Who is a Customer Success Manager or CSM? Why does a SaaS company need them?

Who is a Customer Success Manager (CSM)? Why was the role of a CSM created in the first place?

For any SaaS business, its growth  and success relies heavily on the the recurring business of the current customer base. Traditionally we have relied on a great product and a highly responsive support team. But despite the best product and a great support team, SaaS businesses continue to get the last minute surprises of customer churn, downgrades or license contractions.

Despite best efforts, surprises came in pretty late in the cycle. The moment of turning around the effected customers was long gone. This lead to missing revenue targets and lower than planned growth.

There was a need to do more.

Customer success teams were originally setup with a single goal of retaining customers.

Customer success teams were setup originally with a single goal of retaining customers.  The customer success manager role started on a simple promise of transforming customer engagement from a traditional ‘reactive’ to a ‘proactive’ mindset.

Over time the Customer Success Manager role has expanded, to things such as proactively onboarding customers.

Today a Customer Success Manager’s core responsibilities include:

  1. Customer is getting the “Desired Outcome” by using the product
  2. To ensure customers have a great experience with the product and at every touch point with the company
  3. Calculating periodic account health of (at least) key accounts
  4. Converting customer relationship and value into real advocacy. It could come in the form of an internal NPS survey, external reviews, a case study, or the good old referral.

The goal is to drive recurring revenue and growth, by renewals, upsells, upgrades and expansions.

Customer Success Manager is a person who is handed over the customer relationship after the customer sign-up. Traditionally we have seen account managers and relationship managers play these roles as well. But the skills, tasks and objectives differed. We’ll differentiate between them in a future post and link it back here.

So how does a CSM foresee an upcoming problem?

SaaS companies wanted CSMs to not only identify those issues early, but early enough to be fixed before the churns out.

This is where the Customer Success Platforms come into play. A Customer Success software continuously monitors every SaaS account for its product usage, product stickiness and calculates an Account Health Score. It’s this score that works as a single best parameter for CSMs to identify any problems with the account.


Puneet leads CustomerSuccessBox. He is deeply passionate about the three product joys - the joy of producing, the joy of selling, and the joy of ownership. His inspirations come from family, friends, mentors, people he works with and from free thinkers like Eric Ries (The Lean Startup), Tim Brown (Change by Design: Design thinking) and many more.