- Customer Success Manager (CSM) is the person who is responsible for building relationships with customers, helping them to maximize their use of the offered product(s)/service(s) to meet their goals, understanding their needs, and lastly, communicating these needs to related teams within the company.
- Other responsibilities of CSMs can be listed as follows: onboarding new customers, promoting upselling, preparing success plans, and coming up with ideas to prevent churn while increasing customer retention.
- During a usual work day, a CSM attends several meetings, such as check-in meetings with customers and internal meetings with other teams, responds to customer requests/ emails, checks user statistics, and does follow-ups on subscription renewals.
- During a usual week, a CSM educates and trains customers, works on process improvement strategies, and reaches out to new prospects.
- During a usual month, a CSM organizes company-wide customer success assessment meetings, sends out and evaluates customer feedback surveys, reviews last month’s Customer Success (CS) KPIs and metrics, as well as updating customer success plans with customers and writing success stories.
Customer. Success. Manager.
A pretty clear name, actually.
A manager who is responsible for the success of customers.
Yet, how? How can someone ensure another’s success? Especially when they’re not even working in the same industry!
Mentors and teachers help students achieve their goals, yet only with the subjects/areas they’ve specialized in.
Coaches and cheerleaders motivate people, but only when they’re on the same team.
But look at the SaaS Customer Success Managers (CSMs); they help their customers achieve their goals with carefully prepared success plans no matter which industry they’re from – technology, healthcare, education, retail, manufacturing… Not a problem!
Do they have angelic powers and knowledge?
With this question in mind, I’ve reached out to successful CSMs from various companies in the SaaS industry and interviewed them, and these wonderful CSMs did not keep any key information about their strategies to themselves.
Without further ado, let’s get to know them!
✨Allow me to introduce you to the wonderful Lety Agami! With over 8 years of experience in the customer success industry, Lety is a true expert in her field. As a CSM at OCTOPAI, she is a friendly and approachable professional who genuinely cares about the success of her clients. Lety’s warm personality and infectious enthusiasm make her an absolute joy to work with, and she always goes the extra mile to ensure her clients are completely satisfied.
✨ Introducing Jon Khalev, a Customer Success Manager (CSM) at LinkedIn with almost four years of experience in the industry. Jon’s professional journey has been full of excitement, from marketing to brand management and beyond. But it was in CSM that he discovered his true passion and has been crushing it for over three years now! At LinkedIn, Jon wears many hats as he’s responsible for both sales and customer success.
✨ Meet Gülben Selçuk – an experienced Customer Success Manager (CSM) with 3 years of industry experience under her belt. For the last 6 months, she’s been part of the Netmera family, working as a CSM for the last 3 months to help clients achieve their goals.
✨Say hello to Nazlım Yılmaz! As a Customer Success Manager (CSM), she’s been rocking the industry for over two and a half years now. She’s currently helping businesses thrive at Shopi, a SaaS-based omnichannel retail company that makes selling easy-peasy!
✨Let’s give a warm welcome to Stella Ikhnana, a dedicated and experienced Customer Success Manager (CSM) with a unique background! With a passion for helping others, Stella spent ten years as an exceptional special education teacher before deciding to pursue a new challenge in the CS industry. Since 2021, she has been putting her skills to work as a CSM and is currently thriving at Cision, where she continues to make a positive impact on her customers’ success.
✨It’s my pleasure to introduce Rumana Shaikh – a highly talented and dedicated Customer Success Manager who has been making a significant impact at Hubspot over the last year. With her strong marketing background, Rumana brings a wealth of experience to her role, allowing her to empathize with customers and provide them with solutions that truly meet their needs.
Who Is A Customer Success Manager?
Let’s face reality: Job descriptions can sometimes feel uninspiring and impersonal -or unoriginal.
It can also be hard to understand what the position really entails as, most of the time; they are crafted to include certain keywords and phrases that are relevant to the role rather than offering a more realistic and personal view of the job.
Thanks to the invaluable input from the Customer Success Managers I interviewed, we can now gain real insights into the industry and learn about their roles and responsibilities as CSMs working in SaaS.
