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Customer success manager

Customer Success Manager: A Dynamic Role with Evolving Responsibilities

During these unprecedented times, several business roles’ gravity has come out into the limelight, earning them the moniker of essential services. This has been a very tumultuous time for stakeholders who have gone back to the drawing board to introspect and analyze their business needs and to identify these “essential workers.”

What has become clear right at the outset is the crucial role played by the Customer Success Manager.

HBR reports that while the title of CSM was unheard of a decade ago, more than 40% of 109 surveyed respondents reported having CSMs in 2019. With the emergence of subscription/consumption-based business models that bank on customer loyalty, CSM’s role has expanded to meet more responsibilities.

Developing Customer Relationships

Gone are the days where account managers would move mountains to rope in new clients and then paw them off to internal teams whose responsibility it is now to keep the client happy. They only come back into the picture to occasionally check in on the project’s health or mediate when the client is seriously unhappy. 

Today’s CSMs are expected to take on a more proactive role and be in charge of customer relationship management. This includes onboarding, complaint resolution, technical support, and renewal management. 

In other words, the CSM is a key stakeholder in the customer’s success journey.

Changing Business Needs; Changing Roles

Customer Success Manager

As more enterprises pivot towards offering subscription plans, the role of CSM has taken on several new facets in addition to traditional responsibilities. Here are a few key responsibilities of a CSM that every recruitment officer and prospective CSMs should be aware of:

  • Onboarding: Ensuring a smooth, seamless onboarding experience is crucial to building customer relationships. After all, first impressions matter. Here, the CSM needs to be aware of the client’s pain points and tailor the onboarding process to meet those. If you’re a product-based company, your focus should be on features that the client needs to be aware of to ensure their requirements are met promptly.

Of course, onboarding also includes training the customer in using your product/service and thereby setting them up for success. 

  • Renewal management: While the subscription model has been a boon to businesses, the downside is that customers can cancel and move on at short notice. A CSM should always stay on top of cancellation requests and should even be able to predict which customers are at risk of canceling their subscription. Proactively reaching out to them and resolving their issues goes a long way in nurturing brand loyalty and reducing churn. As a CSM, you also have a responsibility to periodically touch base with former clients and gauge if they are ready for another round of engagement.
  • Encouraging upsells and cross-sells: You’ve been proactively meeting your customers’ needs and taking an active part in their success journey. Good. Now, it’s time to increase the customer lifetime value for your brand through upselling and cross-selling. While a significant amount of upselling and cross-sells happen before and during the onboarding process itself, there is no reason to stop doing it anytime soon. That feature upgrade you’ve been trying to push that they’ve resisted buying into? Maybe it’s time to check-in and see if they need it now. 

See: Upselling performs 20-times better than cross-selling.

  • Be THE voice: This means being the voice of the customer, one who consistently advocates for their needs while also being the brand cheerleader for your company. 

Naturally, being a CSM is ideal for people who have a clear picture of their requirements in mind and have no qualms in being vocal.

  • Writing customer success policies: As someone who is exposed to both the daily grind of the internal support teams and the customers, it is the role of the CSM now to ensure policies are set in place for hassle-free, optimized customer experience. If you want to know how bad the war was, ask the foot soldier. And CSMs are the foot soldiers of customer experience. In essence, these policies should match your customers’ requests with your company’s vision.
  • Firefighting: Yes, being at the frontlines means you are in the line of fire when the customer has a bad day. When this happens, it’s important to remember your dual role – as customer and company advocate and to not bend over for every request that your customer makes. Yes, they are the king, but your internal teams are the army you pitch your tent with. It’s important to keep them happy as well. While firefighting is not explicitly stated in many CSM job descriptions, keep in mind that it is one of the most important aspects of your role. 

While the above points offer a high-level overview, they can vary from industry to industry or even from company to company.

Take, for example, the CSM at a B2C service that leverages its social media presence to make an impact on customers’ lives. A CSM here would be spending a lot of time in driving growth via retention and acquisition, and offering exceptional customer support by keeping an eye on their Facebook/Twitter/Instagram feeds and app store reviews.

Whereas for more traditional B2C players who are not so active on the social scene, CSMs will find themselves engaging with clients via live chat, support tickets, email, etc.

No doubt challenging and exciting, an average day can include several ad-hoc works as well. 

Charting a Successful Career Trajectory

While individuals who enter the CSM job role often come from diverse backgrounds, the core skill sets required remain unchanged. These involve:

  • Being an active listener
  • Displaying traits of a well-refined emotionally intelligent person
  • A knack for critical analysis, and
  • A persistence to solve problems without compromising on the organization integrity

What Next?

CSMs routinely find themselves delving deeper into sales roles after their stint as a CSM. This progression from CSM to sales executive or sales manager is natural since they have all the experience they need to work in a sales role.

To get into a full-fledged sales role; however, some amount of training in lead generation and sales operations/management is essential. There are plenty of MOOCs that offer these courses at highly discounted rates.

CSMs are also uniquely positioned to capture managerial roles with the aid of some in-house grooming. If successful, CMSs are promoted to a managerial role where they’ll be managing multiple teams of CSMs across geographical locations, or, in other words, a Regional Director.

From here, the roadmap is pretty clear. With time and experience, expect to move onto VP of customer success, and then, the Chief Customer Officer(CCO).

The road doesn’t end there. There are plenty of opportunities to make good bank as an outside consultant to those who’ve spent their careers in customer success roles. 

In Summary

Evidently, a CSM takes on a lot of roles and wears a lot of hats in their day-to-day activities. A career that is ideal for a mature, well-rounded individual, the job of a CSM also commands an above-average pay. At the crossroads of business and customer success, the goal of a CSM is clear — minimize churn and maximize customer satisfaction.

Draup’s AI-driven talent management platform provides in-depth insights on the talent ecosystem and can help you intelligently strategize your workforce planning and talent recruitment. Connect with us today to hire the best CSM for your brand!