As a customer success manager (CSM), one of the most important things you can do is to meet with your customers. Your number one priority should be to build better relationships with those who use your product or servers, and that means meeting face-to-face or screen-to-screen as often as you can.
However, it may seem impossible to manage and grow these customer relationships when you're dealing with a large number of customers and clients — especially when customer counts grow to 100+ or 1000+ even.
If you can't easily name all of your customers by memory, how are you supposed to keep your meetings with them organized?
How can you prioritize which meetings to have and how long to spend on them?
How do you represent yourself and your businesses as best we can, despite the hurricane of work all around?
A lot of it comes down to having excellent systems in place.
Let's take a look at some of these systems and how they can help you stay organized so that every customer gets the attention they deserve:
There are three main factors you'll want to use to prioritize your time as a CSM:
By current value: The most important customers will be those who provide you with the most revenue, while the least important ones will be those who don't (and won't) generate any revenue or are costing you money.
By health: It's important to prioritize customers who are the least happy with your product and are at risk of churning. However, this doesn't mean you should ignore happy customers, who are also often a great source of growth and evangelism.
By potential: The most important customers will be those who have a lot of potential for growth or expansion within your product. These customers fit your ideal customer profile.
Remember that all of your customers are important, but if you're time-constrained and making tough decisions and where to spend your time, ultimately you'll want to work closest with the customers that will have the biggest impact on your business.
Main types of customer meetings
There are many different types of customer meetings you can have depending on what you hope to accomplish. However, all meetings should be ultimately focused around one goal: building relationships.
A strong customer relationship will help iron out any issues that arise.
Of course, customer meetings always have a stated objective, because you can't just schedule a meeting to "build a relationship" with someone. That would be weird.
But regardless of the type of meeting you're having with your customer, keep in mind these tips that apply to all customer meetings.
Customer meeting tips:
Create shared context: Always encourage customers to open up and share their perspective and what's been going well or not so well. You should spend more time listening than talking in any customer meeting.
Understand one another: If there's an issue, help your customer to feel confident in their role to solve it, and what your role is as well. Be clear, and repeat back what you're hearing so that customers know you have heard what the have said.
Agree on next steps: These next steps will be different for every account, but from almost every customer meeting, you'll come away from the meeting with something specific that needs to happen.
(Bonus!) Confirm next steps: You should always follow up after a meeting (via email or chat or another text-based format) just to be sure that everyone is on the same page and action items are documented to set expectations.
If you can create consistency around these four actions, your customer relationships will flourish. The next step is to figure out which kind of meeting you want to have with each customer in order to accomplish this.
Customer check-in meetings
For many CSMs, the idea of checking in on your customers sounds boring, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Checking in with your customers is the perfect opportunity to get insight into what's working and what isn't while setting small goals together that you can accomplish in short periods of time.
These meetings are different for each business, but chances are there will be recurring themes among all your customers. Work with your team or manager to create a standard agenda that you can use for these meetings with every customer.
Examples of questions you could ask include:
How is your recent purchase working out?
What are some challenges that you're facing?
Is there anything we can do to help you today?
You'll also want to have a record of these conversations for your own notes, as well as for marketing to understand the voice of the customer.
Often it is a best practice to save meeting notes to a CRM, although that can be time-consuming and cumbersome. A meeting productivity tool like Hugo will auto-organize your meeting notes and auto-sync them to your CRM (such as Salesforce, Hubspot, Copper, or Pipedrive) and is a better option.
As far as frequency or meeting cadence goes, many CSMs recommend having these check-in meetings with all customers at least once every quarter. However, there are some accounts where it makes more sense to check in on a customer every month, and some customers that you may only want to meet with once a year. It all depends on the nature of your business and what's going well or not so well for that particular customer.
Customer onboarding meetings
Some sales teams will call their first few touch points "getting to know you calls" and make it very casual. CSMs can do this as well, but we like to call them onboarding meetings instead because they often feel more transactional than relationship-building.
These meetings are designed to cover the basics of what your business does, as well as introduce your customers to their account manager or CSM and help them get set up for success.
An individualized agenda for each account will depend on the customer's goals and what they hope to accomplish by using your product. However, there are a few core elements that you should discuss with all customers:
Overview of benefits: Customers want to know what they can expect from working with your company, so start off the meeting by discussing the benefits of your product or services and how it can help them complete their goals.
Account setup: Your account manager or CSM will want to make sure every customer is set up for success with any workflows or ancillary tools they might need to use alongside your product, such as a document-sharing tool or training portal.
Communication preferences: You've likely heard the phrase, "communication is key" before, but what does that mean for your customer relationships? Learn who the go-to people are for any situation. Who will be your primary contact? Your biggest user? Often it's not the person who signed the contract.
Quarterly business reviews
These meetings are similar to check-in meetings because they take place at least once every quarter. The difference is that quarterly business reviews (QBRs) should be much more thorough and include a longer more thoughtful agenda.
