What Makes a Good Customer Success Manager

No doubt about it — the customer experience is crucial to the success of any business. A company that understands the value of customer service will have a leg up on the competition no matter what industry you’re in. With so many brands fighting for consumer attention, it’s the ones that go the extra mile that stand out.

When we encounter a company that goes above and beyond to make us feel valued, the experience sticks with us. Not only do we notice, but we’ll probably tell our closest friends about it because it’s not that common anymore. 

On top of that, we usually make a mental note to use them again in the future. Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of companies have lost sight of the important role customer service plays in the overall business plan.

What Is a Customer Success Manager?

There is a notable difference between a customer service representative (CSR) and a customer success manager (CSM). A CSR is there to assist customers after they’ve already committed to your brand, whereas a CSM assists the customer through the process of being a sales prospect to an active user. 

The CSM title is fairly new and increasing in popularity as more companies shift from selling products to selling services, such as software and cloud services. According to a report from LinkedIn, 72% of customer success managers are working in the Software & IT industry.

The role is meant to guide consumers through a successful experience with a given brand and maximize the value of their purchase. As business models have evolved into subscription and consumption-based formats, the focus has turned to ongoing customer satisfaction and growth. 

The objective is not to make a one-time sale but build an ongoing relationship with customers where everyone’s goals are continuously being met. 

It’s a balancing act to master — the CSM’s job is to work on behalf of both the business and the client to figure out how your brand best fits into their current needs. As demand and products develop over time, the client success manager can continue guiding the customer towards options most suitable for them. 

It’s a profitable way to build loyalty when implemented the right way. An effective CSM should never feel like a salesperson pushing their own agenda, but take their time to listen and evaluate each unique situation in order to build trust. 

For the relationship to work, participation needs to come from both sides. If a customer is reluctant to discuss details of their daily operations to avoid a time-consuming sales pitch, the client success manager can’t productively do their job. 

Transparency is essential. As the CSM builds a rapport with the client, conversations will organically provide insights that lead to a path of value, even if it doesn’t include additional revenue.

5 Ways a Customer Success Manager Can Benefit Your Company

A customer success manager needs to have the ability to wear many hats. Good communication is imperative as a great deal of their work will be spent relaying information between the customer and your sales, support, and marketing departments. 

Here is a quick list of responsibilities a quality CSM should proactively handle:

Client Onboarding

The cliche stands strong because it’s true — first impressions are everything. It sets the tone and provides expectations of value to the consumer. If this initial interaction goes smoothly, the client will feel comfortable reaching out in the future. The focus should be on what their goals are, thoroughly explaining features, and ways your company can continuously benefit them.

Build a Rapport

Customer support managers can appropriately be dubbed “relationship managers” because they need to be skilled at building bonds. Their job is centered around excellent listening skills, an intuitive understanding of workflow processes, and when it’s appropriate to hand the client over to another department. They bridge the gap for support and direct the client toward solutions for billing or technical issues.

Suggest Upgrades

A big advantage of having a CSM is its ability to increase the lifetime value of your customer. By building a strong rapport they enable trust which allows the client manager to naturally bring up product upgrades that would benefit the customer. 

In turn, the client feels comfortable with their suggestions and should never feel leery of their motives. They will work with the client to be sure they’re using the product to its fullest capabilities and keep them informed of all new developments.

Client Retention

A dedicated CSM will follow up on renewals and request customer feedback from each of their clients. That one extra phone call could save a lot of business and go a long way to protect your reputation if there are problems that haven’t been addressed. 

The more successful your customers are, the more they spend with your brand, which drives down acquisition costs and reduces churn.

Company Insights

This leads us back to communication yet again. The CSM can and should be the voice of the customer to the higher-ups. They have valuable first-hand knowledge from actual users that can directly benefit product enhancements if you’re willing to listen. 

When you remain flexible and keep the customer’s needs at the core of product development, you will be able to build an effective client success strategy. Use their suggestions as a learning tool and research the data to strengthen loyalty and achieve sustained growth.

Measuring Customer Success Performance

You won’t know if you have a good customer success manager if you can’t measure their success. There are a number of ways it can be done but here we’ll go over a few of the most common metrics you should consider. Naturally, the numbers that mean the most to you will vary depending on your company operations and long-term goals. 

As we mentioned before, a CSM will help you retain customers, suggest product upgrades, and lower churn rates. The best way to optimize those areas is to track the numbers. To evaluate renewal rates you’ll need to take into account if customers are month-to-month or annual. Clients who pay monthly are technically at risk of churning each month and can be harder to gauge than those paying annually. 

One tried-and-true indicator of customer success is utilizing surveys to calculate the average customer satisfaction score (CSAT). These can be done by phone, email, or even embedded in your product. They’re quite common because they’re fairly easy to assess but the ultimate question that’s worth its weight in gold is “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend?” It’s usually scored on a scale of 0-10 and the results are used in a formula to determine your Net Promoter Score (NPS).

The NPS is just one of the components used to determine the customer health score, which indicates your customer’s loyalty and overall “health”. Other popular areas evaluated are how often they call support, engage with emails, or pay their invoices on time. Since one of the main objectives is to increase the lifetime value of your customers, you’ll want to take a look at how many customers upgrade or add on extras after their original sign-up.

Bottom Line

A customer success manager that can master the finesse of keeping customers happy while representing your brand with the company values in mind, can be a huge asset to your business. It’s a valuable role that should be focused on building strong relationships, listening to customer needs with empathy, and sharing ideas with the appropriate teams.

They’re not focused on customer service so much as customer success, which involves being proactive and eliminating issues before they arise. A skilled CSM will take one problem and use that knowledge to help other clients avoid that same challenge. In addition, they should have the acuity to recommend the appropriate course that will deliver customer success, no matter how much revenue they’re bringing in. 

The customer experience has proven to be a deciding factor of why people remain loyal to a brand — the better you can anticipate their needs, the longer they’ll stick around and the numbers should exponentially grow from there. A happy customer will spend more with your business over time, refer others via word-of-mouth, and actively engage with your marketing efforts.

Sources:

  1. 2020 Emerging Jobs Report | LinkedIn
  2. What Is a Customer Success Manager? | Harvard Business Review
  3. What Is Customer Success Management And Why Is It Important | Forrester
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