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12 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Customer Success Manager

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Reflecting back on my journey as a Customer Success Manager, I realize just how much I didn't know. You'll never stop learning in this role or any role for that matter and continuous learning should always be the goal. I wanted to share valuable lessons I've learned along the way in hopes that this will help you, no matter what path of the CSM journey you're on. Happy reading!

1. It’s not a one person job.

While you are ultimately responsible for the success of your client, it takes a team of people to truly support an account. As the Quarterback, treat your internal team members as allies - you’ll need their support.

2. Every CSM role is different depending on the organization.

Make sure you understand the roles and requirements for the job that you are applying for. Based on the size of the organization and tier or Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) of the accounts you support, the responsibilities can vary from company to company. For example, you might be directly responsible for upsells with quota or implementing a client post-sales. Bigger companies have clear divisions where smaller ones have overlapping responsibilities.

3. Take time to connect with CS leaders and peers in the space to understand the landscape.

Spend some time nurturing and growing your network. Not only will this help you learn more about the role and industry, but building close ties with the CS community will open up more doors of opportunities even when you’re not actively seeking them.

4. Continue to educate yourself about the industry and refine your CSM skills.

A life skill is to continue to be hungry and curious about everything around you, especially when it comes to your profession where you will spend one-third of your life working. Invest in resources to up-level your skills - take advantage of your professional development budget if you have one. Take time to learn about the challenges in your vertical or industry and how your product stands outs from your competitors.

5. Not every company has a customer centric model. It’s your job to advocate for the customer.

In an ideal world, every company would focus their business model philosophy around the needs and desires of the customer. Oftentimes, businesses lose sight of the why behind what they’re doing as other factors come into play. It’s the CSM’s job to help the team to understand the challenges from the customer’s perspective.

6. Building trust with your client starts from day one and continues with every single interaction.

They say ‘the first impression is the last impression’ for a reason. From the moment that you are introduced, it sets the stage for how strong the partnership will become. Start off by doing your research before every call and setting the right expectations. Share your goals with the client and how you will support them to give them reassurance that they are in good hands. Follow through with everything you say to gain their trust. You will have a great influence in their decision making and hopefully make a lasting impression.

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7. Learn the product to speak with confidence.

Most SaaS products can get pretty technical. While the CSM is not expected to be the technical expert on the product, it’s vital to have product knowledge so you can field client questions, address challenges or recommend best practices to better support their operations. This will help you live up to your role as the trusted advisor.

8. You should continuously reassess your portfolio to mitigate risks.

There will be factors that are outside of your control that will jeopardize the renewal or account. Learn how to strategically be 5-10 steps ahead of your clients to anticipate risks. The goal is to prevent any surprises that can catch you off guard. It’s important to have the right conversations and ask the right questions so you can keep abreast of economic changes, mergers & acquisitions or staff turnover. While you can’t predict every curve ball that will be thrown your way, you will be able mitigate substantial risks with your accounts making you an asset to the company.

9. Find creative ways to engage and re-engage stakeholders.

Image by Fathromi Ramdlon from Pixabay

There will be clients who are unresponsive to your outreach. While it’s OK if some clients prefer not to meet regularly, you need to have continuous check-ins and a strong feedback loop to keep a pulse on the health or sentiment of the account to avoid any surprises at renewals. Clients won’t respond if they don’t see value in the conversation or meeting. Understand their goals, share how you can alleviate pain points and help them unlock more ROI. If your message resonates with their goals, they will listen.

10. Relentlessly help the client measure success and show value.

While you are not a salesperson, approaching this with the mindset of an Account Executive will help you not only with retention, but expansion of the account as well. Be persistent in showing your clients the value of your product. It’s your responsibility to remind them why they purchased your product (desired outcomes) and the significant impact it’s making to their bottom line. Consistently help them measure success and what you have achieved together along the way.

11. Always ask clients for feedback.

Having an open and honest dialogue with the client will show them that you are dedicated and serious about their success. At every turn, ask them about their experience and be open to receiving their feedback and validating their concerns. This skill will take you very far and can help mitigate escalations. Take action on what they say, document and share their feedback or product feature request internally. If the client does not share any feedback, ask more discovery questions until you find out areas where you can create more value, even if you don’t have any features or processes that will support their request currently, you can follow up if there are new product releases.

12. It’s OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.

Making mistakes is part of the learning curve. You can be as detailed or meticulous as possible, but it’s human nature to make mistakes. It’s important to take ownership when something goes wrong because you are ultimately responsible for the success of the client. Do an internal debrief or post-mortem to understand the root cause and assure the client you’ve taken measures to prevent a similar incident in the future. This builds character and will actually make your relationship with the client even stronger.

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