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What does a customer success manager do?

The customer success manager is an essential CX role that takes a proactive approach to ensuring customer loyalty and retention when the sales process is complete.

In recent years, organizations have realized that, after completing a sale, they must nurture a continuing relationship with the customer.

Yet, that relationship takes more than periodic surveys, automated reporting and predictive analysis. It requires human interaction, which often falls to a customer success manager. This role's purpose is to establish deep relationships with customers. It is not a sales or technical role, but is consultative, where the customer is the client and the organization can offer solutions to their issues.

A customer success manager must do the following:

  • Ensure customer needs are met as hassle-free as possible.
  • Guide customers from sales to support.
  • Identify new opportunities to achieve customer satisfaction that promote loyalty and reduce churn.

A customer success role is broader than customer support, which is usually reactive and more limited in scope. A customer success manager must be proactive, take initiative to cultivate customer relationships and enhance the customer journey. This position is essential to offering exceptional CX.

Customer success managers should ensure the end results include more satisfied and loyal customers, a better understanding of customers within the organization and perpetual process improvement. They should also understand the customer base as a community, track the success of customer journeys and develop a sense of long-term customer needs, which are essential to the C-suite.

A customer success manager must be proactive, take initiative to cultivate customer relationships and enhance the customer journey.

Responsibilities of a customer success manager

Even though customer success managers may work for a business, they need a tight allegiance to the customer. They should balance advocating for customers, while supporting the organization's goals. Below, explore five specific responsibilities of a customer success manager.

1. Proactively identify customer needs

A customer success manager must take a proactive approach and work with customers to understand what they need and whether current products satisfy those needs.

In addition to a focus on customer support and reactive problem resolution, customer success managers must anticipate problems and opportunities for engagement.

2. Onboard customers

A customer success manager assists in onboarding customers and training them on how to use a product.

While first impressions are important, customers are often left alone to figure out how to use a product after the sales process is completed. Depending on product complexity, some level of hand-holding and onboarding can help with overall CX.

3. Provide a multichannel listening post

A customer success manager must listen and gather information and intelligence from various sources, such as surveys, phone calls, live chat, email, etc.

While customer feedback is critical, customer success teams should also understand market trends and how customers in other industries use the same or similar products to identify opportunities for both customers and the organization.

4. Drive ongoing customer engagement

A customer success manager must ensure the organization continuously engages with the customer.

An ongoing conversation, whether focused on current product usage or new product features, should take place to build and enhance the relationship between the two.

5. Facilitate a two-way flow of information

A customer success manager must facilitate the flow of information between the customer and the organization.

These teams must translate information into meaningful and easy-to-understand language that both the customer and the organization can understand.

Customer success manager skills

To accomplish their responsibilities, customer success managers must be flexible and able to advocate for multiple constituencies. They must satisfy the needs of both the customer and their organization. The following five skills are essential to be successful in this role.

1. Analytical and problem-solving skills

A customer success manager needs broad analytical skills to understand metrics and reports on customer feedback -- both formal and informal -- to determine where gaps may exist.

After they analyze various information types, customer success managers must then interpret the information and identify opportunities to close the identified gaps.

2. Product knowledge

Customer success managers need a detailed understanding of the products and services their organization offers, along with an understanding of customers' expectations for those offerings.

This expertise can help the customer success manager address problems and determine whether customers require additional product training or whether they identified a capability that the product does not currently have.

3. Persistence

A customer success manager needs persistence to keep digging for additional information and insight.

It is not enough to rely on individual data points to draw conclusions. Often, a data point identifies a symptom of a problem and not the root cause. For instance, it is not enough to say that churn is a problem. Customer success managers should explore reports and customer feedback to identify the major drivers of churn.

4. Consultation skills

Customer success managers act as consultants, with the mindset that they must get information and provide valuable solutions to the customer or client.

Effective customer success managers create trusting relationships with clients, which help clients feel comfortable sharing good and bad information. Then, managers work with their organization to determine if they have answers to satisfy the customer's needs. Finally, they report back to the customer with potential solutions from the company or elsewhere.

5. Communication skills

A customer success manager needs various communications skills to interpret customer needs and communicate them clearly to decision-makers within the organization.

Effective feedback to the organization through presentations, written documents or board meetings, among other options, can ensure an organization continues to build on its current product line.

How to become a customer success manager

Customer success managers don't follow a single career path. Anyone with the skills previously listed could become a customer success manager.

However, previous experience in a customer-facing role -- like customer service or retail sales -- naturally provides a benefit, as the person would have experience with a company's products and have previous interactions with the company's prospects and customers.

Some organizations may prefer an individual to have a bachelor's degree, but that is not a requirement to be a productive customer success manager.

According to job board sites like Glassdoor and Indeed, a customer success manager can make $60,000 to $140,000 annually. This range can differ for various reasons, including the following:

  • previous experience
  • job requirements
  • job level
  • geographic location

The customer success manager is a linchpin between the customer and the organization, helping to sustain and tighten the relationship to support the goals of both stakeholders.

As organizations continue to understand the value of this role, customer success will continue to grow and have a larger effect on the overall success of the organization.

Editor's note: This article was originally written by Scott Robinson and expanded by Scott Sachs.

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