Winning a new customer doesn’t signify the end of the hard work – in fact, it means the opposite. Once a new customer is acquired, the next step is keeping them happy and on-board. This is where a customer success manager comes in. 

A customer success manager (CSM) is a critical role within most businesses, concerned with supporting customers as they move from sales prospects to full and active users. Their job is to build close, long-term relationships with customers and help to nurture loyalty. In this way, customer success teams play a more proactive role in customer relationships. While customer service teams are in charge of fixing issues as they come up, CSMs look to solve problems before they occur.

Why is a Customer Success Manager Important?

The day-to-day job function of a CSM will vary from business to business, but their ultimate goal is to establish a high-level understanding of the customer lifecycle and use this to provide insight and add value to the customer experience. Ultimately, having a customer success manager can be incredibly beneficial for a company. Here’s what they bring to the table:

Add value

This is a core part of customer success management. Naturally, CSMs play a big role in onboarding by helping to settle in new customers. Beyond this, however, their role is so much bigger.

SaaS companies in particular find active users dropping significantly after onboarding. A customer success manager ensures this doesn’t become a problem. They keep in constant contact with customers, prompting regular use of a product or service (that otherwise may not have come by itself). By building strong customer relationships, CSMs can keep the benefits of a particular product or service at the forefront of customers’ minds. 

Bridge organizational divides 

A customer success manager is a hybrid mix between sales and customer support. Rather than being focussed on the hard sell or winning the next big account, success managers work to improve and enhance existing accounts by solving customer pain points and driving up customer retention rates. 

The two most important areas for a CSM in the customer lifecycle would be the initial customer sign-up and the first customer ‘success’. This point of success will vary depending on the customer, but it will be the first moment they see the true value of the product or service in question.

The gap between these two stages, however, is a hotbed for churn. This is where customer success managers step in, helping new customers navigate a product after the initial sign-up excitement wears off. A CSM will want to get customers from sign-up to success as fast as possible to decrease the likelihood of customer churn.

Enhance customer support services

Customer success managers benefit from a top-level view of the customer lifecycle. This perspective allows them to see potential issues of roadblocks on a wider scale. As well as forecasting issues, they can also pinpoint the problems that may have gone unnoticed up until this point. With a direct line of communication to customers, they can give feedback and advocate for what they want while making sure it still fits within the big picture strategy. 

In other words, CSMs have an unmatched insight into potential upgrades or changes needed to improve customer experiences, save money and avoid churn.

Customer Success Manager Responsibilities

A customer success manager wears more than one hat. Their role encompasses a range of responsibilities ranging from solving problems to finding expansion opportunities. 

Relationship management

An effective CSM relies on forming strong bonds with customers. With subscription models looking to take over traditional one-time purchasing, maintaining customer relationships may become more challenging. The aom needs to be to keep customers happy enough to continuously purchase from a business, rather than happy enough to make a single purchase. 

This is why customer success teams are growing in importance. CSMs are focussed on the long-term health and happiness of customer relationships as opposed to the short-term (like sales teams will be). 

Problem solving

As mentioned above, a CSM should be proactive in their approach to customer problems. Their role is to solve issues before they become bigger, more obvious problems. This could even extend to fixing inefficiencies before customers properly notice them. 

To do so, a customer success manager should have a direct line of communication with their customers. This way they will be able to check in on customer happiness. Combining this information with useful behavioural data (log in times, session durations etc), it is possible to form a fuller picture of customer satisfaction. Regular monitoring will allow any pain points to make themselves known, and action can be taken to ensure the problem doesn’t grow. 

Sales and promotions

There is, of course, a clear distinction between a customer success manager and a salesperson. There is some inevitable overlap, however. Since CSMs are likely to have some of the most established customer relationships, it falls to them to advocate for new updates or new products in development- helping to drum up excitement within the existing customer base. 

As new products roll out, the customer success team will be in charge of setting up demonstrations or training sessions. Likewise, they will help to implement and train customers who decide to upgrade or add new features to their plans. Given the close relationships and the deep knowledge a CSM will have of their client, they can also spot opportunities for upselling. 

Qualities Of a Good Customer Success Manager

With the customer-centric responsibilities of a CSM, it stands to reason that they should possess strong interpersonal and relationship building skills. Having these skill sets will enable them to form stronger, trusting customer relationships at an even faster pace. 

As well as having a prerequisite knowledge of the industry they work in, a CSM should also be able to advocate for customer needs. Much like customer service teams in this respect, a CSM should be able to speak openly and genuinely to customers and provide them with the right information to make decisions. 

A customer success manager would ideally possess the following:

  • Organizational skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Industry expertise 
  • Empathy

Of course, no CSM is an island. As well as being part of a team, customer success managers now benefit from the same technology and automation features as customer service teams. 

How Helpshift Supports Customer Success Managers

Customer happiness relies on fast, efficient, personalized and proactive support. With customers now spread across multiple communication channels, success managers should look towards automation to boost their effectiveness. Helpshift provides the tools success managers need to address customer issues and maintain strong relationships. By automating elements of customer support, CSMs will find it even easier to find and fix customer problems before they become more complicated. Helpshift uses AI-powered automation with chatbot and helpbot technology to meet customer needs even faster. 

Resources to Support Customer Success Management

Blog post: Customer Experience Vs. Customer Success: Connecting Now to Later

Blog post: Customer Success vs Customer Happiness: Developing Long-term Customer Value

Blog post: Project Management Tips and Tricks for Succeeding in Customer Success & Support