What Does a Customer Success Manager Do?

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A customer success manager (CSM) can be the difference between expanding as a company and being beaten by the competition. This guide breaks down the value a CSM can provide to your company.

Happy customers are the lifeblood of any business. Even if you put together a great marketing campaign and have a solid product, if the customer isn't happy with the experience in the end, all the work you put into getting those sales will eventually dry up as customers don't come back and you struggle to find new ones to replace them.

A customer success manager is someone who is devoted to pleasing customers from start to finish. They want to make sure that after a customer orders and then experiences the product, they want to leave a glowing, five-star review about their great experience. That means a customer success manager must ensure all the elements of the sale go well.

The ordering process must be simple, the product must be exactly what the customer needs, the customer must understand how to use it to realize the full benefit, the product must arrive on time, the company must be responsive to questions, and the product must continue to work as advertised for whatever period of time the customer is expecting.

Yes, it's a lot of work to keep customers happy, but it's worth it -- companies that are legendary for their customer service tend to do the best, and that's no accident. And if you want satisfied customers, you need a customer success manager -- or at least someone performing those responsibilities.

Overview: What is a customer success manager (CSM)?

A customer success manager is an individual with excellent customer service skills who is responsible for making sure a customer is taken care of and satisfied with the company’s product or service. The CSM role is to spearhead customer engagement activities in a proactive manner so interactions with the customer aren’t reactive.

The CSM ensures the customer experience is flawless, and that buyers receive their desired outcome when they make a purchase from the company. They oversee the account health of large buyers and are responsible for interfacing with customers to improve the product and sales approach.

Customer success manager vs. account manager: What's the difference?

Despite some overlap, CSM responsibilities differ from those of account managers in four key ways:

  1. Purpose: A CSM is focused on achieving the customer’s goals, while an AM is dialed into the company’s objectives.
  2. Focus: A CSM has a proactive mindset, always finding ways to help the customer and anticipate the customer’s needs. An AM, on the other hand, fills a more reactive role and stands by ready to help when needed.
  3. Knowledge: The AM is more knowledgeable about the product itself and can answer any questions the customer has, but the CSM has a better understanding of what value that product provides to the customer.
  4. Timeline: CSMs and AMs operate at different parts of the customer timeline, with the AM mostly focused on the end of the customer success journey (the using of the product) and the CSM involved from the very beginning and continually involved throughout.

A client success manager is important to a business for five main reasons:

  1. Loyalty: Customer success managers ensure that customers enjoy your company’s products and services and will want to do business with you again in the future.
  2. Extracts more value: Customer success managers who do their jobs well produce customers who bring repeat business to your door.
  3. Branding: CSMs help promote your brand by creating a positive experience that customers will tell their friends about.
  4. Referrals: Happy customers mean referrals, so CSMs can introduce a new pipeline of potential buyers.
  5. Premium pricing: A company with a CSM can charge more for products and services, knowing that customers will pay more for the superior buyer experience.

The 4 responsibilities of a customer success manager (CSM)

The responsibilities of a customer care professional are many and varied, and they vary depending on the company or even the industry. However, generally they have four main responsibilities.

1. Account development

A CSM is responsible for retaining existing accounts and even growing them. They have regular interactions with the customer, and they spend a lot of time identifying and cultivating new accounts. Through regular interfacing with the customer, they identify opportunities to find new products and services that the customer may be interested in.

They also come up with customer retention strategies to ensure a strong baseline of revenue for the company to build off of, as well as boost the company’s Net Promoter Score -- a score that tells you what percentage of your customers rate you very highly and thus act as evangelists for your company.

2. Customer vigilance

A CSM must review the health of customer accounts regularly and educate customers on new trends or new product offerings from the company, employing real-time communication and conflict resolution skills to ensure that they are invested in the company’s activities. They update clients on best practices and recommend relevant company products.

They will also elicit feedback and constructive criticism from the customer in order to make recommendations for how the company can improve its products or services. They may also use this feedback to come up with new product ideas.

3. Advocacy efforts

A CSM is an advocate for the company, and a vital part of branding efforts. They act as an ambassador by ensuring all parts of the customer service experience are excellent. The CSM captures feedback from customers and determines what kind of impact it has on the business. They may generate some case studies, coordinate speakers for an event, or even leverage reviews on social media.

4. New business

CSMs are always on the lookout for new business. They will examine new business proposals and use insights gleaned from customer feedback as well as company challenges to provide expert insight into the product development process.

They will also communicate how these products benefit clients in a way that will help the company’s overall strategy for obtaining new business, and they can determine what competitive advantages the company has that it can leverage. With all this knowledge, a CSM can even help the sales team, coming up with customer-centric narratives for future sales pitches.

Are you just a small business who can't afford a CSM? Try software

I know the struggle of being a small business owner all too well. If you're lucky enough to have any employees, they're probably doing all the reactive tasks like filling orders or answering phones. It's not uncommon to be unable to afford a personal specifically devoted to the proactive tasks for which a customer success manager is responsible -- much less a customer success team as many the larger firms have.

But you do need to perform those types of tasks or you will never grow as a business. Instead, you’ll be forever stuck putting out fires and just trying to manage the customers you currently have rather than grow that customer base. That's where software can help.

Find someone who can at least perform some of the duties of a CSM -- maybe even yourself for a few hours per week -- and hook them up with customer service software. This kind of software offers many tools to make it easier to manage customers and open support tickets so you're not frazzled. Your operation will be more organized, meaning you'll have more time to do the proactive activities needed to grow your business.

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