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From Reactive CSM to Strategic CS Powerhouse: The RISE System You Need

Have you ever felt like you're going through the motions in customer success (CS)? Like you're constantly putting out fires instead of building a strategic partnership with your clients?


This is a common struggle for CSMs. But what if there was a framework you could use to become more strategic and take your CS career to the next level?


Welcome to the RISE System!


This powerful framework is designed to transform your entire CS approach from reactive to proactive, from time-consuming to efficient, and from random to results-driven.


Why is Strategy Important in CS?


Think about learning a language. Just memorizing vocabulary words won't get you very far. You need a system to understand the grammar, apply the words in context, and actually have conversations.


The same goes for CS. Focusing on individual tasks without a strategic plan is like memorizing random phrases in a different language. You might know a few things, but you won't be able to achieve fluency or hold meaningful conversations.


The RISE System: Your Secret Weapon for Strategic CS Success


RISE stands for Relationships, Insights, Strategy, and Execution. Think of this as the secret recipe behind a strategic CSM. 




This framework not only applies to your approach to CS but also serves as the foundation for approaching something as simple as sending a quick check-in email to a client (more on that in a future episode). 


Here’s an overview of each of the pillars.


Relationships


What is it? 


Think of this pillar as the underdog of RISE. 


It’s the art and science of getting right into the mix with your teammates and the champions (and skeptics) on your client’s side.


In customer success, the strength of your relationships can make or break your strategic efforts. As a Strategic CSM, you know that success begins with understanding and connecting with people—both within your organization and on the client side.

Oh, and don’t forget about your relationship with YOURSELF. Understanding what you bring to the table for each one of these relationships is also a critical part of being a strategic CSM. 




What happens if you skip it? 


Toss the Relationships pillar to the side, and you’re basically flying blind:


  • Expect goal misfires and a lot of “I thought you said…” moments, which will lead to trust nosedives.

  • Disengaged clients are the norm. They don’t show up to your calls, ghost your emails, and/or don’t have much to say. 

  • You have no one on your side. It’s just you and yourself trying to drive action that no one will follow because they don’t know you/trust you. 

How does it work in the real CSM world?


Let’s say you get assigned a new client, and it’s time to meet your stakeholders for the first time. A CSM using the RISE System will know:


  1. What role do their internal teammates play on the account? 

  2. How to position themselves during the call in a way that demonstrates value and sets proper expectations about the partnership. 

  3. The points and questions they’ll direct to each stakeholder that align with their interest/desires. They frame their message to prioritize the client's advantage, not their own.

Insights 


What is it? 


The Insights pillar is your fuel.


As a strategic CSM, you know that you need intel to make those relationships pay off, to get you thinking about the right solution so that you build and adapt your plan to move the needle (toward a positive direction).


Gathering and analyzing data about your clients and their environment enables you to take the right action!


In this pillar, we’re talking about leading strategic conversations, understanding the different data sources around us (see below), and making data points come to life through data storytelling.




What happens if you skip it? 


You’re playing the guessing game. And guessing:


  • Lands you in “oh, but that’s not what we needed” territory. 

  • Leads to disengaged clients (again?!) who don’t see the value in your partnership. 

  • Makes your strategic move look more like you’re winging it.

How does it work in the real CSM world?

 

With your new client, you sense you’re missing information. A CSM using the RISE System will: 


  1. Go beyond the data points provided by Sales. They’ll dig up direct and indirect data sources to get a better understanding of the client and their business. 

  2. They know exactly what information is missing and have crafted initial discovery questions and follow-up questions to ask on the next call to get the client to open up. 

  3. They know that not every client has access to all the information they need so they’ll enable the client by sharing benchmarks from other sources (including clients) and show them how to have internal conversations to get access to the needed information. 

Strategy

 

What is it? 


You can’t be strategic without a strategy.  A “great strategy” isn't just a lofty document—it's your game plan, your roadmap.


It's about taking those insights and turning them into a clear, actionable strategy that aligns with both your client's goals and your own. It's about foreseeing the future, planning the path, and preparing for every turn and obstacle along the way.

A strategic CSM doesn’t just know the destination but also the why, the how, and the when for every step towards it.



What happens if you skip it? 


You’ll aimlessly wander: 


  • You'll celebrate tiny wins but miss the mark on the big achievements to drive results. 

  • You’ll be busy, sure, but you're like a hamster on a wheel—there's lots of movement (mainly firefighting), but no progress. 

  • There’s nothing to scale because there was never a strategy, so you're stuck in a stagnant cycle. 

How does it work in the real CSM world? 


Continuing with our new client, let’s say you had the conversation with them and now have a good amount of information to start putting together your game plan. A CSM using the RISE System will: 


  1. Outline the client’s goal and their own goal for the account in their account plan – this is their roadmap to success for this new client. 

  2. They will outline the different CS tools they’ll use (like QBRs, training materials, etc), their engagement strategy, potential roadblocks, and how they’ll monitor their progress. 

  3. They’ll note the things they need help with to ensure this client succeeds. This includes external help (from other teams) and personal support (upskilling themselves on gaps). 

Execution 


What is it? 


Consider the Execution pillar the engine of the RISE system. 


The best-laid plans demand action. Execution is where strategies come to life through consistent, value-driven interactions with customers. It's about making every touchpoint count, from personalized check-ins to leveraging success stories and continuously adapting based on feedback and results.




What happens when you skip this step? 


Without solid Execution, the best strategies remain just that—strategies:


  • Your clients? Stuck in neutral because, without your strategic push, there’s no progress, no momentum, and no wins. 

  • You’re, again, doing a lot of things but not doing them in a way that’s driving the right results. 

  • You may be working towards something that’s no longer valid because you didn’t review and adapt. 

How does it work in the real CSM world? 


So, the game plan is set for the new client; now it’s time to take action. A CSM using the RISE System will: 


  1. Communicate the goals with the client to ensure they align with all that has been covered to date with the client.  

  2. They’ll document the plan using a CS tool (like a success plan) and set up the engagement strategy supporting this success plan. For example, during weekly check-ins, they replace slides with the success plan, and the success plan is the star of your agenda. Then, they send a monthly recap email to all stakeholders to keep them all on track. 

  3. On their next QBR, they use the success plan to highlight the progress so far and give your champion kudos on all they’ve achieved (because they know praise goes a long way). 

The Benefits of Using the RISE System


By adopting the RISE System, you can expect to see a number of positive outcomes, including:


  • Reduced churn and increased retention

  • More engaged clients who see the value in your partnership

  • Improved communication and collaboration

  • Greater efficiency and focus in your CS efforts

  • Recognition from your clients and leadership, potentially leading to promotions and new opportunities

Ready to Become a Strategic CSM?


The RISE System is your key to unlocking a more strategic and successful CS career. In future blog posts, we'll be diving deeper into each pillar of the RISE system and showing you how to apply it to real-world scenarios.


Subscribe to the newsletter and stay informed on how you can RISE in your CS career!




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