What Is a Customer Success Manager?

A Customer Success Manager (CSM) is a type of sales representative whose job is to ensure that customers are satisfied beyond the purchase. They oversee the entire customer journey, from initial contact to post-purchase. 

The job of a CSM is to keep the customer happy, ensuring proactive communication to effectively respond to customer concerns and meet their ongoing needs. Instead of chasing leads and closing new sales, CSMs are mainly responsible for renewals and upsells.

Customer success manager job description

It is your job as a customer success manager to educate customers on the more salient features of your product so they get maximum value from it – the most bang for their money. A CSM may also be known as:

  • Customer success engineer,
  • Customer experience manager,
  • Chief customer officer,
  • Customer success leader

It is in your job description to onboard new customers, expand the opportunity to extract more value from them through upselling and to ensure they are retained via a renewal or repeat purchase.

Put another way, customer success managers live at the intersection of sales and customer service. The only difference being that they have to maintain and manage an ongoing relationship with the customer, whereas customer service agents deal with one customer at a time and move on to another once they attend to a query.

To excel at this sales position, you’ll require strong communication skills, as well as the ability to build rapport with customers.

Why Do You Want to Be a Customer Success Manager?

Becoming a customer success manager in 2021 has many great perks. The first one is of course that it is a great career choice for someone with the right attributes and experience. Then there is, of course, the money.

Customer Success Managers make an average of $75,000 a year, but this number can fluctuate depending on your experience, location, company, and industry. 

There have never been more opportunities for a career in customer service than now. Companies in manufacturing, technical, and service industries are all noticing the value of having a senior officer responsible for managing client success. 

So if you’re thinking about starting or furthering your career in 2023, consider working as a CS Manager.

Now that you have decided this is the career path for you, let’s look at what skills you need:

What Skills Do You Need to Become a Customer Success Manager?

As a customer success manager, you’re responsible for ensuring that new customers integrate smoothly with your company, that existing customers are satisfied, and that customers are aware of any opportunities to upsell.

As a CSM, you will build relationships with your customers by handling their feedback and requests after their first sale. The overall goal is to ensure customer success, which they will reward with their loyalty. This requires a specific skill set but, most importantly, soft skills.

Soft skills include the ability to communicate effectively, diffuse conflict, solve problems in an empathic manner, listen actively and manage expectations. 

Added to these soft skills, a CSM will also need to have above-average organizational skills, and a thorough understanding of their product and the customer’s industry. You will also excel as a customer success manager if you are persuasive, a creative and strategic thinker, and can manage your time astutely.

Using tools like API Metrics, CSMs are able to track the customer journey and make adjustments as needed. All these requirements entail a need for not just educational qualifications and training, but also varied experience.

So what’s the pathway to the position of CSM? 

Let’s discuss how you can get into customer success management:

How to Become a Customer Success Manager

You don’t necessarily need to have a specific level of education to become a customer success manager. But you will need the right mix of experience and demonstrable interpersonal skills to even stand a chance.

In terms of educational qualifications, a Bachelor’s degree in communications, marketing, or a similar field will do your chances a world of good. 

Overall, you should expect to be ready to transition into customer success management after 6 to 8 years in a related role. Being a senior leadership role, you should not realistically expect to get hired as a CSM fresh out of college.

As a CS manager, you don’t need to be a techie, but having a sales or customer service background is more useful than having a technical one. You will need some experience dealing with customers and clients. This can be obtained through on-the-job training.

To accelerate your development and boost your chances of landing the customer success manager job, you will also do well to obtain a CSM certification:

The Most Effective Customer Success Management Certifications

Having customer success management certificates on your resume is important. Earning certification shows prospective employers you are sure about where you want your sales career to go and are determined to acquire the skills and knowledge needed. 

Below we list some of the most valued customer success management certifications.

Practical CSM Certified Customer Success Management Professional (CCSMP) Customer Success Certification

The Customer Success Manager Professional Certification (CCSP) is for professionals looking to advance their careers in a customer-facing role. This comprehensive course will cover the basics of customer service to more advanced consulting and coaching skills.

The CSM program is designed to teach you the practical framework behind managing your relationships with customers as well as specialist customer success training. Here are a few certifications you could get to improve your chances of landing the role:

Cisco Customer Success Manager Certification

If you’re looking to get Cisco CSM certified and learn the key frameworks for customer success, this course is for you. You’ll cover topics like adoption barriers, solution integration, customer data analytics, and sales opportunities

After completing the course, you should be well prepared to take and pass the DTCSM exam. And of course to confidently tackle the demands of the CSM job.

The Success League CSM Training Certification Program

This 15-course certification from The Success League covers all you need to know to become an expert, in-demand, and successful customer success manager.

The above customer success training courses probably offer your best chance of becoming a customer success manager with no experience.

The Career Progress for a Customer Success Specialist

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be about 8% job growth for Customer Success Specialists.

The demand for customer success specialists will continue to rise as more and more companies adopt customer-centric business models. By pursuing this career, your value to the company will only increase with time.

A career working in customer service will also lead to many exciting opportunities. Having good communication skills and an understanding of the company can help prepare you for a management position. 

Jobs that you can aim for beyond the CSM role – should you excel in it, include chief customer officer, customer success leader, and customer success director. Of course, you probably don’t want to look too far ahead at this point.

How to Ace a Customer Success Manager Interview

Once you’ve completed your customer success training and acquired some experience, it’s time to start looking at customer success manager job vacancies. Should there be an opening at your current company or outside, you will want to adequately prepare for the interview:

You can prepare by learning about the customer and their industry to get a good sense of their common challenges and competitor solutions to determine where your product stands with them. This will enable you to answer questions about what you can do to help them solve their problems.

When listing your soft skills on a CSM’s resume, it is best to focus on those listed within the job post. That said, it is also important to highlight other skills that you have that may not have been mentioned in the description. Doing this will allow you to create a more well-rounded picture.

When describing your leadership qualities, always use action verbs. These types of words are more effective than passive ones as they portray confidence and conviction in what you are saying.

Is Customer Success Management a Stressful Job?

There is no clear answer to this question as it depends on the individual, the company, and the role. In general, however, Customer Success Managers may be under a lot of pressure to ensure customer satisfaction and positive outcomes. This can be stressful, but can also be rewarding when you see your customers achieve success.

Depending on the nature of your product and how customers are able to handle the product without handholding, customer success managers can be a tough, stressful job.

How to Be a Good Customer Success Manager

If you’re interested in learning how to become a customer success manager, this guide has shown you the skills and attributes you need to have. 

Customer success managers play an important role in ensuring that customers are satisfied beyond the purchase. If you have good people skills and enjoy sales, then this may be the perfect career for you.

To truly excel in the CSM, however, will take patience, time, and sacrifice. It is a highly demanding job that can bring out the best and worst in people. For your sake, I hope the job grows you as a person and professional, IF you can get it.

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Editors Note:

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Justin McGill
About Author: Justin McGill
This post was generated for LeadFuze and attributed to Justin McGill, the Founder of LeadFuze.