QBRs serve as an opportunity for your team to present the customer with key performance indicators (KPIs) and other metrics that demonstrate how their business is doing. This way you can get a pulse on the health of your customer's entire company, not just one department or team.
Working with your manager, create an agenda for QBRs that covers the following:
Account overview/growth summary: Start by providing important updates about usage, growth, or other key data points related to how they interact with your product or services.
Product updates: Tell your customers about product updates or announcements that will affect them so they're aware of any changes and can plan accordingly.
KPI reporting: If you've been keeping track of important metrics throughout the year, now is a good time to share that data with your customers. You'll also want to figure out what the most important KPIs are for success for their team and how those numbers can be improved.
Benchmarking: You can measure your customer's progress against your other customers to give them a better understanding of where they stand.
Feedback: This is part of your ongoing customer relationship management (CRM) efforts. One of the main KPIs that you should be tracking is their satisfaction with how you're working together, so ask for feedback to see what could be improved.
Implementation of customer success plans: If there are specific things they need help with, now is the time to talk about them. You can also identify areas where you can work together to track performance and set goals for improvement.
Next steps: The end of every meeting should be dedicated to setting next steps between you and your customer, such as who will take the lead on future projects, what type of support may be needed next, and what you can do to help them achieve their goals.
While these conversations aren't a regular occurrence, they do happen from time to time when something goes wrong or there's a major issue with your product or workflow that requires immediate attention. Retrospective meetings are typically shorter than other customer meetings because you want to address the concern or issue as quickly as possible.
What went wrong: This is the most important part of the meeting; focusing on what happened, how it happened, and why it happened can help your team improve moving forward.
Mitigation/remediation strategies: If there was a clear problem that your company should have caught but didn't, this is the time to brainstorm ways you can improve moving forward.
Risks and concerns: If there are any other known risks or concerns related to what happened, make sure to mention them here so you can work together to avoid problems in the future.
Next steps: What will happen next? Who will be involved in the solution? How will customer engagements be impacted by this issue? What can be done to prevent this from happening again?
When something goes wrong it's important to take notes during the retrospective so you have a clear record of everything discussed. Once your meeting is over, create a customer-facing document that you can send to your customers after the meeting is over so they have clarity on what happened and how their team will be impacted.
Big picture thinking: Start by figuring out how many customers you have and what types of meetings they need.
Group your customers: It's easier to plan for meetings on a group level, especially if you have a lot of customers and limited time.
Find a cadence: A general rule of thumb is to plan every 3-6 months for customer meetings on average. For each type of meeting, determine when the last meeting was held before planning future ones.
Be flexible: Things change quickly in SaaS and other industries. Make sure to review and update future meeting schedules on a regular basis so they stay relevant to your customers' needs.
Shared calendar: If you have a lot of customers, it's a good idea to set up a shared calendar so people can see upcoming meetings.
Email Whitelist: If you plan to send meeting invites or reminders via email, make sure customers are on your company's whitelist so they receive notifications without getting stuck in spam filters. Or, if it's your first time sending, check in on other channels quickly to make sure all emails were received.
If you find yourself with too many customer meetings to attend, consider delegating tasks to other members of your team so each of you can focus on the most pressing engagements.
If you're meeting with your customer in person, there are a few extra things you don't want to forget. Here's a quick checklist to run through before you head out:
Prepare for the meeting: Know the purpose of your visit, what you need to get out of it, and how long you're expected to stay.
Make sure there's enough time in your schedule: Scheduling too many meetings back-to-back can be difficult to manage, so make sure each appointment is spaced out appropriately to give you the downtime you need for all the things that have to happen in between meetings
Prepare your materials: Bring any reports, promotional items, or anything else you think will help you achieve the goal of your meeting.
Have backup contacts: If for some reason you need to reschedule an in-person visit, make sure your customer can contact you in a pinch by giving them alternative numbers and email addresses.
Meeting follow-up checklist
It's easy to forget critical details after a meeting is over. Make sure you're getting the most out of your customer interactions by updating everyone involved afterward. Here's what to include:
Plan for future meetings: If there are any ways you can help customers proactively, schedule time with them to discuss.
Take detailed notes: Write up an account of the meeting that you can share with other customer success managers, salespeople, and executives to get clarity. Use meeting management software if possible.
Follow-up on next steps: Make sure everyone knows what they need to do after your meetings are over.
Track all touch points: If any customers require additional support, follow up with your technical support managers or other departments within your company to make sure they get everything they need.
Communicate results: Periodically let your wider team know how customer meetings are going and what common themes are recurring.
Being organized is what sets great customer success managers apart from mediocre ones. When you consistently do a good job staying on top of everything, your customers see you as a trusted partner they can rely on to help them achieve their long-term business goals. It's also good for your own well-being.