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What does a customer success manager do?

Last updated

14 February 2023

Reviewed by

Miroslav Damyanov

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A customer success manager (also known as a client success manager) guides customers through the sales process and into the loyalty phase. Their goal is to ensure a customer's success with the company.

Customer success is the driving force behind high customer lifetime value (LTV), successful customer-company relationships, brand ambassadorship, and much more.

If your products or services help the customer succeed instead of simply addressing immediate needs, you are likely to build a strong connection and drive loyalty that turns into higher profits and brand promotion.

Let's take a closer look at what a customer success manager (CSM) does for your company.

What is a customer success manager?

A customer success manager is in charge of customer success management. This role is a combination of a sales manager, a support manager, and a customer relations manager.

This specialist provides support to the customers as they go through the sales process to become active users. Their goal is to help customers succeed with products and services, nurture loyalty, improve the experience, and foster long-term relationships.

When a customer purchases a product, they want to achieve specific goals. For example, if the customer is looking for payroll software, their goal is to automate certain aspects of the payroll.

Buying the software is just the first step to reaching a specific goal. Achieving success requires support from the company. This can include smooth onboarding, training, and responding to feedback.

The client success manager starts working with a client from the prospect stage. Their goal isn't just to sell a product but to make sure that it fits the client's needs. This marks the beginning of a long-term relationship that's likely to produce a significant LTV.  

What does a customer success manager do?

A CSM works with your customers and clients to make sure they are receiving the necessary support during the conversion, sales, onboarding, and retention process. These specialists are an integral addition to sales, marketing, product, and customer relationship teams.

Customer relationship managers study the customer's needs and make sure the product or service meets their needs throughout the customer's experience with the company. This expert is a customer's advocate with the brand. While they definitely keep the company's goals in mind, the key task is to help a customer succeed. 

Customer success managers vs customer support managers

At the first glance, it may seem that customer success and customer support managers have the same responsibilities. However, these are two different roles.

Customer success management is a relatively new field that takes customer support to a new level. Meanwhile, a customer support manager is a well-known and time-tested position. These specialists: 

  • Respond to customer issues with the product

  • Handle customer questions about finding or using certain features

  • Provide technical support

  • Offer quick problem solving

Overall, a customer support manager is a reactive role. They try to solve problems as soon as the customer reports them.

Meanwhile, a customer success manager has a proactive role. Their goal is to understand what the customer's potential problems may be before they occur. Essentially, with a top-notch customer success manager at the helm, a customer support manager has much less work.

While the customer support team deals with ongoing questions and problems, the CSM ensures a smooth experience that minimizes these issues and drives customer satisfaction.

Responsibilities of customer success managers

According to a Gainsight’ survey with 350 companies in the US, 41% of companies say that their customer success function is newly formed while 20% say that their customer success team is well established.

The focus on customer success is growing so is the number of organizations hiring CSMs. B2B and SaaS companies are leading the way.

Depending on the product or service you offer, a CSM can have a wide variety of responsibilities.

Improve Onboarding

Around 55% out of 216 customers returned a product simply because they didn't know how to use it. One of the main reasons for such a worrisome stat is the absence of high-quality onboarding.

Educating a customer about the product or service is one of the main responsibilities of a customer success manager. They focus on helping the customer understand all the features and options and teach how to take full advantage of them.

The faster a customer can understand how to use your product or service, the faster they can achieve their goals and succeed. Poor onboarding leads to high customer churn rates and low LTV.

Evaluate customer needs and goals

While it may seem that only your sales and marketing team is responsible for evaluating customer needs and goals, they aren't the only ones. While the goal of your sales and marketing specialists is to maximize your revenue, a CSM works on maximizing the quality of customer experience.

This expert checks how well the product or service meets current customer needs and looks for improvement opportunities. To do that, CSM:

  • Analyzes usage patterns

  • Checks customer support issues

  • Conducts research and gathers feedback

CSM searches for areas that require improvement by building a strong relationship with the client and encouraging feedback.

Encourage upsells and cross-sells

According to a 2022 HubSpot survey with more than 500 sales professionals, upselling and cross-selling can drive revenue up by 30%. However, without a dedicated approach and perfect timing, these efforts may be counterproductive.

After evaluating the customer's needs and finding opportunities for improvement, a customer success manager can encourage upsells and cross-sells. From the CSM's point of view, cross-selling and upselling products improves customer experience and helps them take full advantage of your company's offer.  

Since CSMs gather an impressive amount of information about the customer, they know exactly when upselling and cross-selling techniques can work the best. This helps increase LTV without putting any pressure on the customer with unnecessary offers.

Educate customers

Educating a customer about a product or a service is a continuous process. After successful onboarding, the close communication with the customer doesn't stop. It's CSM's responsibility to continue education with tutorials, videos, guides, or one-on-one support sessions.

