In order for a company to maintain long-term relationships with customers and build client loyalty, a business needs to understand the importance of customer success. Going far beyond the sale of a product or service, customer success management is the partnership established between the company and the customer ensuring the customer has been provided all the tools and resources necessary to be successful. In order to create and maintain these relationships, a customer success manager (CSM) connects the business’s products and services to the customers’ needs. The CSM is essential in providing solutions to customer problems and does so successfully because of the deeper relationship established between them.
The customer success manager also supports the company for which they work and is an essential role within the business. Serving as a bridge between the sales force and the customer, the perfect CSM will have key skills to drive growth for the company. The measurable results of a hiring strong CSM include:
- Increased customer retention
- Stronger brand loyalty
- Increased revenue
To better understand customer success managers, let’s take a closer look at what a CSM is, what role they fill, their salary range, why they’re important, what a typical day looks like for them, and how to interview a potential CSM for your business.
What Is a CSM?
A CSM is much more than a customer service representative. A CSM develops a one-on-one relationship with the customer, mentoring them through the process of purchase. Rather than waiting to be contacted after an issue arises, a CSM will identify ways they can help their customers achieve success and will reach out proactively to provide support.
To prepare for the role of a CSM, employees may complete certifications or training to help them better understand the strategies and processes of a CSM. A study on the educational backgrounds of CSMs found that 78 percent of CSMs hold a bachelor’s degree while 12 percent hold a master’s. These degrees focused on communication, business, or marketing.
A CSM may also come from within the company’s sales force. With a firm understanding of the sales process and additional training in customer retention, this individual can be a powerful force in the success of clients.
The services a CSM provides vary depending upon the company’s strategic goals and the industry in which the company exists. However, many responsibilities of a CSM are universal across all fields. All CSMs must be able to onboard customers, understand customer retention, and establish a good relationship with their clients.
What a CSM is NOT
Often the question is posed, “Is a customer success manager a salesperson?” The answer would be that while the CSM works directly with sales, they have a slightly different role than the sales team. A CSM’s job starts where the sales manager’s ends. Rather than only focusing on the sale of the product or service, a CSM is tasked with onboarding the client.
While the sales team measures success in terms of sales goals, the CSM measures success based on customer health scores. MetricHQ defines a customer health score as a “single, calculated number that reflects a customer’s health across multiple dimensions.” This requires the CSM to fully understand why a customer is engaging more often or using products or services less. While sales and additional departmental employees should understand customers’ needs, a CSM must make a deeper dive into the customer experience.
What Is the Role of a CSM?
The primary role of a customer success manager is to foster a long-term relationship with customers to build loyalty and contribute to the success of the client. The CSM starts the relationship with the customer during the sales process, listening carefully to their concerns and ascertaining their needs, and clearly communicating the products and services that would be best for their industry and business. The CSM also serves as the bridge between sales and the customer, ensuring that a value-added sale is made and the onboarding process begins as soon as possible for the customer.
The CSM is an essential role for every business looking to foster brand awareness, improve growth, and increase customer happiness. Some key responsibilities of a CSM include the following:
- Client Advocacy. CSMs serve both the company for which they work and the client. A CSM must have emotional intelligence and serve as a problem server for the customer.
- Project Management. CSMs need good organizational skills, must be proactive, and should stay on top of customer management. In addition, the CSM must be able to maintain a budget and keep records of all interactions. A CSM software can help with this. The Project Time Builder by GUIDEcx assists project managers in “quickly building the support system needed to provide a smooth onboarding process.” Tools like this make project management much easier for the CSM.
- Data Analysis. A CSM needs to be able to measure the successes, customer turnover, customer retention, and other essential success metrics. The ability to analyze this data and report findings to additional departments will be essential to the company’s growth and customer loyalty.
- Product/Service Support. The CSM must be familiar with the product and service offerings in order to help clients understand their functionality and provide added value to the customer’s experience.
In-House Training/Support. The CSM may function as the in-house educator for employees who interact directly with clients, including the sales force. Understanding the goals of the sales team and providing solutions and guidance on when and how to bring on the CSM during the sales process will be part of a CSM’s responsibilities.
What Is the Job Description of a CSM, and What Other Positions Can a CSM Fill?
A customer success manager may also be called a client success manager and often serves as the lead for customer retention and success. Additional titles with the same responsibilities include customer experience manager, client onboarder, or customer success specialist. However, there are several additional jobs and careers for a CSM that also focus on the satisfaction of the client.
