Thinking of hiring a Customer Success Manager, but not sure what qualities to look for?
Without a doubt, the health of your business depends on how well you understand your customers — what they need, how to communicate with them, and how to build a long-lasting relationship with them. That’s why you need a Customer Success Manager. This person will play a crucial role in not only the customer’s success, but also your company’s success.
What Is a Customer Success Manager?
Because the role is still so new, there isn’t a set-in-stone definition for Customer Success Manager (CSM for short). However, most people agree that the role of CSM comes after sales. This role is ultimately part of the customer service team but focuses on engagement and customer empowerment.
A CSM will help the customer successfully navigate your software. He or she will monitor customer satisfaction and look for possible trouble areas. Depending on your company’s structure, your CSM will also upsell or cross-sell your products to interested customers.
Often, a CSM is the one point of contact for the customer. He or she represents your company to the customer.
What to Look for in a Customer Success Manager
Let’s talk about what skills and qualities to look for in a customer success manager.
While it’s not set in stone, it’s always a good idea to go with someone who’s experienced. You don’t want to spend weeks, months, or even longer teaching your CSM the basics of customer care. The right candidate will have a pretty good grasp of customer service and relationship building.
Even though your candidate may not have worked as a CSM before, he or she should have at least one year’s worth of management experience in customer service. The candidate should also feel comfortable dealing with customers directly.
Excellent communication skills are non-negotiable for any CSM. Your CSM needs to be able to communicate his or her thoughts both verbally and through the written word.
And while I’d love to say that both are equally important, I think writing skills have a slight edge over verbal.
This is especially true for SaaS companies.
Your CSM will communicate a ton through writing, whether that’s over email, social media, or chat. Your CSM may also write customer guides, best practices, or thought pieces. Because your CSM will write to your customers and also the rest of your team, he or she will need to feel comfortable with the written word. This manager must be able to effectively organize his thoughts and put it in writing — which is easier said than done (no pun intended).
Your Customer Success Manager should be a self-described “people person”.
Because this position is customer-facing, the CSM should actually like people — not everyone fits this description. Relationship-building is at the core of any customer success position. If your CSM is to build a meaningful relationship with your customers, he or she will first need to be adept at building a rapport with your customers.
Your CSM needs to feel comfortable talking to your customer base, whether that’s creatives or accountants or anyone in between. Ideally, your CSM will have a natural affinity with the customer-base, and be able to build from there. For example, a CSM who’s worked as an insurance agent will likely understand the unique challenges of that industry and can build a connection that way.
The soft skill of empathy is hard to put on a resume, but a crucial skill for any Customer Success Manager.
Customers don’t want to just be heard, they also want to be understood and validated. The right CSM is able to empathize with the customer.
In other words, your CSM should be able to anticipate and articulate the customer’s problem. But, going a step further, he should also take ownership of that problem, and invest in a winning solution for the customer.
An empathetic CSM will also understand buyer psychology, specifically what calls a customer to action and what keeps a customer from leaving.
To help develop a CSM’s empathy skills, consider having him or her shadow your support staff. This will provide them with a more realistic understanding of your brand-specific customer needs.
A Strategic Mind
When hiring for a CSM role, you’re looking for the ultimate problem solver. He or she should be able to recognize problems and find ways to help the customer succeed.
CSMs must be able to create an accurate life cycle for each type of customer. Then, the CSM should also understand how the customer progresses through each step — from onboarding to retention and loyalty.
He or she will think of new ways to minimize churn, such as rewarding customer loyalty.
As a SaaS, you probably have customers at various price points. Your CSM should be sensitive to this and create a rewarding experience for each type of customer.
Your Customer Success Manager should also have a grasp on the competition, and how your product differs/ is better than others. He/she should be able to communicate your differences in a descriptive, easy-to-understand way that benefits the customer.
The Ability to Analyze Data
Customer Success Managers are also data analysts. CSMs use data to evaluate both the customer and the customer’s experience with your brand.
The right CSM will have an eye for surveys and customer research. They’ll use this information to build an accurate profile of your customers (their experience and their expectation).
Among other data points, your CSM will focus on:
- Basic demographics (age, gender, location, job title)
- Behaviors (log in times, usage, triggers)
- Levels of engagement (conversion, adoption rate, churn)
- Feedback (comments, complaints to customer support and on social media)
Data analysis empowers the Customer Success Manager to create a more responsive plan for your current and future customers.
Because this role requires an almost religious attachment to data, a CSM needs to also be organized. There’s no use in having data if you can’t access what you’ve collected.
A CSM is only as good as his or her tools. From a note-taking app like Evernote to a project management tool like Trello, your CSM needs a way to organize thoughts and implement actions.
A Thirst for Learning
The last thing you want is someone who thinks they know everything and isn’t plugged in. The right CSM is dedicated to constant learning. He or she is innovative, and willing to try new ideas. They’re not set in one way of doing something.
A Team Player
Your CSM will work within the customer success team and also with other teams, including product, engineering, sales, and especially customer support.
Hire a team player who can work well with a variety of personality types.
As I mentioned earlier, a CSM will need to work closely with customer support. The customer support team can help the CSM:
- Understand what customers are currently struggling with
- Identify common hiccups that customers encounter
- Learn what the customer expects
- Discover the everyday language the customer uses to describe a problem (this will help with customer-facing communication)
But, the success of the CSM also depends on how well he or she works with all of the teams in your company. For example, the CSM will need to work closely with the product team, so that he or she truly understands your product.
A Proactive Problem Solver
Last, but certainly not least, you need an individual who’s willing to get out in front of the problem and create solutions before they’re needed. Whereas a lot of customer support is about solving problems after they’ve occurred, customer success is about eliminating those problems to begin with.
Your CSM should be able to anticipate problems and work with others on your team to sidestep these problems, thereby creating success for every customer.
You need a forward-thinker for the role of Customer Success Manager.
The right CSM needs to be innovative, and willing to challenge the way things have always been done. There will be a lot of trial and error with CSMs, particularly because this role is so new and still being defined. However, the right CSM will intuitively understand your customers and be able to build long-lasting relationships that benefit your business.
Remember to ask yourself what you truly want from a Customer Success Manager prior to hiring. Figure out which of these qualities matter the most to you and be careful to hire someone who fits the bill.