A Data-Driven Approach to Balancing Your CS Team Workload

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    B2B companies are scaling fast and CS executives often feel overwhelmed due to limited resources at their disposal. There’s a growing need for time optimization and load management, especially with the most valuable personas – CSMs. This CS team workload management framework should help you achieve greater success.

    A Day in the Life of the Modern CSM

    CS teams optimize and unlock value for clients during the entire post-sales pipeline. Before we dive into this CS team workload management checklist, let’s touch upon some common scenarios B2B CS teams encounter on a daily basis.

    • “We have new customers. Who can take them?!”

    Onboarding new customers is one of the most important responsibilities CSMs hold today. They have to make sure there are no significant drops in engagement and shorten the time it takes users to reach the “aha moment”. Otherwise known as time to value (TTV).

    • The 8am Daily Huddle

    CSMs have their hands in everything. Constantly juggling between ops, sales, and support channels. Most B2B setups enforce a daily huddle to prioritize tasks and discuss complex challenges. It’s seen as an essential part of the daily schedule.

    • The Renewal Dance

    Renewal is a big event for CSMs. That’s why they constantly track subscription expiration dates. A lot of CS work happens around these dates which can come up on a monthly or quarterly basis in many cases.

    • “Code red! Code red! My inbox is exploding.”

    CS teams have to be hands on with email communications and chats. They are expected to reply to questions, issues, and feature requests within one business day (at most!). CSMs often have a full schedule of meetings to support their high-touch customers.

    • The Product Team: Friend or Enemy?

    Frenemies 😉

    CSMs are busy connecting the dots, especially with the product team while releasing new features or after encountering sudden market changes. Damage control and critical issue escalation are important tasks that need to be performed on the fly. 

    Related: 5 SaaS Customer Success Pro Tips

    Updating reports, tracking key CS metrics, creating feedback loops, passing on information, working playbooks, and creating new growth opportunities are all time-consuming tasks that can create a massive overhead. Even one overwhelmed or burnt out CSM can cause irreversible business and brand damage. This phenomenon is becoming more and more widespread in fast-growing businesses.

    The CS Team Workload Management Checklist

    With so many tasks to complete, CS leaders need to find ways to regulate workloads to keep their teams productive. They need to measure and forecast the number of accounts each CSM can handle without impacting performance. CS team load management with accurate forecasts is crucial especially for startups and SMBs, where budgets and resources are extremely limited.

    Here is a CS team load management checklist that’s worked for me:

    1. Understand & Segment Your Customers First 

    Many folks segment their customers based purely on ARR, but that’s a short-sighted strategy. Additional factors to consider include: your client’s overall business maturity, their strategic value to your business, and their potential for growth. ARR is certainly a big piece of this puzzle, but it shouldn’t be the only consideration when tiering your customers.

    Once you have completed this segmentation, plan and implement your desired engagement model for each tier. Ideally, a high, mid, and low touch model should be in place for different use cases based on the aforementioned factors. 

    2. Visualize Customer Journeys & Identify Key Events 

    Post-sales executives should treat customer journey blind spots like wildfires and extinguish them ASAP because they can have an instant impact on the CSM’s daily schedule. Based on the tier and engagement model pairing you have made earlier, you should ideally visualize the journey map, while also documenting all key events and activities that will require the CSM’s immediate attention. 

    For example, if onboarding is 2 months long, you’ll have to factor in weekly meetings, running reports, and more. This will help you predict the time commitment that’s needed from the CSM at both the tier and journey levels.

    3. Translate Your Findings into Time Capsules 

    The work doesn’t stop here. You’ll now need to quantify all findings and translate them into time capsules. For example, if the 2-month onboarding requires 30-minute weekly meetings, pen that down as a 4 hour time expense. And don’t forget to add some margins for meeting prep and follow up activities.

    A quick tip based on experience – long time customers need less hand holding. This can vary based on the specific use case, business sector, or account size. But that time decay should be considered. 

    Good time and load management is the key to accomplishing any Customer Success objective. Adopt a calculated and data-driven approach for best results.

    Kate Neal, Director of Customer Success, Staircase AI

    4. Your Bandwidth Estimates Are Ready. Time To Activate.

    You can now start applying your findings to real-time activities. Manage each CSM’s activity on a different spreadsheet and measure what they are holding in their books. You should now have a solid idea of your team’s bandwidth usage patterns. Having an accurate estimate of the time their book takes to support will help you plan ahead and be on the same frequency with your company’s current (and future) growth.   

    5. Sync with Leadership, Marketing, Sales, and Your Team 

    Last but not least, you’ll need to be in touch with your CEO to understand the future business goals of the company. For example, if the business is planning to expand into a new market (let’s assume Japan), you’ll need to find CSMs in Tokyo or Osaka. Your marketing and sales teams should also share key growth indicators (i.e – lead generation) to help you understand where things are going.

    You’ll need to be in sync with your CS team, and allocate ~10% of their time to unplanned personal matters. Some CSMs may be going on vacation, while others may be looking at personal issues (maternity leaves, loss of parents, etc.). Everything impacts your load management. This is why leaving a bit of breathing room for each CSM is so vital. Everyone can help pick up a bit of slack when those scenarios arise.  

    Don’t Forget!

    1. Make sure you consult with your CSMs during this process (and ongoing) to ensure your assumptions about the engagement model and time required to execute match the current day reality for your team.
      And use a tool like Staircase to show you what’s going on automagically. Afterall, we know CSMs don’t really have time to track their activities or manually log data. Not when those minutes could be spent ensuring customer outcomes and value.
    2. Stay flexible and audit your team’s current and forecasted workload quarterly to ensure you’re staying on top of changes in process and the dynamic nature of the customers we serve. 

    Final Thoughts

    You can use this CS team load management checklist to predict how your team’s workload will fluctuate. And you can plan your resource requirements based on the number and type of accounts (tiers) you plan to bring on each quarter. This will help you assess how many new CSMs you’ll need to hire and ramp up ahead of that to help them take on those new customers smoothly. And help you avoid burnout within your existing team. 

    Always remember – a goal without a plan is just a wish.

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