Let’s hear our CSMs’ definitions:
“The role of a CSM is to partner and consult with other teams and managers within the company in order to understand their key objectives and co-create a plan to drive transformation and value.”JON KHALEV, Customer Success Manager at LinkedIn
“A CSM is responsible for establishing direct contact with customers, providing them with timely product offerings, and also for understanding consumer needs and behaviors. The CSM also plays a critical role in effectively communicating these insights to the revenue, marketing, and product teams.“GÜLBEN SELÇUK, Customer Success Manager at Netmera
“The role of a CSM is to partner with clients and ensure they are maximizing the product to meet their goals.”STELLA IKHNANA, Client Success Manager at Cision
“I work with SMB customers in Central and Eastern Europe, guiding them throughout their journey from adoption to retention and beyond. Each day and hour presents a new challenge, as customers from various industries have different priorities. HubSpot is a highly dynamic and customizable product; while it is plug-and-play, every customer works with it in a unique way. As the point of contact for my customers, I provide strategic and consultative advice to ensure their satisfaction at the time of renewal.“RUMANA SHAIKH, Customer Success Manager at HubSpot
“As a CSM, my fundamental role is to have a deep understanding of our customers’ business processes, address their needs, and work towards increasing their success rates. In doing so, I aim to foster collaboration between the customer and our company, ensuring both parties are aligned towards a common goal.”NAZLIM YILMAZ, Customer Success Manager at Shopi
“The CSM serves as the bridge between individuals and technology, providing guidance to unlock the full potential of the products they use.”LETY AGAMI, Enterprise Customer Success Manager at OCTOPAI
Main Responsibilities of A CSM
Okay, a Customer Success Manager (CSM) needs to build and maintain relationships with customers, understand their business plans and needs, then work with them to achieve their goals.
However, achieving these goals requires breaking down larger responsibilities into smaller, actionable tasks.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the specific tasks and activities a CSM can engage with.
As it can be understood from the wide range of responsibilities of CSMs, success management goes beyond simply addressing the current issues of customers. It is also closely tied to a company’s revenue and business growth.
Furthermore, the roles and responsibilities of CSMs have a direct impact on customer happiness and loyalty, as they are responsible for developing and implementing customer retention plans and ensuring high levels of customer satisfaction.
The Most Important Skills For A CSM
Upon close examination of the responses of all the interviewees, my friends, I can give you the happy news: You don’t need angelic powers to become a successful customer success manager; you only need the right set of skills, that’s all!
And these skills can be listed as follows:
- Communication Skills
- Multitasking and Time Management ⌛⌛
- Active Listening and Problem-Solving
- Objection handling and Negotiation skills
- Interpersonal Skills: Collaboration, Relationship Building, Consulting, and Creative Thinking
- Technical versatility and understanding of any new field
What Does A Customer Success Manager Do Daily?
First thing in the morning 🌤️
- Planning the day ahead
If you’re also in the customer success business, you’ll know that there’s always tons of work to do, and well, if you’re not, you now know. There are emails waiting to be responded to, meetings to be attended, calls to be returned, and teams to be updated.
Thus, each and every CSM spend some time planning their day -some even before drinking their morning coffee.
- Checking emails and company channels
To kick off a successful day as a Customer Success Manager (CSM), it’s important to start by ensuring that everyone is safe and everything is well. Jon Khalev says that he checks Sales Navigator for updates within his book of business and stakeholders first thing in the morning. This helps him stay on top of any potential issues or concerns and ensures that he can proactively address them.
- Prioritizing customer requests
Of course, every customer of ours is valuable and important to us.
Yet, it’s also a truth that a CSM cannot respond to all of the customer requests at the same time. Therefore, one of the first things Stella does every morning is to check all the emails quickly and prioritize her customers’ needs and requests.
During the day
As a CSM -if you decide to be one, ofc- there are various meetings you will need to attend in order to keep everyone aligned for the same goals and achieve success -both for the customers and the company you work for.
These meetings can be regular check-ins with the customers, success team updates, or internal meetings with other teams, such as the sales team, marketing team, and product team.
- Checking User Statistics
If a CSM wants to maximize a certain customer’s use of your product and achieve success together, they need to ensure that the customer actually uses and utilizes the product first. That’s why Nazlım controls her customers’ user activity statistics on the platform every day. The actions of a person say a lot about them, and so does the activity report of a customer!
- Responding to Emails
Well, we’ve prioritized emails; now, what remains is to respond to them respectively!
- Following up on Renewals
Unfortunately, renewals are neither done by themselves nor by the renewal fairies. Someone has to follow up on them so that they do not get lost in the shuffle, and this responsibility, most of the time, falls to CSMs.
⚠️ According to recent research, 45% of companies rely on Customer Success Managers (CSMs) for renewals.
Weekly Tasks of a CSM
There are 7 days in a week, and customer success managers do far more than simply respond to emails all day long.
- More Meetings! (Weekly 1:1s, Team Updates, and Product Enhancement meetings)
- Reading product updates
- Analyzing user data with other teams
- Organizing the week ahead
- Training customers on the platform/product
- Working on Process Improvement Strategies
- Researching for new prospects and sending proactive messages 🔍🔍
Monthly Tasks of a CSM 🗓️
The main purpose of monthly recurring tasks is to hear out what’s working best for the customers in the product and what challenges they face while using it. By getting these insights, CSMs can not only assess their performances but also improve their efforts and methods. Additionally, these insights can play a crucial role in the decision-making processes for product updates and improvements.
