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10 Common Misconceptions About Customer Success Managers That Will Make you Facepalm

customer success manager misconception

I've come across a lot of misconceptions about the Customer Success Manager role so I thought I’d call them out to dispel these myths once and for all. While this is not a comprehensive list, I’m sharing a few themes that I’ve heard as the most common over the years. Here are the top ten misconceptions that I’ve compiled, but do share any others that you’ve commonly come across in the comments section below! Can you relate to any of these?

1. Customer Success Managers are there to save every customer from churning.

CSMs are proactive and strategic, but they can't work miracles. There will always be customers who churn, regardless of what a CSM does. Customer Success Managers can help reduce churn by understanding customer needs and proactively addressing any issues, but they can't guarantee that every customer will be successful. Let’s face it, some small tier customers can be difficult and use up a lot of resources. Determining which customers are not a good fit will end up saving the team a lot of headache in the long run.

2. CSMs always say ‘yes’ to customers. 

CSMs are customer advocates, but they're also responsible for protecting the company's bottom line. On occasion, they may need to say no to customer requests, especially if those requests are unrealistic or would take away resources from other customers. An example would be a client asking for a complicated feature request that benefits only a handful of customers, which would jeopardize resources dedicated to other clients. 

3. CSMs are more or less the same as customer support. 

CSMs and customer support representatives both work with customers to resolve issues, but they have different roles and responsibilities. CSMs focus on the long-term strategy and success of their customers, while customer support representatives focus on resolving immediate questions that may be technical in nature. Support tends to be reactive whereas Customer Success is a proactive approach.

4. CSMs have a one-size fits all approach. 

Customer success is a complex and ever-evolving field, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. CSMs need to be able to discover the customer’s unique challenges and tailor a custom solution to help them find long term success.

5. Customer success is the responsibility of the CS department only. 

Customer success is a company-wide initiative. The only way for a company to fully adopt the customer success methodology is to incorporate the needs of the customer at the heart of every decision. With this in mind, the culture should reflect this customer-centric approach where every employee is responsible for the success of the customer. CSMs work in tandem with other departments, such as sales, marketing, and product, to ensure that customers have the resources and support they need to grow their business. 

6. Everything is fine if customers are using our product. 

Just because customers are using a product doesn't mean that they're getting the most value out of it. This is a false positive that can be costly if you’re not working with the customer to measure the engagement and return on investment. CSMs are responsible for closely working with customers to understand their business objectives and how the product can help deliver on those initiatives, which be a deciding factor at renewal.


7. Customer Success Managers are not technical.

In order to ensure that the customer is successful the the product, CSMs go through product training to be a trusted consultant. Customers look to the expertise of the CSM so they can make critical business decisions to increase their ROI and get the most value from the product. While CSMs have a dedicated team including support and Solutions Engineers to turn to, the customer will rely on the CSM as the subject matter expert.

8. CSMs don't need data or metrics.

CSMs rely heavily on data and metrics to monitor customer health, identify trends, and make data-driven decisions. They need to track the success of the customer and provide insights on where to improve the clients’ overall customer experience and engagement. Whether or not CSMs have this data available is a different question. Leaders need to make sure that their team is equipped with the resources to ensure the success of the clients and company.

9. CSMs only deal with unhappy customers. 

We’re not just firefighters. While dealing with escalated clients is one of the many skills that a CSM possesses, it’s not the only segment that customer success managers work with. CSMs are responsible for managing a list of client accounts who range in sentiment level. The primary goal is to build a strong, long-lasting relationship with all customers, not just those who are experiencing problems.

10. All CSM roles are equal.

Contrary to popular belief, all CSMs roles are not created equal. Each company has a different set of responsibilities, clientele, size, KPIs and other factors that determine the function of the CSM role. At the heart of the role, a CSM is responsible for helping customers achieve their desired business outcomes. However, the organization and its leadership set the core duties of the CSM and what’s required from the customer success team in order for the company to thrive. It’s important to look at job postings from various companies across industries to gauge the nuances of each. 


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