Goal setting for Customer Success Roles

In a professional setting, job performance metrics are the key to bonuses, raises, and upward mobility. To achieve the long-term success you need to meet/exceed these metrics consistently. Given their importance, it’s worth spending time thinking through the process of how they are created. Whether you are running a team or a member, make sure to consider the below when it comes to goal setting:

Goals in Customer Success should always be quarterly

While we chose the topic of setting goals for the beginning of the calendar year, the reality is that the activity should take place year round. Setting a performance goal with a finish line 12 months away makes it difficult to understand how current actions influence eventual achievement. Additionally, client and company needs will change over the course of the year and the lack of flexibility can present problems. Quarterly goals take extra work in evaluation and creation but they will pay dividends by focusing attention on shorter sprints. If you’re on anything but a quarterly goal schedule, whether manager or individual contributor, you should inquire as to whether that can be changed.

Goals should be unique to the individual, not just the role

It’s obvious that every position will have different goals but people with the same title should not have the same goal structure either by default. Let’s look at an example with two theoretical Senior Customer Success Managers:

  • Person 1: Manages revenue-maxed mature enterprise accounts with soon-to-be expiring contracts
  • Person 2: Manages young accounts at the beginning of their initial contracts, some trials, with high growth potentials

While the 2 people will both run Quarterly Business Reviews and help customers achieve their goals, the measurement of their success looks very different.  Person 1 should be evaluated on Net Revenue Retention (NRR), recognizing their ability to retain the existing revenue. However, Person 2 should be measured on opportunities created for sales, trial conversion, and expansion. Take a moment to figure out what the right evaluation criteria is for you and/or each individual on your team, then work to implement any needed changes.

Goals should be collaborative

Have you ever been asked to do something you knew was unrealistic? Chances are the answer for everyone is yes and the response was to immediately check out. If all in the organization aren’t bought into the achievability of goals, there’s little chance of success. When setting quarterly goals for each CSM, I meet with them to brainstorm, come back with proposed goals and then send them upward when we reach an agreement. If you’re an individual contributor and your manager is not including you in the creation process, ask to be consulted. If that’s not realistic, at least make sure you’re asking questions about why and how every goal was created. This conversation will give you added insight and has the potential to shift your manager’s mindset towards a more collaborative one.

Working with ever-evolving customers every day will leave lots of goals to set and tweak. Beyond your own goals, how can you also instill these goal setting narratives in your customers? Look for ways to help guide them through their challenges in the same way you are doing for yourself with quarterly evaluations, individualization, and collaboration. Creating effective goals can be tricky, but leveraging the tips above will help you set achievable goals that measure the right things and increase your focus.


Scott Berry is one of the co-founders of the Chicago Customer Success Podcast. He is currently the Director of Customer Success at VS Networks.

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