Taking ownership of the book of business is critical for a Customer Success Manager (CSM) to be effective.

This involves having a clear understanding of which customers should be engaged, and ensuring that strategic guidance is provided in a timely manner. This, in turn, dramatically increases the chances of clients renewing their subscriptions and CSMs hitting their retention targets. One of the components necessary for taking ownership of the book is visibility into the key metrics of the customers they manage.

Regardless of the system, your organization is using (or planning to use) as a CRM for Customer Success Managers – whether a specialized one such as Gainsight or one shared with the sales team (e.g., Salesforce) – most systems today allow you to build custom dashboards.

These dashboards enable CSMs to have all the critical information about their clients on a single screen, identify any red flags, prioritize work better, and be more productive.

After five years working at Wrike both as a CSM and as the manager of the CS team, I would say that a dashboard isn’t a “nice to have” but a mission-critical element. So, what are the elements of an effective dashboard, and what widgets would be good to start with?

What is a customer success dashboard?

Before we dive into how to build a customer success dashboard, it's important to firstly outline precisely what one is.

Put simply, a customer success dashboard is a data visualization tool that allows CSMs to track key metrics related to customer satisfaction, engagement, and retention. The dashboard offers an overview of business critical information that customer success teams need to do their jobs effectively.

The dashboard typically displays metrics like customer lifetime value, customer satisfaction score, churn rate, product adoption rate, and customer engagement levels.

With these metrics in place, customer success teams can easily identify at-risk customers, understand usage trends, and see the overall health of the customer base. What's more, customer success dashboards allow the segmentation of customers based on attributes like industry, customer tier, geography etc. This enables the team to tailor playbooks and outreach for specific segments.

What should a customer success dashboard contain?

Now we know the value and importance of a customer success dashboard, let's dive into exactly which data points you should be looking to include in a dashboard.

Items CSMs need to monitor regularly

The first (and probably) main point is that all the widgets present on a dashboard need to provide visibility into the critical aspects of Customer Success Manager's work. With a quick overview of the dashboard, a CSM should be able to answer the following questions:

  • “What does the current situation look like?”
  • “How should my work be prioritized?” and “What are the red flags that require my immediate input?”

If you want the dashboard to become a one-stop shop for the CSMs’ work, discuss with the team – in a meeting and individually in 1:1s – the items they monitor regularly. Create a list of those items and work with the team to agree on which ones they indeed track regularly (at least several times per week) and which are more of an edge-case scenario. Add a widget to the dashboard for each item in the first group.

Items that are actionable

One of the key benefits of building a dashboard in the CRM is that it’s directly connected to your action items. For example, you could add a widget that shows the top 10 customers in the CSM’s book of business they haven’t been in touch with this quarter.

This widget can lead to a report containing this list, and the CSM could get to the clients’ pages in the CRM directly from the widget. Brainstorm which actions might be potentially associated with each widget and create links to the relevant items for convenience.

Customer success dashboards: key widgets

Now we’ve covered the criteria for adding the widgets, let’s discuss some examples of widgets you might choose to add to your CSM dashboard. By no means is this a comprehensive list.

The information present should be 100% relevant to your team’s needs and account for the specifics of your work.

For example, in some companies, the role of a CSM is combined with the role of an Account Manager or Renewals Manager. Should that be the case, specific widgets to cover that particular set of tasks should be added. I’m going to share several generic examples that proved beneficial for my team.

Gross and net retention: Target vs. actual

It’s vital that CSMs stay focused on the end goal of all their day-to-day tasks – hitting retention targets. Having those targets in front of them, as well as a clear indication of how they’re doing against them, would be a great starting point for any dashboard.

Accounts at risk

Companies have different ways of measuring the risk of client churn. Here at Wrike, for example, we consider a client at risk if they show decreasing usage over four weeks, so one of our widgets shows a list of all the clients that fall into that category. This allows us to take preemptive action and get in touch with them long before their renewal date arrives (when it’s often too late to save the customer).

Goal-based widgets

In addition to quarterly or monthly targets, CSMs often have a number of operational objectives they need to focus on. For example, if a new module is released that brings a lot of value to the client, Customer Success Managers may have a goal of introducing this module to a certain number of customers during the quarter.

It’s a good idea to add a widget to track the progress toward this goal and serve as a clear indicator of how daily action leads to its achievement.

Daily activities

Having a clear plan for the day makes a CSM’s work much easier. Large goals, such as engaging the whole 200-client book of business and building relationships with each of them, look less daunting if there’s a daily task to engage five clients. CSMs can also set reminders to pop up for those who didn’t pick up the phone last time or didn’t reply to an email.

Setting up the CRM to create daily to-dos and reminders on the actions expected from a CSM dramatically increases efficiency. Visualizing all the actions for the day in a single widget takes that efficiency to the next level.

Charts for control of the book of business

It’s not easy to draw conclusions about the state of your book of business by looking at a huge table with dozens of columns representing various client parameters. It might be a better idea to create charts that provide high-level information on the clients and help spot red flags.

For example, you could use a pie chart to show what percentage of the book of business the Customer Success Manager has engaged and what percentage is yet to be contacted. You could highlight which new customers assigned to a CSM haven’t been onboarded yet. Be creative about it!

Visualizing the area of responsibility of a CSM and creating a single source of truth for all actionable items can reduce wasted time, assist in work prioritization, and, as a result, increase the chance of hitting quarterly and annual targets.

What is the best format for a customer success dashboard?

Discuss with the team the best format for each widget so that the information is easy to comprehend. The best format may be different for each data point. For example, in my team, we use a speedometer-type widget to visualize the current achievement of the retention target, column charts for any to-dos (e.g., the number of new clients to be contacted), and tables for lists of clients.

Highlight to the team that nothing here is set in stone, and should it become clear that the originally selected data format is not very convenient, it can be changed later.