Customer success is a 200 Million USD market growing at a Compounded Annual Growth rate of 20%. This is due to the increase in subscription-based businesses which is the way majority of the softwares operate now. As the market grows the need for good people also grows, as a result of which lots of people are now moving towards customer success jobs. We will explore the role of a customer success manager and the skills required to excel at it.
Skills to excel at Customer Success
Empathy is the most important skill for any customer facing role. Understanding the customer’s needs and their point of view is the first step to earn customer trust. This helps the customer feel confident that they are dealing with a genuine company and not someone who does not care enough. If they can empathise, they will be an exceptionally good customer success manager.
A CSM, being the single point contact for a customer, needs to have effective communication skills. They act as a bridge between the customer and the company’s teams. They need to articulate clearly what the customers’ needs are to their product teams. Likewise, they should be able to communicate clearly to unhappy customers on why something went wrong. The choice of words they use and the tone is very important to soothe an irate customer.
3. Task Management
A customer success manager’s day-to-day job involves conducting Quarterly Business Reviews with customers, sending NPS surveys, checking usage of customers, dealing with expansion opportunities, onboarding customers and so on. It involves performing various activities with multiple clients. To stay on top of these tasks, managing and scheduling tasks effectively is a core competency.
4. Computer Literacy and Digital Skills
Several product companies use customer success software like Churn360 to help customer success professionals effectively perform their day-to-day activities. Even though these softwares are intuitive, having a deeper understanding on what the software does and how it can be leveraged to get more work done will help CSMs to be more efficient.
5. Analytical thinking
Analysing various data and thinking clearly on how customers are using the product, what is missing and what should be added to the product can provide valuable insight to product owners and help them with defining the roadmap. CSMs being the front line get the most realistic feedback from customers on what is good and what is not. A CSM can use this information to articulate clearly to the product owners and product managers on the customer’s needs.
6. Domain Knowledge
In SaaS there are several terms like MRR, CAC, Churn Rate, etc. that are commonly used that the CSM will need to really understand how their cohort is doing and what impact it has on the overall business. In addition to this knowledge, CSM’s should also understand the domain in which their product belongs to. Without this they would not be able to understand the customer’s problems nor be able to help the customer effectively. This is a training the product companies must provide to customer success managers as part of their induction.
When working on the frontline with customers, it is almost certain that CSM’s will come across unhappy and irate customers. It is an unavoidable aspect of being in a customer facing role. It is very tough to be calm when a customer is unreasonably upset and showing it on the CSM. But as part of this job, being patient will yield dividends in retaining more customers. Usually, once customers vent out their disappointment they calm down and that will be the chance for CSM’s to build on the relationship.
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8. Active listening
Building any relationship involves listening. CSM’s relationship with customers is no different. If they can listen and interpret what the customers pain-points are it will help the company improve on the product. So being the ears of the company adds huge value. It also provides a happy feel to their customers knowing their feedback is being listened to, acted upon and hence feel valued.
CSMs in many companies are responsible for expansion revenue. They are primary contact of their customer and it makes much sense for them to negotiate expansion revenue, rather than bring in the sales team. For this, if the CSM has good negotiation skills combined with empathy, it can become an amazing combination and will shoot up expansion revenue helping the company improve on the product.
What is the role of a customer success manager?
The primary role and responsibility of a CSM (Customer Success Manager) is to reduce churn by helping customers get value from the product that they have bought.
They achieve this by being the single point of contact for customers, onboarding them and staying on top of the customers’ needs and product usage proactively. When they see a dip in customer usage or if the customer is unhappy about anything related to the product or the service, they will proactively help their customers to get their issues resolved.
CSMs are also responsible for expansion of accounts. So, they will closely collaborate with customers to understand their requirements and suggest the best plans to upgrade to. They also assist customers who want to downgrade their subscriptions due to change in various circumstances.
Being a customer success manager is a fulfilling job as they just don’t sell and forget, but genuinely care for the customer and ensure that the customer gets full value for the product they bought. Like most customer facing roles, it involves developing soft skills. By investing time in developing these skills, they can become exceptionally good customer success managers.