What is a Customer Success Manager or CSM?

entrepreneurship May 31, 2021

Entrepreneurship, startups and the business universe are constantly mutating and changing, and since the Internet has become part of the equation, new positions and roles have begun to emerge and grow in importance. One of those, which you may or may not have heard of is the Customer Success Manager or CSM. For HelloGuru, this has become a crucial part in our operations, so we decided to talk to our own Customer Success Manager, Alvaro Torres, to understand what a CSM is, what they do and when a company should think about including this position in their team.

And what is a Customer Success Manager?

"A Customer Success Manager is a person who is in charge of supporting customers in the post-sales process," says Torres. In that sense, instead of looking for a potential customer to buy the product or service and end the relationship between the company and the customer, what is sought is to maintain that relationship and that the customer achieves the goals he or she wants to achieve using the product or service acquired with the company. "There is a very important component, which is that customers who use the product in a certain way, who use it well, are much more likely to generate retention for the company," Torres continues, adding that this is especially attractive in a SaaS scenario, where the business is based precisely on customer retention.

How is it different from a position in Support or Customer Service?

Although it is possible to believe that the difference between CSM and Customer Support lies in the B2B vs. Torres makes some clarifications: "I believe that the support manager is actually in charge of more tactical issues, more precise issues, something that involves a very quick response, like 'I need something, this crashed, fix it as quickly as possible'. The customer success manager is a lot more strategic and long term".

What should a company expect when hiring a CSM?
Photo by João Ferrão / Unsplash

And at what point should a company consider integrating a CSM into its team?

For Torres, it is not a question of size in a company what should determine the need for a CSM. However, he understands that it is not a position that is necessarily required at an early stage of a new business. "You need to sell first," he says. "I think the time to notice it is when you already have enough clients and you feel that the communication is not so good anymore. (...) When you have already made sales and you need to maintain relationships with your existing customers to grow your business," he explains.

And as for what a company should look for in a Customer Success Manager, there are also some pointers that could be useful. According to Torres, it's not necessarily a question of academic qualifications. It's more about experience in the work field and dealing with customers. "Even, I don't know, someone who works at a store and knows how to recognize the needs of a customer, how to support them, how to answer questions and knows how to communicate well with them, can become a customer success manager," he says. Besides that, you need a passion for the products, for learning how to use them and becoming an expert in them. You need the passion, the willingness and the skills to learn.

Someone who works at a store and knows how to recognize the needs of a customer, how to support them, how to answer questions and knows how to communicate well with them, can become a customer success manager.

What should you expect from the position? What is the most frustrating and the most rewarding?

Alvaro says that finding a balance of priorities is fundamental, yet it is a very challenging part of the job. Constant communication with clients must be maintained, but it is necessary to prioritize the needs of one or the other and at the same time not allow any of them to feel abandoned. Similarly, not knowing how to solve a customer's problem can be extremely frustrating, as the CSM is the primary point of contact. This leads to working with other areas in order to find solutions, which can take longer than expected.

One of the most rewarding aspects, on the other hand, is seeing a customer being successful with the product the company is providing. "To have a healthy, long-term relationship and that your customer becomes loyal to your product" is what Torres considers successful work.

5 things a CSM must have:

Alvaro believes that there are five key elements that define a good CSM. In his words, these are:

  1. Communication. Communication skills are super important, both verbal and written. If you write well you will save time, and you will save yourself a lot of trouble. If you don't express yourself well and don't communicate well, things won't go as expected.
  2. Business knowledge. You have to have that business acumen because a big part of this customer success role is understanding your customer's business. If you're working for a company that sells sporting goods, they're going to have different needs than a company that sells software, or a travel services company. They're totally different. So having that open mind and understanding that all businesses work differently is super important.
  3. Sales skills. You need to be a good salesperson because it's not just selling for money, it's selling the idea that your product works well.
  4. Organization. Super important. There is nothing worse than a CSM that abandons its customers.
  5. Work with the other areas of your company. You have to work with marketing, with sales —because that transition from sales to CSM is crucial, the transition must be smooth. If not, the information is lost and the customer is going to lose a lot of time and trust. So teamwork is key.

What about you, do you have a Customer Success Manager and what has your experience been like?

If not, have you considered integrating this position into your team? We want to hear from you!

Want to speak to Álvaro? Book a call to start working on your project here!