What are Customer Success Managers (CSM) or Account Managers (AM)?
The main goal of a customer success manager is to increase product stickiness and reduce churn.
As a post-sales role, great customer success managers act as a bridge between sales and customer support by proactively helping customers find success with the product. After all, the more successful they are, the more likely they are to stick around and not churn out.
This role is most common in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies and goes by several other names, including customer advocate and customer relationship manager.
This role was pioneered by SaaS companies. As you can see from this Google Trends graph, the overall search volume for customer success managers has increased dramatically over the past five years.
An Account Manager (AM) focuses on retaining and growing existing customers, so they handle renewals, up-selling (new features or seats) and cross-selling into new departments. The AM is held to a revenue quota and often a retention rate as well.
Depending on the company, the responsibilities for someone in this role can vary considerably. The one constant is that customer success managers are responsible for onboarding and customer advocacy.
All of the other responsibilities they are tasked with will vary depending on if they report into sales or customer support.
For customer success managers who report into sales teams, they help salespeople close sales by acting as an account manager and main point of contact for any product questions. This can make the transition from pre-sales to customer smoother.
For customer success managers who report to customer support teams, their primary responsibilities are around product usage, customer education and retention. They help with everything from account setup and training to managing cross-sells, upsells, and renewals.
Why do you need a Customer Success team?
Most customer success teams start out focused on churn reduction tactics and are constantly in fire-fighting mode. Their whole goal is to find the biggest churn risks and try to keep them from canceling.
However, the best teams move from reactive churn tactics to proactive retention strategies. They focus on onboarding, training, and revenue-generating activities such as cross-sells, expansions and upsells, while striking a balance between delivering exceptional value and support to customers and improving the bottom line for companies.
As the company and the number of customers grow, the team builds out more systems and processes to make this role scalable.
CSM & AM Compensation
The starting annual salary ranges from $70,000 - $170,000 USD with performance bonuses.
What are a CSM's responsibilities?
A customer success manager’s day-to-day responsibilities include:
- Act as the primary point of contact for brand new customers post-sale
- Onboarding and setting up new customers’ accounts
- Handle account escalations
- Build out upsell, cross-sell, renewal and expansion campaigns to bring in new revenue for the company
- Create and distribute educational materials to help customers get more value from the product
- Proactively identify and engage existing customers who are “high churn risks”
- Become the “voice of the customer” and communicate feedback to internal stakeholders
- Identify potential superfans for customer success stories, testimonials, referrals, etc.
What the Hiring Manager is looking for in a CSM or AM
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What does success look like for a CSM?
Unlike traditional sales roles, customer success managers don’t have sales quotas. Instead, most companies measure customer success managers based on three parts: retention/churn, product adoption, and customer feedback metrics.
Retention metrics are straightforward and are tied to monthly or annual recurring revenue (MRR / ARR), customer lifetime value (LTV) and churn. For example, since customers are the most likely to churn in the first 90 days, a customer success manager might be measured on how many customers stick around after three months.
Product adoption metrics rely on product stickiness. This could include everything from new features activated to the number of customers who hit certain milestones and time spent in the software.
The third metric is tied to customer feedback. The most common metric is the Net Promoter Survey (NPS), which measures how likely a customer is to recommend your product to their friends.
Selling Tools for CSMs & AMs
The Essentials of Pre-Onboarding Your Customers
7 Key Principles of Customer Success
5 Ways to Delight Your Customers
The 7 Sins of Customer Experience
AEs vs. Customer Success – Which Path is Right for You
What skills do CSMs need to possess?
Because this is a relatively new role, you are not going to find people who have 10+ years of experience working as customer success managers. So, it is essential to look for complementary skills and certain personality traits.
Here are the key traits and skills we look for when hiring customer success managers:
- Natural leaders - Customer success managers are often seen as the “voice of the customer.” Whether teaching a customer some tips about a new feature or sharing feedback with their team, they need to be comfortable speaking up.
- Technical - While they don’t need to be developers, customer success managers need to be able to talk intelligently about the product and troubleshoot issues. Having a customer service background can be an asset.
- Great at managing relationships - As customer advocates, you should be personable, proactive and a great listener.
- Self-aware - Having high emotional intelligence (EQ) and tons of empathy is essential.
- Problem solver - You need to be curious and willing to find creative solutions to fix issues that come up.
- Passionate about the product - This person is going to be talking about the product day in and day out. If they don’t understand the product or aren’t passionate about it, it is going to be challenging to do a good job.
- Organized - Customer success managers are often juggling many priorities at any given time. You need to be excellent at project management, detailed-oriented and able to multitask effectively