When you've invested time into building a strong customer relationship, it can be hard to transition that account to another person internally.
You’ve handled the good, bad and ugly, living to tell the tale and often forming both a business and friendly relationship.
Accounts may need to be transitioned for various reasons, including realignments of books of businesses, or people changing roles.
Change is always hard and if not executed correctly, can set your company's relationship with the customer back.
In order to create an effective transition, minimizing friction internally and externally, you need to consider internal preparation and transition as well as the external transition call.
Internal Preparation for CSM-to-CSM Account Transition
Providing information through an internal transition creates the smoothest customer experience. Connecting internally prior to sharing the news of change with the customer allows for a discussion of current and upcoming projects, sensitive subjects and transition approach.
Similar to a customer call, the transitioning CSM should be prepared with an agenda, data, and clear expectations.
Depending on how long you've supported the account, you may have a lot of background - but not all of that is always needed.
As the transitioning CSM, you should think through how to share information in the most streamlined way, highlighting relevant background, key current projects, and how/when to make an official transition.
When it is time to make the shift, the transitioning CSM can use the following steps to level up a teammate:
Consolidate and share your documents
Having all of your documents in one easy to access location as a one-stop shop for notes, contracts, presentations, and internal documents allows the new CSM to have all relevant details at their fingertips.
This provides them the ability to reference documents after the transition call, as they won’t be able to absorb the full amount of information in one sitting and may need to refer back to these details.
Ideally, leveraging this organization as you manage the account makes it less of an uplift as a transition activity and more of just sharing of what has already been created.
Develop a cohesive narrative
The new CSM doesn't always need the play by play from a conversation two years ago (unless it impacts a current project or sentiment). If you’ve supported the account for a while, it can be easy to get off track with anecdotes that may be interesting, but not relevant.
Prior to the meeting, think through how to best convey the history and current status in a digestible way.
Consider questions such as:
- Who are the relevant contacts?
- What is the customer sentiment (and why)?
- What were the last few new product or feature discussions and how did they go?
- What is the preferred communication cadence and method?
- Are there any concerns leading into the next renewal?
Hold the internal discussion
Share all the details you’ve gathered, making sure to highlight key items that may need more context or discussion. During this call, review the appropriate method and timing to share the news with the customer.
Some customers may expect or need you to work together in parallel as a project completes while others may be able to transition on your next cadence call.
Plan who will own which pieces of the customer transition so nothing gets dropped.
From the new CSM perspective, the most important action is to come to the meeting with curiosity.
Assuming the transitioning CSM isn’t leaving the company, you can still leverage them for future questions, but take the opportunity to absorb as much as possible upfront.
This includes clarifying items and validating assumptions.
External Account Hand-Off Steps
Depending on your interaction with the customer, news of transitioning CSMs may be communicated via email, phone call or scheduled meeting.
No matter the medium, it should be clearly communicated that information about key projects has been shared and provide the customer all needed contact information for their new CSM.
When planning for the customer communication, the transitioning CSM should schedule time to share this specific messaging. Ideally, this is a call or video chat with the transition being the primary focus, so it doesn't get lost in other updates.
Within this meeting, the transitioning CSM owns:
Clearly communicating the change and impact
Be direct in sharing that the customer's CSM contact is changing and let the customer know if there is anything that they should expect to change as part of that transition. (This may be applicable if moving up/down engagement models or if the new CSM works different hours).
Sharing details around internal alignment done
Let the customer know the key topics you've reviewed with the incoming CSM, to preemptively address questions such as "do you have any background on my account?".
Thanking the customer for their relationship
Even if they are not your favorite contact to work with, being appreciative of the customer choosing to do business with your company (and spend time meeting with you) is a classy way to leave the relationship.
How to Run the Account Transition Meeting
During the meeting, the new CSM should have an opportunity to share and begin forming a relationship.
The new CSM should offer a short introduction, which should include an overview of themselves (background and experience) and a highlight of projects they are excited to partner on together.
After the meeting, the new CSM should send the follow up email. This communication helps finalize the transition that they are now the CSM to engage with.
The recap should include notes from the transition call, next steps the CSM will own regarding current projects, and contact information/expectations.
While a company should make efforts to minimize changing CSMs on an account, there are times when it cannot be helped.
By approaching the process with structure, curiosity, and empathy, each CSM can help create the best customer experience possible.