The Need for Role Clarity in Customer Success

CSMs are too often required to be jacks of all trades and are set up for failure; the solution starts with role clarity.


Joseph Loria

5/14/20232 min read

There’s a secret illness plaguing Customer Success teams all over. It’s holding back thousands of CSMs and post-sale team members from being more successful in their jobs. And the kicker is that it’s rarely discussed. Certainly not discussed as much as the dozens of process-oriented solutions for customer retention woes.

🤒 The illness? 🤒

Role Clarity.

You’ve all experienced it to some degree – either as a job seeker reading job descriptions or as a new leader showing up inside of an organization:

  • Read 10 CSM job descriptions

  • from 10 separate companies

  • and see 10 different definitions of CS.

😕 So, why is that?

Some of it has to do with the history of Customer Success in SaaS, which I covered in a previous article here. Short story: it wasn’t always like this. Before SaaS, you had:

  • 👉Project Management for onboarding;

  • 👉expert Professional Services for adoption;

  • 👉Technical Support for problem-solving;

  • 👉Strategic Account Management for upsell and expansion.

Along comes SaaS and suddenly Customer Success is thrust into a superhero role, asked to do multiple difficult jobs well, with millions of renewal dollars on the line.

That figure of speech, “Jack of all trades, master of none?” It was not intended as a compliment.

So back to Role Clarity: problem-solving starts with awareness, and role clarity requires:

  • ✅A listing of job responsibilities;

  • ✅The impact the responsibilities have on purpose and strategic objectives;

  • ✅The type and depth of skills required to accomplish the responsibilities.

Write these down and iterate. Once a CSM can read it and understand her role and its impact, you’ve achieved Role Clarity.

After which it often becomes obvious by the very lists created that too much is being asked of one role. Which is why Role Clarity, along with Competency and Capacity, are key drivers of employee engagement.

  • Competency is the measure of whether the employee has the necessary skills and experience to accomplish their role;

  • Capacity is the measure of whether the human capacity exists to do the role as defined.

You’ll need to address those as well, but it all starts with Role Clarity.

You can’t change what you don’t understand. So start documenting, and we’ll begin to cure this illness for good.