Scaling Customer Success as an individual contributor

by | Feb 24, 2023 | Advice, Blog, Community

In 2023, you can’t avoid doing Customer Success at scale. You can’t keep doing the same things you’ve always done and hope they work in this current climate to accomplish the same results.

And this isn’t just a challenge for leaders.

Individual contributors face this challenge as well.

Maybe you are at a company that just experienced layoffs, and while you’re grateful you weren’t laid off, you’re facing even more work now as you inherit somebody else’s portfolio.

Maybe your company is temporarily pausing hiring, meanwhile Sales hasn’t paused bringing in new logos so you are faced with the prospect of a larger portfolio than before.

And maybe you’re just facing the situation of a different economic climate with your customers than ever before. Your portfolio might be the same size, but the task of making your customers successful itself has grown as their expectations are larger and they face their own challenge.

In all these cases, as an individual contributor you need to change up how you approach your work to accomplish Customer Success at scale.

This is something you can begin to work on, right now, regardless of your company’s specific circumstance.

And one of the best parts about beginning right now, is this helps you stand out even more for the next step in your career. Because you’re demonstrating the ability to see beyond just your immediate circumstance, and ahead to future challenges and how to make an impact for others.

This all leads to 3 areas you can begin making an impact towards scaling right now:

1. Data

2. Efficiency 

3. Managing up

Curious to know how to begin doing this as an individual contributor? Read on to find out.


As a CSM, there are few moments more exhilarating than when a customer tells you that they are considering canceling and they give you the exact reason why.

Yes, our hearts race when that happens.

Yes, we get nervous about whether or not we can help turn that decision around.

But ultimately, it galvanizes us into action because we have clarity. We know that action is needed and we know where to focus our energies. Wouldn’t it be even better if we were able to determine in advance which customers might be at
risk of churning and need that intervention? Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t need to wait for a customer to tell us that was their intention?

This is one example of where data can come in.

Data is the information we have about our customers (product usage, deal history, exterior news, etc) that we can use to answer questions around them. We can then use this information to better understand what customers are likely to do, and therefore where we should spend our energy.

And you don’t need to be a data scientist either to begin understanding how to use data. Here is an example of how you can begin using data as an individual contributor to make an impact:

You want to make a difference on the retention rate for your customers. So you look at all of the customers in your portfolio who have churned in the last 2 years (bonus points if you can look at other CSMs’ customers as well). You look at the data you have available on them, whether that’s product usage data, activation, or whatever that may be.

This will enable you to identify any patterns among the churned customers of new churn predictors that you can proactively address in the customer journey AND in your strategic outreach. Maybe you learn that the majority of churned customers took several months to achieve at least an 80% activation rate. Maybe you learn that none of them used one of your company’s core features.

Regardless of what you learn, this data lets you know where to better focus your energy with customers and make recommendations to improve others’ impact. You can do the same with
your customers who have expanded and grown.

Use the information that you have to understand how you can better predict customer behavior, and determine where the most impactful moments are to interact with your customers.


When it comes to scaling your efforts as an individual contributor, you’ll want to take the data we already talked about and use it to increase your efficiency. Now efficiency isn’t about “automation”, but rather about making the biggest amount of impact with your actions.

Let’s cover three quick ways you can improve your and others’ efficiency, focusing your actions on the biggest impact.

Identify actions that are low impact, yet you spend a lot of time doing. Take a moment to take stock of the time you spend. Are there activities you’re performing repeatedly that take up a
large amount of time, but individually don’t make much impact? Are there emails you’re manually sending and updating regularly? Are there decks you’re building from scratch for customers? Are you answering the same exact question for customers repeatedly?

These are all actions that are low impact on their own, and yet take a lot of your time. Identify what these actions are, so you can address them and work on ways to reduce or eliminate them.

Bonus points if you can take that next step and identify the high impact items you wish you could do more of if you had more time.

Enable easy repeatability for others. Since scaling out your customer success outcomes isn’t a one-person show, you can empower others on your team to easily repeat the successful actions you’ve taken. Create and share an email template that you’re using that’s getting a lot of traction with your customers. Document all the steps you took to save that at-risk account so others can take those same steps. Record Looms or Vidyards of clever product use cases you’ve done so others can benefit from it.

The idea here is you aren’t just working hard on your own accounts, but rather enabling others to benefit from your efficiency improvements.

Creatively use the technology you have now. As an individual contributor, you’re likely not in a position to make new technology purchase decisions. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use the technology you already have to get more efficient and save time on repeatable tasks!

Leverage your email platform to create templates for the most common scenarios you encounter. Don’t have a BI tool? Use Excel to track your customers’ health or spend over time so you can understand your portfolio. Create “collateral” using PowerPoint and exporting to pdf. Use Loom or Vidyard to create walkthroughs.

There’s no need to wait for approvals for additional spend, your creativity is the only limit here

Managing up

This final step is the most crucial, and the one most people accidentally leave out. You can put in all the effort to understand the trends in your customers’ data, you can create huge efficiency gains for yourself and others, and yet still not achieve the impact you’re looking for.

That’s because you need to be able to demonstrate the impact you’re making to your manager. If you’re taking all these steps to scale your team’s impact, then you’ll want to make sure you’re standing out accordingly. You’ll also want their organizational buy-in so you can work on increasing efforts to scale with other aspects of the team.

But how do you do it?

You learn to speak your manager’s language, and highlight the things that are important to them. In a lot of ways, this is like how you present value to a customer. What keeps your manager up at night? What are the concerns that they have for your team/the future of the product? Use this knowledge to highlight how your efforts to scale directly relate to your manager’s concerns and pain points.

Taking these steps to scale your impact will enable you to stand out in your current role, increase your team’s success in this economic climate, and, most importantly, will lead to even better outcomes for your customers.

Author: Dan Ennis

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