The “subscription economy” is booming. Companies that have adopted the subscription-based model, such as Zoom, sell their services via annual licenses or usage-based billing.
With these models, a new job description has emerged: the Customer Success Manager (CSM). Is this simply the new fashionable title for the traditional customer relationship function, or do they bring a real advantage in terms of customer experience?
Payplug is of the latter camp, believing that customer success managers should be viewed as partners in their clients’ success.
Nathan Dondey, Head of the customer success teams, and Eric Pégulu, Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer, describe this new profession, which complements customer support, by seven key advantages.
Advantage 1: a CSM provides proactive help to customers
The primary characteristic of a CSM is not only to solve problems, but to do so proactively, whenever they identify an opportunity to create value for their customer.
At any time, in payment services, customer support managers are present to remedy any technical or legal difficulties. For example, an e-merchant notices an abnormal failure rate for a means of payment. This involves investigating the causes of the malfunction and correcting them quickly. Ad hoc and ideally sporadic interventions.
Another task of the CSMs, in parallel to the role of support manager is to always accompany customers to monitor and optimise their results.
On this basis, their performance indicators are also specific: where the support manager monitors response times, incident resolutions, and customer satisfaction, CSMs also focus on satisfaction, as well as the value co-created with the customer.
For Eric Pégulu, the example of the transition to the PSD2 payment services directive illustrates this initiative-taking support: ‘The CSMs did not just transit information about the regulatory change and the customers’ obligation to comply. Some of our CSMs did calculations for their customers to simulate the impact of the new regulation for them. A valuable exercise to enable customers to anticipate their specific challenges. For example, a drop in the acceptance rate from 93% to 84%. On this basis, CSMs were then able to dialogue with the customer and suggest choices that could minimise the negative impact’.
“Customer Success Managers embody our positioning: the “Payplug’s touch” means becoming the preferred payment Partner for our customers by placing transparency, reliability, and proactiveness at the heart of their experience.”
Arthur de Longeaux – VP Operations Enterprise at Payplug
Advantage 2: a CSM has an advisory role
As shown in the previous example the transition to PSD2 customer support involves an important advice component. To fulfill this role, CSMs rely both on their technical expertise and their knowledge of the business sector and the data of similar merchants.
At Payplug, the CSMs perform this advisory role at each stage of the customer cycle, from the handover from sales, to onboarding, then the run, to potential future developments.
CSMs give first recommendations based on the merchant’s business sector, geographical footprint, basket, and standard customer profile, for example, on the ideal variety of payment methods to offer end customers or the recommended fraud protection plan.
This role continues once the solution is in place. A CSM monitors the payment data of their customers and proposes strategy adjustments, during regular “business review” meetings.
This is the opportunity to recommend areas for improvement inspired by good sector practices, as would a consultant. For example, proposing a payment solution in three installments free of charge to boost sales.
Lastly, a CSM will support its customer at every stage of their development. Expanding the customer’s offer to new countries, the CSM will help to suggest the appropriate mix of payment solutions.
This takes into account local specifications such as SOFORT or Giropay in Germany, iDEAL in the Netherlands, etc., or help the customer to configure appropriate anti-fraud rules. Opening a marketplace, the CSM will offer their experience in this type of development gained with other customers.
Eric Pegulu recalls: “When a large furniture and decoration brand launched its marketplace, we were in close dialogue with its technical teams. Thanks to the perspective we had on the marketplace platform they had chosen, we could suggest the most effective approaches to interface the platform and the payment solution. A way of anticipating and preventing technical difficulties at launch”.
Advantage 3: a CSM participates in the design of the services offer
The role of a CSM is not limited to advising the customer on the best use of the existing service offering, it goes as far as influencing its design.
Development teams receive two sources of information. On the one hand, the support managers, who report recurring irritants and technical problems. And on the other hand, the CSMs, which indicate what developments would be likely to create value for their customers.
In fact, as a guarantor of the customer’s performance, the CSM becomes the “promoters” in development cycles, particularly in agile mode.
