...
Days 61 to 90: final handovers & customer intros
- Handover all the information you have on the customer, including your notes and recordings.
- Introduce your new CSM to the customers in brief meetings where they can get to know each other better.
- Check in with the customer and make sure they are happy with their transition over to your new CSM. If any issues arise, discuss them at your weekly meeting with Head of Customer Success (or whatever title they have).
Final onboarding check-in with the new CSM
- Give the new CSM a chance to talk about their experience.
- Ask if they have any questions or concerns.
- If they don't, ask if they have any suggestions for improvement.
- If they do, address them and make sure they are fixed!
The goal of onboarding is to get your new CSM up to speed as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Here are some final tips on how to make the process go smoothly in general:
Be proactive. Create a welcome email that includes all the information they need, like their login credentials and access to company resources like Slack channels or Salesforce data.
Be friendly and open. It's important not only that you establish rapport with your new CSM but also that they feel comfortable sharing their concerns with you (and vice versa).
Be empathetic. Understanding what's important in terms of productivity and work environment will help guide their future development. Provide helpful advice along each step of this process so we can better understand where they fall within their overall growth plan.
In the end, onboarding is about getting to know your new CSM. It's about making sure that they have everything they need to succeed in their role, and it's also about making sure that they feel welcome in your company culture. This can be a difficult process for both sides--but with a little bit of planning and forethought on both parts, it should be relatively painless!
I hope that this article has been helpful in giving you an overview of what to expect when onboarding a new Customer Success Manager, as well as tips on how to do it effectively. Remember that there are many tools and resources available online, so don't be afraid to reach out if you need help.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this so don’t hesitate to contact me on Linkedin for a chat!