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Are you cut out to be a Customer Success Manager (CSM)?
CSMs are tasked with many responsibilities, from retaining and growing customer accounts to solving customer issues to connecting dots between departments and individuals across the company.
Customer Success Managers act as the true customer advocate and the front-line problem solver to ensure the customer is successful. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. CSMs have a tremendous amount of responsibility, and it takes a unique set of skills to be a rockstar in customer success.
Great CSMs can come from a variety of professional backgrounds - not just previous Account Management or Customer Success roles. For this reason it can often be difficult to determine the traits that will make an individual successful in a role as a CSM.
Based on our experience, we’ve identified 5 of the top traits that make CSMs exceptional in retaining and growing their customer accounts while building strong and lasting relationships.
Successful CSMs believe that their customer is the #1 priority, and they’ll do whatever it takes to help the customer hit their goals and be successful with the company’s products or services. No customer relationship is 100% effort free and bumps show up throughout every customer journey. Customers need to know that have an avenue to communicate those challenges inside the walls of your organization. That’s why the most successful customers have trust in the fact that their CSM is advocating on their behalf to executives and support staff.
At ClientSuccess, we often refer to CSMs as the “quarterback of the customer relationship”. CSMs are responsible for the customer’s experience with the product or service and it’s their ultimate goal to make sure that the customer moves swiftly across the customer lifecycle while maximizing their value with the right offerings.
In this role it’s easy to try and shift ownership to departments who are responsible for other functions such as the delivery or the support of the product or service. However, successful CSMs take full and complete ownership of these functions as if they are the ones actually doing to work, ensuring the customer’s journey is smooth.
3. Address Issues Across the Organization
Instead of avoiding difficult conversations with other members of the company, great CSMs address them head on and without delay. In fact, conversations that might be uncomfortable for others really aren’t for successful CSMs because they’ve established themselves as the customer advocate and problem solver.
Addressing challenges cross-functionally is part of the CSMs DNA. Whether there appears to be a problem or misunderstanding in finance or accounting, marketing, sales, or even the executive team, a great CSM will respectfully address the situation and will work with the involved individuals in order to come to the best solution possible for all involved.
Exceptional CSMs don’t just build relationships with their customers - they challenge them and help them to grow in ways they may not have evaluated or anticipated. Successful CSMs have such a deep understanding of their customer’s business and goals and KPIs that they are able to see a solution in terms of products or services that would be beneficial. CSMs often need to get uncomfortable and not just say “yes” because the customer asked, but challenge customers to think in new and creative ways that enable them to maximize value with the company.
Eric Prugh, COO of PactSafe, contributed to our Customer Success as a Culture: Product Leaders Edition, and had this to say about challenging customers with a different point of view:
Eric and his team want to have conversations with customers. He loves getting customer feedback, but he also enjoys sharing his own point of view and hearing customers’ reactions. To him, it’s a dialogue between the customer’s vision for the product and the PactSafe vision for the product. “The outcome for the customer is a win-win when they get to leverage the benefit of feedback from other customers to solve problems they either don’t have yet or didn’t realize they had,” commented Eric.
5. Teach & Educate Customer
There are many ways a CSM can foster customer value, but none are quite as effective as teaching and sharing valuable information. Exceptional CSMs understand that their customers are always looking for new, better, and easier ways of doing their job or increasing the bottom line.
They also know that they’re in a unique position to show the customer how they can do all of the above with their products or services by offering best practices and tips. Teaching isn’t confined to the use of the company’s tools, though. Exceptional CSMs take an active interest in their customers’ company by keeping up on industry news and advancements. They pass along this knowledge and in the process help to educate and teach customers about things they may not have otherwise known.
Are You Prepared to Be An Exceptional CSM?
While we addressed just 5 traits of an exceptional CSM, the list could be much longer. As you can see, a great CSM can come from any type of background and in fact, a different background with various experiences can often be an added benefit as they’ll bring a different perspective to the table. If you’re interested in a career as a CSM, what traits will you bring to the table? Which do you believe are most important for success?