- Organizing Company-wide CS assessment meetings
- Sending Out Customer Satisfaction Surveys
- Creating Customer Feedback Loops
- Reviewing KPIs and Metrics
- Updating Churn Mitigation Plans
- Updating Customer Success Plans
- Writing Customer Success Stories
Ups and Downs of Being a Customer Success Manager
- Job Satisfaction 👍
The happiness of working closely with many people and helping them achieve their goals…
Having a direct impact on customer retention and revenue growth of your company…
Being in a constant learning process and becoming an expert in various areas…
I believe this point doesn’t need further explanation, huh?
- Learning and Personal Development 👍
Customer success management entails a diverse set of skills, ranging from soft skills such as effective communication, empathy, and conflict resolution to hard skills like time management, coaching and training, data analysis, and presentation skills, as well as a profound understanding of the relevant industry and, to some extent, software proficiency.
If you are one of those people focusing on the journey rather than the destination, you might enjoy the journey of a customer success manager; it’s full of learning opportunities.
- Career Opportunities 👍
📈Whether small, new, or enterprise-size, 95% of B2B companies have a well-defined Customer Success (CS) department.
As long as you’re good at what you do, you’ll always have a place in the industry.
- Long Working Hours 👎
Like every other job, CSM has its downsides, too, and one of the first things that come to mind is the long working hours. Although you might see that, on average, they work 40 hours a week, most of the time, that’s not the case. Depending on your company’s and customer success team’s size, you’re likely to work more than 8 hours daily.
If you’re not really good at time and task management, you might find yourself answering emails and returning calls at very late hours.
Rumana says, “ I have struggled to find my rhythm. I always feel I do not have enough time, as I keep having to jump from one task to the other. The balance between proactive and reactive work is THE biggest challenge in this role.”
- Too Much Research! 👎
As I said before, Customer Success Managers (CSMs) work closely with customers from various industries, which means they need to keep up with the updates and stay abreast of the latest developments within each industry while also understanding the top priorities of each customer. It necessitates reading many blogs and newsletters, attending meetings and conferences, and listening to podcasts. If you’re not good at following a diverse range of media channels, customer success management might not be suitable for you.
- High Levels of Stress 👎
Some say the more demanding a job is, the more fulfilling it can be -but mostly, the more stressful, too.
➡️ On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least stressful and 10 being the most stressful, our interviewees rated the stress level of customer success management at an average of 7.5.
Thus, if you think you cannot handle the internal team politics, the physical workload, and the emotional requirements of the position, you had better review your plans for becoming a customer success manager; otherwise, you might experience burnout.
Suggestions From Successful CSMs in the Industry
Customer success management is a long, long journey that requires both time and effort. One doesn’t simply wake up and become a super successful CSM overnight.
Sometimes there are downfalls, other times joyful victories.
The important thing is that you love what you do and be open to improvement with all your heart. CSMs who have been in the business for years and have achieved success often share similar insights, too👇:
“A CSM’s career path is a dynamic and rewarding path that requires constant adaptation to the ever-changing needs of customers. It can be stressful, but it provides opportunities for growth and development. As long as you have a thirst for learning and the ability to build strong relationships, you can thrive as a CSM! Do not be afraid of making mistakes, do them, and then learn from them. “NAZLIM YILMAZ, Customer Success Manager at Shopi
“Learn the vocabulary used in CS, take time to craft your narrative on why you are interested in the field, and connect the dots of how your previous experience aligns with the day-to-day of CSMs.”STELLA IKHNANA, Customer Success Manager at Cision
“Be prepared for the unprepared. Since you don’t know which requests you will get -and when you will get them- make sure you know how to respond to them under time constraints.” (Source)
“Acquire strong technical skills. Also, if you don’t have outstanding soft skills, this role is not for you.”LETY AGAMI, Customer Success Manager at OCTOPAI
“Customer Success is most importantly about your values. This is a role where your values have to align with the job, where you will always have to put the customer first, even to the detriment of your own numbers and sometimes to the loss of your own business, because as a CSM, you will always be a customer’s advocate and want to do what’s best for them. If you are naturally someone who operates with values that drive you to want to make people around you successful, that can become your guiding principle and ground you in this career and role.”RUMANA SHAIKH, Customer Success Manager at HubSpot
Don’t know how, or where, to start?
Well, Rumana says that she spends a great deal of time to read relevant and important news, information, and growth stories, as well as stories regarding the experiences of her peers.
And Stella finds value in participating in Customer Success (CS) communities that offer office hours, webinars, and newsletters on the latest industry insights.
Go and find meet up with your community, and listen to their stories!
Being a CSM is not an easy job.
It is a challenging profession that entails numerous responsibilities. However, it also provides a great deal of satisfaction and happiness.
In this article, you had the opportunity to gain insights into the professional lives of six highly experienced CSMs.
If you believe that customer success management is the right career path for you, then you’re one of the lucky ones!
There’s a very supportive community that fosters collaboration and mutual assistance waiting for you.