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What does it take to be an exceptional CSM (Customer Success Manager)?

With the tremendous growth in the SaaS industry, the job role of a Customer Success Manager (CSM) has become one of the most promising careers! In this highly competitive SaaS market, it is the customer success manager who elevates the company’s growth. They are the ones responsible to drive away a customer’s business-related nightmares. Being a great customer success manager is not that easy! It takes effort to become an exceptional CSM. It requires technical and social skills. 

  • Patience 
  • Foresight
  • Organization 
  • Discipline. 

In this blog, we have covered some secret skills that every CSM should master in order to pay justice to their role.

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Some above par skills to become an exceptional CSM

SKILL #1 Emotional Intelligence 

According to a survey study, 75 percent of hiring managers are shown to value EQ over IQ. The same goes for the customer success role. A CSM, with sound emotional intelligence skills, will be able to communicate with their customers effectively. Even if they’re moody or upset, and smooth over situations with ease.

Emotional intelligence allows you to quickly build trust with people, as well as rapport. Possessing emotional intelligence becomes again more important for a CSM because it can help them accomplish their main goals, which are to reduce churn, increase the value of customer contracts, and give customers the best experience possible. They’ll also be able to do things like predict the needs of their customers and be able to manage their own emotions if situations become tense. Customer Success Managers with emotional intelligence will have patience and thoughtfulness, will be curious, and will be masterful at relationship management.

SKILL #2 Organizational Accuracy

Customer Success managers need to be organized and accurate. They stay on task and follow through on commitments with the agility to change priorities when circumstances call for it.

How? They use tools to manage the time and delivery of messages and promised actions. Deeper than technology, they have well-defined personal systems and existing habits for prioritizing and completing their work.

They don’t leave anything to chance. They have backup systems in place if the original plan fails, plus checks and balances to ensure things really did get done.

SKILL #3 Proactivity

Proactiveness is a very critical skill for a CSM. Customers always love it when they get beforehand assistance before they reach out for help. You as a CSM have to be available before them having a clue that they already need you, this will provide them with reassurance that they are in safe hands.

Basically, a CSM’s job is a restless one. They must react to prospects’ and customers’ requests and concerns. And when they aren’t doing that, they need to proactively gather more information to prepare for what might be next or stay ahead of another request.

SKILLS #4 Relationship Management

While this may seem like a no-brainer, it is often surprising how many CSMs move ahead in their careers or fall back. CSM work typically involves technical aspects combined with communication with customers and internal teams, making it sought after by many. But if you don’t have relationship management skills – aka being able to work with customer executives, communicate high-concept ideas succinctly, and mitigate customer issues when they come up – it can be hard to succeed as a CSM.

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SKILL #5 Analytical Skills

Customer Success Manager is seen to be described as a big-time advisory role where interpersonal skills are held in high regard. However, having an in-depth understanding of their use cases via convincing metrics and data will help CSM win their trust easily.

On a daily basis, a CSM has to handle piles of data. They need to understand where the information comes from, how it affects the customer journey, and where they are with prospects in the journey. Having that information will help them move prospects closer to the renewals and upsells. 

They need to understand and analyze data from surveys, buying patterns, demographics, behaviors, engagement, and feedback specific to their industry and customer base.

Now we have got a clear glimpse of some outstanding skills that a CSM must master. Let us look at what are the common practices that a CSM should avoid doing for a better outcome.

Things to avoid doing as a CSM

Avoid being reactive rather than being proactive.

If you’re always behind the curve and handling issues once they’ve already become a problem, you’re performing the role of Customer Service, not one of a CSM. Most things you do over the course of the day are in response to something being brought to your attention (i.e. Support tickets, emails, customers calling to complain, etc.).

It’s important to be able to identify those tasks and activities that enhance and support your objectives and goals for the day and prioritize them above interruptions.

Not planning out your day

As a Customer Success Manager, your days can be very different and very hectic as well. If you let your email inbox take you where it will, every morning, you will find yourself spending time handling only the urgent issues, and never be able to make time for the important. As a CSM, you need to organize your day in a way that would let you accomplish a larger goal.
Create guidelines that you can use to stay on track throughout the day, and always allocate time for (and block on your calendar), slots that will let you think through and execute the improvement.

Waiting until the last minute for renewal

In the wake of the pandemic, companies are doing their best to be more cost-efficient than ever before. Organizations have to continuously assess the solutions they’re using to decide whether or not to renew or cancel their subscriptions. It’s highly unlikely that this decision will be made on the last day of the subscription. More often than not, the decision-makers take notes of the solution’s benefits throughout the subscription period. If a product or service hasn’t been bringing much value to the table during the first six, nine, or eleven months, the decision-maker probably already included it in the “not renew” list for the next period.

With that in mind, it’s important for CSMs to pay attention to how they prioritize work from day one to optimize your renewal process. They need to make sure that they react timely to the decreasing usage of the product. One of the benefits of SaaS products is that it’s usually easy to track client usage in real-time. If a CSM notices a decreasing usage trend, it should be flagged as “reach out soon.” Ideally, CSMs need to be automatically notified about such situations to plan their work more efficiently and prioritize clients that struggle to get value from the product.

Handling too many accounts in one go

Customer Success Managers usually don’t cause this problem. They usually inherit it, based on the decision of a leader who thinks you can successfully manage a number of accounts. However, if you figure out that you have too many accounts to do justice (considering the maturity of the product, clients, organization & tools available) it is crucial to have this conversation (armed with data points) with your manager to limit your responsibility to what you can reasonably succeed with.

Not segmenting customers

As the company grows and the number of accounts increases, scaling a customer success team without customer segmentation might lead to hitting roadblocks. Segmenting customers on the basis of ARPA, plans, demographics, use-cases, etc will helps the customer success team manage more customers efficiently and effectively. You can use customer success software to segment customers based on your requirements

For example, in CustomerSuccessBox, you can choose various attributes such as health, usage, frequency, users, subscription, etc. based on your business requirements. You can even put multiple conditions to segment the customers more efficiently.

Wrapping up

Customer success is still a very evolving field. Every now and then we come across new approaches with respect to the CSM role. It is often hard to find a skilled CSM with the skills mentioned above; a top-notch CSM that has this combination of skills is positioned to be a rock-star in their organization. Hence, CSMs have to experiment, learn and improvise on various strategies to perform their job well. With proper dedication and enthusiasm, if a CSM can develop the above attributes, s/he can become an exceptional Customer Success Manager!

P.S. – The main image has been taken from pexels.com

Payal is working in the Marketing Department at CustomerSuccessBox. She is majoring in Biotechnology and is casually curious about the SaaS economy and designing prosthetics. And in life, she readily preaches the idea of Carpe diem.