As Nathan, Head of Customer Success Manager, explains, “The performance of a payment solution depends, from the outset, on how this solution was built. On the one hand, the end customer must be offered the right payment instruments—with a range adapted to their purchasing habits, and a seamless payment experience. On the other hand, for the merchant, all the possibilities for maximising the conversion must be integrated, such as the anti-fraud rules, the “one click”, the “tokenization”, or the re-routing of the relevant authorisations”.
Finally, the payment data must enable the merchant to actively manage its activity, from the acceptance of the payment to the bank account transfer. Our CSMs’ ongoing mission is to explore the potential new needs and expectations of their merchant customers at each of these stages. They are therefore the internal voice of the market, and as such a vital source of information in evolving the offer. This is an invisible role for the customer, but crucial for their performance and satisfaction!
Advantage 4: a CSM works together with other company departments
A CSM does more than represent customers to product teams. They also fulfil this position in relation to the company’s other departments. The company’s central position in communication with many different departments ensures that the customer will have access to all the resources and knowledge they require.
For example, CSMs work with the sales teams, which can integrate them right from the upstream phase, i.e., pre-sale. While CSMs will already have particularly good general knowledge to give the best advice to their customers, they also know how to rely on internal experts in the risk, fraud, accounting, or product departments, to best meet the expectations of their customers.
“CSMs call on our Anti-Fraud experts, particularly as part of our “Fraud Premium” offering, where the aim is to provide our customers, after analysing their history, with an extremely effective tailor-made system enabling them to curb their level of fraud over time, while maximising their conversion level.”
Nathan Dondey – Head of Customer Success Manager at Payplug
Advantage 5: a CSM builds a trusting relationship with customers that generates value
Another feature of the CSM relates to the nature of the relationship they have with the customer. This is a key success factor. CSMs must establish themselves as a trusted partner, in a long-term perspective.
Thanks to this relationship of trust, based on the first successful projects, a CSM will be asked to contribute their expertise in new projects that are still confidential for their customers.
Nathan recalls an example: “After demonstrating our ability to assist a distributor in reducing its fraud rate, this customer proposed that the CSM after signing a confidentiality agreement be involved in the project to completely overhaul its brand image and website. The CSM was thus able, from the outset of the project, to provide good advice on the optimisation of the purchasing tunnel with the use of a 100% personalised “Hosted Fields” payment page and the highest level of security with regard to PCI DSS requirements”.
Advantage 6: A CSM generates revenue
The mission of a CSM makes it a “mini profit centre” at the individual level. Indeed, the value they provide to clients is represented in the revenue created by their company—-and can be quantified.
For example, CSMs are well positioned to uncover additional or cross-selling opportunities due to their proximity to clients. As a result, they create leads and discussions for sales teams, and many will turn into sales.
Internally, a CSM is frequently regarded as a business function, which makes this new position both motivating and appealing. Another advantage, according to Nathan: “CSMs communicate with different categories of contacts, which requires them to adapt their discourse. While, on a day-to-day basis, their job brings them in contact with the customer’s operational teams and projects, the Business Review ritual is a privileged time to highlight all the work done and access decision-makers. They must therefore understand their strategic challenges and offer them, if necessary, new services adapted to their needs. Meeting these expectations, while generating sales, is extremely rewarding for a CSM. These moments are true signs of customer trust, valuing all the work that has been done.”
“At Payplug for a year now, I find the job of CSM fulfilling, because I have the chance to talk with a wide variety of merchants on many issues. As someone who dislikes routine, I am never bored.”
Antoine Rousseau – Key Account Manager Enterprise at Payplug
Advantage 7: a CSM has a wide-ranging skills profile
The seventh aspect that distinguishes a CSM stems from the six previous ones: it is the wide range of skills expected of them. The need for technical expertise, inherent in the payments sector, is only a minimum base for a CSM.
Strong soft skills are also essential to building the trust of customers. This begins with the ability to manage projects and incidents constructively, showing availability, rigour, organisation, and serenity in the face of pressure. But beyond that, they need to be able to “win the right to be listened to by their customer”, according to Eric. This is the condition to be able to create value for a customer. It requires assertiveness, relevance, curiosity, and resilience. It means entering a virtuous logic through which the CSM has an increasing number of opportunities to create value for the customer, because the latter knows that they have everything to gain from listening and sharing information with their CSM.