What Customer Success Managers Do
Although the title “Customer Success Manager,” or CSM is relatively new, the role CSMs play is not. Professionals in the field work similarly to account managers or sales engineers, in that they have a high level of technical expertise and focus on customer satisfaction to ensure relationships are maintained.
The position is becoming more prevalent as cloud technology grows, simply because customers typically subscribe to a product and are faced with the decision of whether to renew on some type of regular basis, but software and hardware providers in general benefit from having CSMs on hand. Although newcomers may be onboarded using the title Customer Success Manager, Customer Success Associate, Customer Success Specialist, or another similar variant, the role is the same. They help customers get the most value out of the product or service they already have.
CSMs may track metrics to see how people are using the product or service, as well as any issues they face. They keep in contact with customers to identify pain points and make sure they’re using all the features or tools that are beneficial. Whenever possible, they troubleshoot and educate the consumer, and they also work closely with the sales department and technical teams to improve the product or meet customer needs.
By ensuring the customer stays happy with the product and company, the customer success manager plays an integral role in customer retention, and thus impacts the bottom line greatly. Because CSMs are on the frontline and have regular contact with consumers, they also possess indispensable knowledge about how the product can be improved, enabling the company to enhance its offerings and grow.
Who would enjoy a career in Customer Success (Retention)?
CSMs must have a very strong technical background, similar to engineers or developers, in order to have a deep understanding of how their product works. People coming from tech backgrounds do best. However, candidates must all possess sales and presentation skills, such as persuasiveness, negotiation skills, excellent communication skills, and be comfortable when breaking down complex technical concepts into simpler language people of any level can understand. The hours in customer success can often be quite reasonable compared to other tech careers, so those looking for a lighter work week would enjoy a CSM pathway.
Who mightn't like the career?
People who don’t have a firm grasp on the back end of software development aren’t going to do well in the position, simply because they won’t understand the product’s inner workings. Equally, the ability to converse with both technical personnel and customers without a tech background is paramount, so those who aren’t naturally social or good communicators have trouble in the position. The role can often work alongside salespeople who can receive considerably more commision than CSMs, so those motivated by money rather than a stable income may find frustration in the position and transition across to a variable income sales role.
Most of the people who become customer success managers don’t plan it as a career at this point. Although there are courses that relate specifically to the position, the vast majority funnel in from other technical careers or sales careers in the tech sector.
A bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field can be required by certain technology companies, but some companies are willing to overlook this if a candidate has work experience and possesses the knowledge to perform all duties of the position. In many cases, obtaining development or engineering certifications can help, but the type of certifications that are beneficial will vary based on the product the company offers.
Before applying for any position, it’s important to review the specs of the product being supported in order to ensure that one has a comprehensive understanding of how it works and who it benefits, as each product will be unique and will appeal to a different demographic. Candidates for a CSM role should be prepared to talk through difficult customer scenarios where the client is either underutilizing the product or is challenging to communicate with.
Being armed with information about the product and how the business operates, as well as its requirements for the position, is paramount in securing a job.
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- Amy’s Six Secrets for Customer Success Professionals
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- Is That a Real Job? Customer Success Management Career Info and Tips
Moving into Customer Success (Retention) from another career
Those with technical or customer-focused backgrounds tend to transition best, but anyone with a comprehensive understanding of the product, sales, and customer service can make the switch. In “10 Leaders Share Their Customer Success Career Paths,” the Amity Blog covers the stories of how a political campaign manager, recruitment educator, SEO specialist, account manager, retail associate, sales associate, and more, made the transition.
Customer Success Manager
Role: Customer success managers spend their days communicating with clients and ensuring they are getting the most value possible from the products and services they have already purchased from a company. The CSM may communicate in a myriad of ways, such as via phone calls, surveys, emails, and in-person meetings or demonstrations.
Metrics are usually monitored to help detect issues or underutilized tools. CSMs also work with sales teams when they think a new product or service may be beneficial to an existing customer or when the sales team needs someone with a technical background to answer questions and the company does not employ sales engineers. They work with the technical team, including product managers, engineers, and developers to help ensure the product meets the needs of consumers as well.
In “This Is What Makes Career Development In Customer Success So Difficult,” Mathilde Augustin explores why the career path of a customer success professional is challenging. The short of it is that there is no standard career ladder. In fact, many companies do not have any kind of ladder at all. CSMs may remain in the position indefinitely. However, those who have business backgrounds may opt to work toward management and executive roles in the customer success areas of their organisations. Future titles can include Senior Customer Success Manager, Director of Customer Success and Head of Customer Success.
The travel required of customer success managers varies based on the company and product. For most CSMs, travel will be negligible and may only involve a local service area or region. However, travel throughout one’s home country or internationally is a possibility.
Average: Data from PayScale indicates that salaries average USD $67,000 in the United States, ₤38,000 in the United Kingdom, CAD$59,000 in Canada, and AU$77,000 in Australia.
Entry Level (0-5 years): USD$63,700, £35,600, CAD$57,420, and AU$64,970.
Mid-Career (5-10 years): USD$85,400, £54,000, CAD$71,920, and AU$70,080.
Experienced (10-20 years): USD$97,300, £48,400, and CAD$70,760. (AU salary not available.)
Bonuses, profit sharing, and commission can sometimes add as much as USD$50,000 to $100,000 to a CSM’s salary where the role contains a large variable component.
Why Customer Success Managers move on
CSMs often hit a plateau in which they can no longer learn, grow, or advance their careers due to the nature of the position. Many stay in the field despite this, driven by the large commissions. Despite this, CSM commissions can sometimes pale in comparison to sales or account management counterparts, so some customer success professionals transition across to a sales-based role for a more lucrative career alternative.
Others set their sights on management and executive roles within the company. Those who leave the career tend to move back into their original area of expertise, be it product or project management, development, engineering, or similar field. This is largely because working as a CSM is niche-specific, and any knowledge gained in the position does not usually transfer out of it.