If you’ve been in the Customer Success profession long enough, you should have had the opportunity to be part of an account reassignment. Either on the receiving or the giving end. This is an inevitable yet important part of the customer journey.
However, it is often overlooked by processes not being built out for it.
There are a few reasons for this, but one of which is that account reassignments are, in my opinion, one of the most overly complicated processes in the Customer Success space. And the great news is that it doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as you want it to be, and that’s the point of this blog post: To share the formula for a simple, efficient, and successful account reassignment.
Your customer who is being reassigned may come with questions and objections that we will cover in the blog post. Frequently these reassignments can be overly complicated due to the customer making it so. But the good news is that we are all client-facing professionals equipped with the skills and tools to mitigate and handle objecting customers.
Another reason why account reassignments can be overcomplicated is that we as Customer Success Managers feel the need for everything to be in perfect working order before the account is officially handed off. Many successful Customer Success Professionals are very Type A, from what I’ve seen. This is great, but can also be a hindrance. We tend to make things that should be simple, more complex. It also doesn’t help when the clients that are being reassigned are also Type A and want everything to be perfect. This blog post will break down the account reassignment process, simply so we can all be more confident when it’s our next time to go through the process.
So let’s get into it.
First off, here is the golden rule of account reassignments: Unless it is a Digital-touch customer, the current Customer Success Manager and the new Customer Success Manager always work together on it from start to finish. No automated emails. No cold outreach. The overall experience and success of your customers can be affected, good or bad, by the account reassignment process facilitated by the current CSM. I’ve seen this one too many times in my career, and it’s a lose-lose situation for your company and the client.
Now that we have that out in the open, here’s how to do it simply and effectively:
The Initial Meeting
The first thing that should be done is for the current CSM to meet with the new CSM to go over the accounts that will be reassigned. Having a few notes in a spreadsheet or CRM will not suffice if you want the reassignment to be successful. Actually meeting face to face (either in person or over Zoom) will ensure all information and necessary knowledge is swapped and shared successfully. This is a key moment where the current CSM will exchange important information about the clients, such as:
- Who the main points of contact are who of those is the customer champion
- Why certain clients may be at risk and what is currently being done to mitigate that risk
- Any upcoming renewals (if it’s within 90 days, this should make the account a high priority)
- If other members of your company are working with the client on projects or initiatives
- Special needs or requests the client(s) may have that will be good to bring up in the introduction call
Ideally, all of this should be well documented in your CRM/Customer Success software platform like Totango or Gainsight. However, it’s still good for the CSMs to meet to discuss anything that may have been missed.
When I was leaving my first CSM role, most of my book of business was going to a recently hired CSM. He wasn’t just new to the company, he was new to being a Customer Success Manager. For that reason, I spent some more time with him prepping for the introduction calls, so he knew exactly what he was to expect with each client he was getting. At the end of it, there was a small handful of clients I had had minimal contact with due to a lack of response on their end. I gave him the option to have a warm handoff or to just reach out to himself. At that point, he was confident enough to reach out by himself and strike up a relationship.
Pro Tip: You don’t have to go into every detail possible about each account you’re reassigning. I understand as Customer Success Professionals, that we tend to be very detail-oriented but for these kinds of situations, stick to the main points that will set the new CSM up for success and less on what they can find through basic due diligence.
The Introduction Call
After you’ve given the new CSM, the information they need, it’s time for the introduction call. Needless to say, it’s vital that your customers are aware this will be happening going into the call. Whether you’re leaving the company, moving to a new department/position, or there is an account reshuffling happening, they should be aware this is happening before the call.
This will help the customer to ask any questions they may have before the reassignment, so the new CSM can simply focus on building the relationship. Some of the questions I have received from clients I am reassigning have been similar to these:
- Is anything big changing within the company that is warranting this change?
- Will you still be around, so I can ask you questions if needed?
- Will we be getting a new AE as well? (this can vary depending on if they are working with other departments on projects or initiatives)
- Jared! Why?! Why are you leaving us??
Yes, them being sad you’re ‘leaving’ can be a good sign you did a good job as their Customer Success Manager so give yourself a pat on the back for that. But in a case like this, make sure to talk the world of their new CSM because if they trust you, then they should be able to trust your judgment on who their new CSM will be.
Now it’s time for the introduction call,
How I have conducted these is simply introducing the CSM, informing the client of the information I shared with the CSM, and then allowing them to have introductions among themselves.
Pro Tip: Inform the new CSM of this layout before the call, so they know what to expect and also make sure they are either aware of the cadence call you have with the client or that they will need to set one up depending on the client’s needs.
After the call, allow the new CSM to send the recap email with the information discussed and you CC’d. This will mark the official start of the new relationship between your former client and their new Customer Success Manager.
When the Client isn’t Happy About the Reassignment
This happens. For many reasons. However, let’s go with what I think is the most common reason: They have been moved around to a few different CSMs over the past year or two and aren’t happy with the inconsistency.
I’ve been involved with this as the new CSM. This is a great way to start off a client relationship, am I right?
So, what do you do in this situation?
For starters, if you’re the current CSM, this is on you to ensure that the new CSM is set up for success. Talk with the client beforehand (see point number 2) and let them know why this reassignment is happening. If you’re still going to be at the company, and depending on their needs, it wouldn’t hurt to let them know that you will still be around to help if needed. I say this simply due to the fact that some clients may really take offense that you’re leaving so this could potentially soften the blow while the new CSM takes over the account.
Once these conversations have happened, brief the CSM on how the client feels about the reassignment. And on the introduction call, ensure that the new CSM knows exactly what the needs of the client are, that they speak to those needs, and that leave on a good note.
Pro tip: If the customer is dragging the reassignment along with their objections, it may be beneficial to loop the new CSM in on the conversations. Especially if it’s a seasoned CSM who has handled these situations before. This may take the place of an ‘official’ handoff call, but at the end of the day, having the new CSM involved in customer objections could be what the customer needs. It could help to have a face to the name, and for that new face to be able to address the customer complaints and questions head-on. I, personally, have not seen this done yet in my career, but I know it can happen occasionally.
As Customer Success Managers, we are client-facing professionals, so conversations like these are bound to happen and the better we can ensure a smooth transition, the better off our clients will be in the long run.
If You’re in Leadership
If you’re in a leadership role and one or multiple account reassignments are happening in your org, ensure that the CSMs who will be facilitating this understand the formula and also understand that this is a simple process.
Sometimes, you may need to be involved, depending on the needs of the customer or if you’ve worked with them in the past. If you know they are high-touch and have communicated with them in the past, it will be a good idea to be on the call just to be present in case the customer has a lot of questions or is unhappy with the reassignment.