As the company launches new products and services, the CSM continues educating customers about them while discovering opportunities for upselling and cross-selling.

Become the customer's advocate

Customer satisfaction and LTV aren't the customer's responsibility. For many companies, conversion is one of the final steps in the revenue-generating process. This leads to low satisfaction and high churn rates.

CSM becomes the customer's advocate. They learn the customer's needs and communicate them to the rest of the team. When the company makes new decisions about product development, customer onboarding, and retention strategy, it should keep the customer's voice in mind. CSM makes this possible.

Streamline customer support

Customer support specialists respond to the current issues that customers bring to their attention. Even if the issue is resolved quickly, an "aftertaste" may remain. A customer success manager works to prevent support problems or solve them before they turn into serious issues.

CSMs monitor the customer usage of the product and the overall "health" of the customer relationship. For example, if they see that the customer hasn't been using payroll software for over a month, it's a sign that something is wrong. By addressing the issue, they maximize the chance of the customer remaining with the company.

Not all customers reach out to support to solve their problems. Many just leave. It's CSM's responsibility to prevent this.

Establishing strong relationships and loyalty

Customer loyalty is directly dependent on customer success. Once the customer achieves success, they are highly likely to become loyal to your brand. That's why building a strong relationship with the customer is one of the key CSM's responsibilities. This includes:

When a CSM focuses on the customer's success, they are streamlining personalization. This approach powers up satisfaction and achieves loyalty.

Top skills of a customer success manager

When you hire an experienced customer success manager, you can expect them to have a set of relevant skills that include:

  • Excellent communication – CSMs communicate with customers throughout their lifetime with the company. Without excellent communication skills, it may not be possible to improve customer satisfaction and drive success. In addition, a CSM must establish smooth communication with the rest of the team.

  • Ability to maintain relationships – a CSM needs to know how to establish and foster relationships with customers and team members. Customers should be willing to share their needs with this specialist. A CSM's goal is to help them open up.

  • Empathy – since a CSM is a customer's advocate, they should be able to understand exactly how customers feel about products and services. This can also help CSM improve personalization.

  • Proactivity – being proactive is the key to helping customers succeed. A CSM should always use a proactive approach.

  • Problem-solving – a customer trusts the CSM to solve specific problems. This specialist should know exactly how to do this without hindering the relationship.

  • Active listening – knowing how to listen to the customers helps CSM identify weak spots in the relationship, gather feedback, and find opportunities for improving the experience.

  • Time management – CSMs usually have to juggle several clients or customers. To do that effectively, they need excellent time-management skills.

  • Analytical thinking – CSMs don't just gather information and build relationships, they constantly analyze their communications with the client and draw relevant conclusions. Analytical thinking can help improve customer experience and allow them to achieve success.

  • Working under pressure – not all customers understand the importance of working with a CSM. This specialist has to deal with stressful situations when customers don't want to build a relationship, try to avoid communication, or react in a negative manner.

  • Creative thinking – being a customer's advocate is rarely a straightforward task. CSM needs to think creatively in order to juggle several customers at once, find solutions to their issues, and turn problems into opportunities for driving loyalty.

A customer success manager is a stress-resilient creative thinker, who knows how to build and maintain relationships while seeking opportunities for improving satisfaction, achieving success, and generating revenue.

Should you hire a customer success manager?

Since successful customers have larger LTV and become brand ambassadors, it makes sense to consider hiring a CSM as soon as you have at least one big client or several medium-sized customers.

Some companies establish benchmarks that they should reach before hiring a customer success manager. For example, a certain annual revenue figure. However, by putting off customer success management, you are making it harder for yourself to increase revenue and establish a positive reputation.

Streamlining customer success management

Customer success management is an integral part of business operations, especially for B2B and SaaS companies. By focusing on customer success, you are improving yours.

A customer success manager is an important addition to your team. They can help build strong customer relationships, provide proactive support, upsell or cross-sell products, and much more.

As the complexity and importance of customer relationship grows, improving customer success efforts is an important agenda for different industry players who struggle with fierce competition.

FAQs

What is the difference between a customer success manager and an account manager?

Account managers help improve customer experience with the product while finding cross-selling and upselling opportunities. Customer success managers do the same while making sure that the product meets the customer's needs perfectly to ensure success.

Do you need a degree to be a customer success manager?

While many companies list a bachelor's degree as a requirement, they are mostly interested in your experience. If you have an impressive resume and a set of relevant skills, an employer may overlook the absence of a degree.

What is the difference between customer support and customer success?

Customer support is a reactive approach to the customer's problems. Meanwhile, customer success is proactive. Customer success managers try to meet customers' needs and goals before any customer support issues arise.

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