How to be a successful Customer Success Manager in 2022

Customer Success is in demand — and so too are the experienced customer success managers who can build successful programs. In this article we will discuss customer success, and learn what does a customer success manager do.

What is customer success (CS)?

Customer Success is in demand -- and so too are the experienced customer success managers who can build successful programs.  In this article we will discuss customer success, and learn what does a customer success manager do.Customer success is a process, and job function focused on helping your customers achieve the goals they bought your product or solution.

Beyond that this is the right thing to do, business leaders recognize that successful customers are more likely to buy their products. This means:

  • Customer success will reduce customer churn.
  • Cross-sell and upsell opportunities remain open — it’s easier to sell to an existing customer than a new prospect.

The outcomes lead to increased lifetime customer value (LTV) and improved overall revenue.

What is a customer success manager (CSM)?

Customer Success Managers are often the individual contributors responsible for helping a set of customers achieve their desired outcomes.

The CSM is assigned a set of customers to set up with the product or solution they bought, guide them in using the solution to meet their goals, and have regular business reviews to review progress with key stakeholders. These business reviews are often held quarterly and referred to as Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs).

There is no ideal ratio for the number of customers per CSM; these ratios require analysis and fine-tuning within each business.

What are the core skills for a customer success manager?

While the exact requirements will vary from business to business, here are a few common skills for CSMs in 2022.

Technical knowledgeable, but business savvy

A CS team has to configure the solution and potentially have technical level conversations (to a certain degree) with technical groups such as CRM teams, Security teams, IT, Development, and so forth.

The CSM must also understand the customer’s business objectives and speak to them in a business language.

Bridging the divide between business and technology teams takes a unique set of skills.

Great communication skills

Customer success teams have to bridge the divide between technical and business groups; they often have to bridge the gap between customers and the company where they work.

Misunderstandings happen during the sales process. When they do, customers may feel disappointed or angry.

The vast majority of the time, this is not due to anything more than assumptions and miscommunication, but it can lead to dealing with unhappy customers.

Ensuring that customers are happy and meeting their objectives while ensuring your business delivers on its promises without losing it is another challenge for many customer success teams.

Empathy plays a significant role in the success of a customer success manager.

Organized and able to manage projects to achieve desired outcomes

Success teams have one primary goal, outlined above — to ensure the customer achieves their desired outcomes.

This goal requires your CS teams to be process-driven and organized, and the team members must also be detail-oriented and organized.

Project management experience, or at least strong organizational skills, are a must.

How to be a successful customer success manager

Now that you understand the role, challenges, and skills, what does it take to be a successful customer success manager?

Embrace your mission

Make sure every one of your customers achieves their desired outcomes. Bring passion and compassion to this every single day.

Have a goalies mentality

Understand you will fail.

Some customers will not achieve their desired outcomes.

Some customers will not like you.

Learn from every failure, every challenge, but don’t focus on the ones that got by you.

Keep learning

Spend time to learn something new about your products and solutions, the industry you are working in, your buyers and prospects.

The more you learn about the challenges your customers are dealing with, the better you will serve them on the journey.

Be data-informed

Your awareness of the customer’s success will come from every conversation you have with them.

But, this understanding cannot simply be based upon conversation.

From the beginning of your work with a customer, be clear about measuring success.

Study, if possible, the level of adoption of your products and how often they use core features required to achieve the business outcomes.

Use the mix of qualitative and quantitative data to ensure they are on track to be successful.

Focus on Value Realization

Related to the other items discussed above, ensuring the customers are successful and recognizing that success is key to value realization.

What is value realization?

Value realization occurs when the customer realizes the benefits of your products or services.

Simple, yes.

Easy to do, no.

Get clear with customers on WHY they bought the product and how success, or value, will be measured using your solutions.

This will allow you to make adjustments to your tactics to achieve it and ultimately demonstrate value realization to your customers.

Interviewing for a CSM Job?

One of the questions you want to understand from the Chief Revenue Officer down is “who at your company is responsible for delighting your prospects and customers?”

The right answer is that the entire team is responsible for delighting your prospects and customers. If you hear that you are, run.

Since we are discussing interviewing, what other questions should you ask the team when interviewing for a CS job?

  • Why do customers buy their solutions?
  • What is the ICP (ideal customer profile) for their product?
  • Do they have a customer onboarding process? Can you review it?
  • Do they have a standard QBR process? Can you review it?
  • How do they currently measure customer health? Net Promoter Score? Red/Yellow/Green?
  • What is the current churn rate? Why is the rate what it is?
  • Why are you hiring for this role now?
  • What is the biggest challenge customers have with your solutions?
  • Where does the team report organizationally?
  • What is the onboarding process for new CSMs at the company?
  • Is there a defined customer success career path at the company?
  • What customer success KPIs are used by the business?

What is the average Customer Success Manager salary?

In the U.S., according to Glassdoor the range for the average salary of Customer Success Managers is currently setting at $90,249/year.

Customer Success Manager Salary

Of course, the average Customer Success Manager salary varies across the globe.  As the time of this writing, per Glassdoor, here are the average base salaries for several locations across the globe.

Salaries across the United States
  • Customer Success Manager salary San Francisco:  $104,720 per year.
  • Customer Success Manager salary NYC: $98,622 per year.  
  • Customer Success Manager salary Charlotte: $92,726 per year.  
  • Customer Success Manager salary St Louis MO: $90,581 per year.  
  • Customer Success Manager salary Boston: $93,71 per year.  
Salaries across the globe
  • Canada:  CA$74,183 per year
  • United Kingdom: £49,334 per year
  • Spain:  €41,296 per year
  • India: ₹1M per year
  • Australia: A$104,500 per year

Key Jobs of the CSM

Review these articles on the critical functions performed by the CSM.

Final thoughts

Being a successful customer success manager is hard. You have to navigate between multiple worlds (buyer/seller, technical/business), have empathy, excellent communication skills, be detailed-oriented while seeing the big picture.

It’s hard.

However, those that can find the right balance will find a challenging and rewarding career ahead.

Brief Review of Terms

What is customer success?

Customer success is a process, and job function focused on helping your customers achieve the goals they bought your product or solution.

What is a customer success manager?

Customer Success Managers are often the individual contributors responsible for helping a set of customers achieve their desired outcomes.

What does a customer success manager do?

A customer success manager is assigned a set of customers to set up with the product or solution they bought, guide them in using the solution to meet their goals, and have regular business reviews to review progress with key stakeholders. These business reviews are often held quarterly and referred to as Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs).

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