In a larger organization, a customer success team lead may be appointed within the customer success team and may be assigned a group of clients with which to work. While in a smaller organization, client success may be managed by a single team member. A hybrid approach may include an account manager taking on the additional role of client success manager.
CSMs are becoming a much sought-after addition to companies who understand the importance of the relationship with a client after purchase. A well-trained CSM with a strong ability to build relationships will be a great addition to any team.
What Is the Average Salary of a CSM?
The salary for a customer success manager varies slightly depending on the industry. According to Indeed (May 2022), the average salary for a CSM is $61,037. For experience of less than one year, a CSM could expect a salary of $54,248. For 10 or more years of experience, salaries begin at $84,341.
A CSM may be moved internally into the position from the sales team or other function, or they may be outside hires with experience in customer success.
Why Are CSMs Important?
A customer success manager is one of the key contributors to the satisfaction and retention of the customer. Defining a customer success strategy also requires buy-in from the sales team and management. Once the overall strategy is defined, the CSM can implement these strategies when engaging with the customer.
Success strategies for a CSM include the following:
- Communication. A CSM should listen carefully to what customers want and respond with real solutions to their needs and problems. Personalized communications help to build stronger relationships.
- Onboarding. Knowing when a CSM should come on board should be established as part of the customer success strategy. A CSM can support the sales process by working with the customer to suggest products or services that would best serve them. From there, the CSM can continue onboarding the client to ensure they fully understand what they have purchased and how best to use it. “There’s nothing worse than not understanding an implementation,” says GUIDEcx COO Harris Clarke. “When the right people know what’s going on, work gets done faster and better. Confusion and miscommunications will be eliminated and overall customer satisfaction with your product and process will increase.”
- Upselling/Expansion. Understanding the client includes knowing when a new product offering might be the perfect fit for an existing customer. Customers will appreciate information about new or better solutions to their current issues.
- Referrals/Loyalty. CSMs should consider starting a referral or loyalty program. The best promoters of a company are satisfied customers. Building on that loyalty with programs that reward word-of-mouth referrals increase sales opportunities.
- CSM Software. Implementing CSM software makes managing clients much easier. Industry-specific software provides an opportunity for automation and key tools that will help measure client success efforts.
- Education. A key role for a CSM is that of educator. Once the client has purchased the products or services, a CSM can increase client success and loyalty by educating them on the use of those products and services. The more personalized the service, the more satisfied a client will be. A CSM should also educate internal employees on how success strategies matter to the entire organization.
What Does an Average Day as a CSM Look Like?
A customer success manager begins their day with priority messages from customers or employees. This may include answering emails, whether through CSM software or via a phone call. During the day, a CSM will identify their customers’ needs and reach out to speak with these clients to help them understand how the brand’s products or services can help them address those issues. They will ensure customers are informed of new products coming down the pipeline that may help them improve their operations. Establishing and maintaining relationships with these clients helps the CSM understand when and how to provide assistance and support that best helps their business grow and operate.
In addition to working with customers, the CSM will meet with in-house employees to update key department heads and the sales team on client updates, including retention, recurring issues, and ideas for new products or services suggested by customers. The CSM will also initiate and engage in strategy meetings to increase the success of their clients.
What Are Typical Interview Questions for a CSM?
A customer success manager needs to have a certain set of skills. This includes soft skills such as the following:
- Listening skills
- Communication skills
- Problem solving
- Time management
- Ability to pivot
Technical skills for a CSM include the following:
- CSM software
- Team building
- Customer service
In order to ensure you are hiring the best person for a CSM position, consider the following interview questions:
- How might you suggest or introduce a new product to a current customer?
- How familiar are you with our product offerings and the features of each?
- How would you explain a feature in language that a customer would understand?
- How would you handle an unhappy customer or a customer that no longer responds to your messages?
- Do you have experience using the CSM tool we utilize here?
- What is the difference between customer success and customer satisfaction?
- What is the relationship between the sales team and the customer success team?
Additional questions might include more technical questions about the products or services of the company. Be sure to ask both soft- and hard-skill questions to fully understand how the candidate might best fit within the company and support the brand.
Customer success managers play a vital role in customer retention, and onboarding is a major part of a CSM’s job. GUIDEcx offers a faster way to onboard clients. With over 250,000 successful onboarding projects, GUIDEcx is the industry leader in onboarding clients. To learn more, be sure to schedule a demo with one of our helpful reps. They’ll walk you through how you can save as much as 49 percent in implementation time.