When a customer is successful — meaning, they find value in your product, they are able to leverage your solutions in a meaningful way, and ultimately, they see a return on their investment — then you, as a company, have been successful. But ensuring that the customer’s expectations are always met and that customers are always able to maximize the value of your product can be easier said than done. That is why many businesses are turning to customer success managers.

What exactly is a customer success manager? While this position has become increasingly important, there exists some confusion surrounding this person’s role, the required skills, and how companies can best leverage their customer success managers. To help, we’ve put together this quick guide to the customer success manager career, with guidance on how to best utilize them in your company.

A Guide to the Customer Success Manager

What is a Customer Success Manager?

A customer success manager’s primary role is to become a trusted advisor to the customer/client. To do that, they must become an expert in everything related to the customer – their business model, industry, goals, projects, timelines, IT, and more. Simultaneously, they have be an expert in their own technology and solutions so they can provide guidance and assist customers with anything they might need. When a customer success manager has a comprehensive understanding of both, they have proven their value and can provide the optimal customer service – what we like to call the “red carpet experience.”

What is the Customer Success Manager’s Role?

The first and most important task a customer success manager has is to develop a positive, trusting relationship with the client. It is critical that the customer views them as an ally, not just as an extension of the sales or marketing team. The customer success manager is there for one purpose ¬— to ensure that the customer is successful.

To achieve that, success managers handle a variety of tasks both internally and on the customer-facing side of operations. On a larger scale, they are responsible for ensuring that onboarding is done well, implementing efficient processes, and that the customer adopts the solution in timely manner. They must also demonstrate the value of the products and how they positively impact the client’s revenue. Ultimately, customer success managers should be proactive in identifying how they can customize solutions to the client’s needs.

On a smaller scale, customer success managers are constantly juggling many tasks for multiple customers. Just some of their day-to-day responsibilities include:

  • Developing and managing all customer portfolios
  • Handle customer inquiries and communication
  • Analyze customer data to improve customer experience
  • Evaluate and improve tutorials and other communication infrastructure
  • Mediate between clients and the organization
  • Handle and resolve customer requests and concerns
  • Suggest new solutions or products to improve customers’ operations
  • Anticipate customer needs based on projects in the pipeline
  • Prove their value, internally and externally, to promote business growth and profitability for all

Successfully handling any and all of those responsibilities starts with open communication and transparency on the part of the customer success manager. Customer success managers should hold weekly and biweekly status meetings to get updates on open tickets, project timelines, necessary solutions, and anything else the customer needs. By honestly answering questions or concerns and proving themselves to be an ally, customer success managers are able to earn the client’s trust and prove their value — to both their company and the customer.

So, what is the value of a customer success manager? While the role is new and there isn’t much data yet, statistics show that success managers reduce churn. A ProfitWell report showed 15% higher net dollar retention for companies with a customer success team as well as a 15% to 27% drop in gross churn compared to companies without one. As the report states,

“Customer success is absolutely valuable, but the implication is that their value is in an expansion revenue capacity, encouraging customers to find more and more value in our products and therefore spend more with us over time.”

Customer Success Manager Qualifications/Skills

To be successful in this role, you must possess a wide variety of skills and qualifications. While there is no one-size-fits-all degree or education for customer success managers, there are a few requirements, according to many online job listings:

  • Education requirements: bachelor’s degree minimum, usually in sales, marketing or communications
  • Superb communication and interpersonal skills
  • Adaptable and able to quickly grasp and apply new info
  • Be a strategic thinker, persuasive communicator and able to embrace frequent change
  • Experience working in a customer service role
  • Knowledge of customer success processes
  • Highly organized and a self-starter

How to Leverage the Customer Success Manager Role

While a customer success manager largely focuses on client needs, the businesses that employ success managers can expect equal or greater value if the role is leveraged properly. A Walker study showed that by the end of 2020, customer experience will have overtaken price and product as the key brand differentiator. What’s more, reports show that SaaS companies that invest in improving the customer experience can increase revenue up to $1 billion dollars.

How can companies leverage customer success managers?

  1. Improve Your Customer Experience: Adding customer success managers to an operation will first and foremost improve the overall customer experience. Customers will have a single point of contact and a trusted resource for all of their needs. When clients trust their suppliers/partners, they are more apt to be return customers and generate more revenue over time.
  2. Utilize Customer Data to Improve: Good customer success managers are juggling many responsibilities and possess a variety of skills, chief among them communication and organization. In working so closely with customers, success managers can track a variety of metrics related to both your solutions and the customers’ success with them. This invaluable data will give your company greater insight into how customers respond to your offerings and where you can improve.
  3. Get Insight on Competitors: Over time, the customer success manager will have developed a close and trusted relationship with the client. As such, they will get holistic view of all aspects of their operations, including what other solutions and products they use – including those of your competitors. While it’s not suggested that customer success managers focus much energy on getting insight on competitors, it will be helpful to know what other technologies are being used in conjunction with yours, and to what level of success.

Customer success managers are a critical cog in many operations and business functions, notably managed services. To learn more about Hitachi’s experience with them in our managed services division, or how you can leverage a customer success manager of your own, please contact us.