It’s easy to think that the hard work ends once you’ve landed a customer. In reality, the struggle to win your clients’ hearts is only just beginning.
After you’ve made a sale, your business needs to keep showing the customer that your product is valuable. Whether you succeed or not comes down to the team you have promoting your products and growing the customer relationship. That’s where a customer success manager comes in.
Here’s what you should know about employing a customer success manager – and why you’re missing out if you don’t have one.
What is a customer success manager?
Customer success managers (CSMs) support your customers as they transition from sales prospects to active users of your products.
They’re focused on building close, long-term client relationships and often stay with the same customers as long as they continue to work with your business.
Customer service reps react as issues come up, but CSMs work to solve problems before they happen. They are proactive in looking after their customers’ business, suggesting new and innovative ways to keep them succeeding with your products.
‘Have you ever gone out for a meal and been overwhelmed by the menu? And what you really want is someone to help you decide? That’s how I view [Customer] Success,’ explains Delores Cooper, Customer Success Associate at Zendesk. ‘[We] look at the picture in its entirety – what will provide immediate gratification, as well as long-term stability. Success members accompany the customer on their journey and stay around for the entire life cycle.’
Customer success departments are a pretty new trend. Their popularity has skyrocketed as companies began seeing the value of investing in customer relationships. A 2019 survey by ZS Consulting found that over 40% of high-tech companies now have CSMs.
What makes a good customer success manager?
Customer success managers should have strong organisational and presentation skills, although these things can be taught, explains Cooper. The real power of a great CSM comes from their soft skills.
‘A propensity for relationship building, and doing it quickly, is [very] valuable,’ says Cooper. ‘The customer needs to trust your product and industry knowledge, trust that you understand their use case and trust that your recommendations really are in their best interests. It’s not enough just to have a knack for it – it’s important to really enjoy forming and maintaining relationships. You can’t pretend, otherwise they’ll see right through you and you’ve done more harm than good.’
Empathy is also essential, Cooper adds. You have to be able to connect with your customer over both their successess and their frustrations to develop a long-term bond.
‘We’ve all been customers at some point or another, but being able to draw on those experiences, both positive and negative, and use them to create your own personal CSM methodology is a remarkable skill to have.’
Delores Cooper, Customer Success Associate at Zendesk
Why do you need a customer success manager?
Customer success managers unify your sales and support teams. Because they’re part of many stages of the customer relationship, they have a high-level view of the customer life cycle. They use this perspective to add value for your customers – and your company.
CSMs bridge the gap between sales and customer support
Customer success managers are both salespeople and support professionals. But they aren’t focused on winning the next account or putting out individual fires. They’re relationship managers who expand customer accounts, as well as solve customers’ problems.
There are two key milestones in the customer life cycle:
- When buyers sign up
- When they achieve their first success
Each customer will define this moment of success differently. Sometimes it’s financial, like exceeding their targeted monthly revenue thanks to your product. Sometimes it’s a smaller personal success, like realising that your product saves them time.
Either way, the space between these milestones is the most common place for churn. After the initial excitement has worn off, buyers have to learn how to use the product. Without the right team in place to guide the process, customers are likely to become frustrated and then lose interest.
Customer success picks up where Sales leaves off at this critical juncture. They become your customers’ mentors. A CSM’s main goal is to get them started as fast as possible and monitor their satisfaction as they grow.
They focus on adding value and reducing churn
Having a customer success manager overseeing the onboarding process helps with retention. However, the relationship goes beyond onboarding.
CSMs check in with their clients to make sure that they’re consistently using the products. This intervention is surprisingly necessary, as regular product usage often doesn’t happen organically. An Invesp study found that half of all paying customers log in to their SaaS products once a month or less. It can be hard to keep clients engaged if they aren’t seeing the value in your products. Customer success managers work to keep these benefits their primary concern.
They have a ‘high-level view’ of the entire support process
Customer success managers are involved in multiple phases of the customer lifestyle, so they have a bird’s eye perspective. Service reps may know which customer problems are most common, but they only see the problem close up. CSMs see which problems affect multiple clients and forecast what these trends mean for future churn.
Success managers also have a unique view of future product upgrades and changes. They can advocate for their customers by connecting the clients’ wishes to the business’s larger strategy.
Say, for example, a CSM notices that a lot of clients are asking for a similar product update. They can justify the strategic importance of this update to product managers. That way, the improvement is made and users are kept happy.
Their high-level view enables CSMs to see potential problems and turn them into savings – both for their clients and your business.
Three key responsibilities of a customer success manager
A customer success manager is responsible for the health of your customer relationships. They offer product solutions for pain points and find opportunities to expand your business.
Long-term customer relationship management
The IDC predicts that by 2022, 53% of all software revenue will come from subscriptions. As more businesses switch, the buying model is shifting from one-off purchasing to repeat/monthly sales.
This means that customer relationship goals have to shift as well. The new goal is to keep customers happy all the time, not just happy enough to make a single purchase. This focus on relationship marketing differentiates customer success managers from other customer support professionals.
Sales and service reps focus on customers’ short-term happiness. CSMs focus on adding value for years to come. Their commitment doesn’t end when a customer signs up – that’s when it begins.
Customer success managers own the relationship marketing process. They check in with customers regularly to develop an open line of communication, so concerns can be heard and addressed promptly.
Brand and product promotion
CSMs generate excitement for new or developing products by keeping clients updated on their progress. As new products become available, they facilitate demos and training. If customers decide to add new products to their plans, success managers help to implement them.
CSMs can find upselling opportunities organically because they’ve taken the time to understand their clients’ use case and earn their trust. This personal relationship makes all the difference to finding and positioning expansion opportunities.
They’re also able to provide the technical product support and training necessary to keep their customers happy. This is especially important during onboarding, when CSMs work closely with customers to make sure that their adoption of the product goes smoothly.
Proactive problem resolution
Customer success managers look after their customer’s business and work with them to find solutions to pain points. It’s their job to put out the flame before it becomes a wildfire. They monitor their customers’ happiness closely so that they’re able to offer solutions before problems arise.
CSMs check in with their clients monthly, if not weekly, and ask directed questions to gauge their satisfaction. They can compare these conversations with customer’s behavioural data – such as how often clients are logging in to your company’s software – to assess their overall happiness.
If a customer success manager sees any red flags, they can act immediately to solve the problem before it becomes a complaint. The first step may be as simple as calling a client to check in or offering to do a ‘lunch-and-learn’ about the product for the client’s staff. This intervention feels natural to the client because customer success managers already have a regular, open line of communication with them.
Improve your customer relationships by employing a customer success manager
Today’s customers expect more than products that meet their requirements. They expect personalised support from professionals who care about customers’ goals.
This expectation makes customer success managers invaluable. With this role, your company has someone who has a deep understanding of clients’ requirements. The CSM internalises and shares feedback, so the organisation knows how to deliver a product or service that their audience wants.
Ready to employ a customer success manager?
Prepare for the interview by learning about the customer success questions you should ask every candidate.