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What Does a Customer Success Manager Do? And Why You Should Hire One

In business, making the sale is only half the battle. From there, the relationship that develops between a company and customer continues to be important in determining the longevity and profitability of your partnership—especially if you’re a company that provides a service.

Why hire a customer success manager?

As more companies have realized the value of building long-term relationships and repeat business, a keener focus has been placed on long-term relationship growth and management through the use of a customer success manager, customer service manager or a client success manager (CSM) or an entire customer success team.

The customer success manager role is inherent to fostering any lucrative and long-lasting client relationship, and it has been growing as a desirable position in all kinds of industries. In fact, in 2019, the CSM role was ranked as the sixth most promising job by LinkedIn, based on factors like salary, promotion potential, demand and number of job openings.

In this article we explore the growing popularity of the CSM role in organizations and cover the following topics:


What is a Customer Success Manager?

A customer success manager (CSM) acts as a liaison between your organization and your customer base. They diligently guide customers through your sales process, advise them about buying decisions, onboard new clients after recent purchases and help ensure that things are running smoothly long after the sale.

While customer service agents interact with your customers to support their immediate, short-term needs, your CSM’s primary function is to develop a direct relationship with customers and solve their long-term needs, helping them to plot a path to growth and success with your solution as the compass.

Thanks to their long-standing relationships and in-depth understanding of your clients and their needs, CSMs are instrumental in helping sales, marketing and product development teams understand common customer behaviors, providing information and insight that can, ultimately help boost team productivity, performance and company profits.

What does a customer success manager do?

A typical CSM job description involves the ability to mentor and foster a long-term relationship with clients while, simultaneously, performing a variety of tasks that will help other departments:

Company advocates

Because of the close relationship a CSM fosters with customers, they are in a prime position to communicate why your company can fulfill the customer’s business goals and needs. This positive influence keeps your customers happy – and we all know that a happy customer is often a repeat customer and a great source of referral business.

Client on-boarding and training

Another way your CSM keeps clients happy is by showing them the quickest and easiest path to achieving their return on investment (ROI) or goals with their purchase. This gives the client tangible proof that your product or service is working, and it’s worth their money. CSMs also help customers find out about new features that could benefit them and guide them on their use–meaning more sales and revenue for your company.

Getting renewals

Let’s face it, it’s easier (and less expensive) to keep a customer than it is to go out and find a new one. Increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits by between 25% and 95%.

“In the oversaturated SaaS market, where it is inexpensive to create and maintain a product and customers enter at a low cost of entry for only a month-at-a-time commitment, the Customer Success Manager dictates whether every dollar stays and grows or leaves and dies.”

Jeff Heckler, Customer Success Team Lead, Pipedrive.

If your CSM or customer success team is doing their job well, they will be creating loyal, long-term customers instead of one-time buyers. Therefore, it’s important that your CSM keeps track of all contract expiration and renewal dates and follows up with customers for repeat business. Although not traditional sales positions, these roles are instrumental in maintaining and growing client relationships.

Alerts and check-ups

Just like a mechanic checks your engine to make sure your car is running smoothly, your CSM should be regularly checking in with all company accounts to ensure they are running smoothly.

By using a customer success platform, a CSM can monitor and keep track of the health of accounts and support or respond to any outstanding alerts or red flags before they escalate and become major issues. Regular check-ups help companies stay more proactive than reactive, strengthen partnerships and keep the customer service engine running smoothly.

Upselling & cross-selling

Having a good rapport with your customers puts the CSM in prime position to help sell them on upgrades or additional products and services that will help them with their business. Ideally, the success manager can use this opportunity to help increase the lifetime value of a client while providing expert guidance and solving their problems.

Sounding out customers

Just as a Customer Success Manager acts as a cheerleader for your business, they also serve as the sounding board for your customers. Customer Success Managers have an in-depth understanding of your customers’ wants, needs and frustrations. They are responsible for translating that information to members of the sales team and other departments in your organization.

Creating customer advocates

As well as sharing wants, needs and frustrations, customer and client success managers are also in a great position to share positive stories about your product. Not only do these boost morale, but the CSM can also use the customer as a great resource for a case study or a testimonial. This, in turn, can be used by the marketing team to bring more customers to your business—not to mention the power of word-of-mouth, with customers doing their own promotion of your product.

“Hiring a Customer Success Manager allows an organization to provide a more personal connection to its customers. The organization's benefits are immeasurable from this relationship: it can be as direct as an increase in product usability, or transforming the customers into brand ambassadors.”

Estevan Serrano, Jr. Customer Success Manager, Pipedrive.


How your business can benefit from hiring a customer success manager?

Key to the survival of any business is the ability to obtain and retain successful relationships. A CSM becomes vital when relationships and retention become paramount for ongoing financial success.

A business can benefit from a customer success manager in several ways:

  • Expanding revenue
  • Preserving revenue
  • New sources of revenue
  • Research and development

Let’s look into what those benefits really mean for your business:

Expanding revenue

Through their ongoing communication with customers, customer success managers have the knowledge and ability to have data-driven conversations with customers that can lead to increased renewals, upsales and/or cross-sales of additional products/services that are in line with business goals.

In the case of upselling or cross-selling a new product or product upgrades, for instance, your CSM could help identify existing customers that have a need for a possible new product or feature and be able to cite possible benefits and limitations based on their in-depth knowledge of your customer’s needs and wants.

Preserved revenue

Client success managers increase customer retention and help reduce customer turn-over by ensuring optimal product/service usage. By addressing issues as they arise, your CSM can ensure that your customers are effectively onboarded and trained to achieve the goals that were defined during the sales process and obtain their return on investment quickly.

The goal of your CSM is to not only prove their value, but also to prevent buyer’s remorse. Armed with in-depth knowledge of your customers, your CSM will be able to provide each customer with a personalized onboarding experience tailored to their goals and needs.

By addressing any looming fears, questions and concerns your CSM will be able to put together a roadmap, establish trust and set realistic expectations with the client. In the end, these factors, combined with consistent communication, will help convince your client that they made the right buying decision and ensure a happy, long-term relationship moving forward.

This concept of preserving business and addressing issues proactively becomes especially important during times of recession.

Your CSM’s communications with clients during these times will help provide an understanding of where challenges lie and help your company make proactive adjustments to your product, service and pricing to accommodate clients. This kind of troubleshooting is what entices clients to stay during hard times and continue doing business with you in the long-term.

New sources of revenue

By effectively managing customer relationships, CSMs can help ensure customer referrals and advocacy. Research shows that customers who become brand advocates for your company bring economic value, not only through new business, but also because they tend to spend twice as much as clients that are non-advocates.

Obtaining customer referrals can be easier with the help of your CSM who, based on their close relationship with your customers, can pinpoint those clients that are strong advocates of your business.

From there, CSMs can open the door to conversations with these customers about incentive-based referral business. The leads provided to your CSM can be handed off to your sales and marketing department where they become part of the sales funnel.

Research and development

The CSM is the ideal person to start a dialog with preferred customers about testing products/features and providing feedback in exchange for a discount or other incentive. This valuable feedback, in turn, will help your product development team perfect their work.

Your CSMs will know about the struggles of the customers and where they see limitations in your product. They can then start a dialog with the customers in question to potentially beta test new features and products. Giving customers the chance to be involved in beta testing is a reward for their loyalty and helps your product designers perfect their part of the process, as it gives them access to insights from people who know the product and have a line of communication through the CSM.

“Have you asked yourself, who is the client behind the data? You might know the company name of the biggest buyer, but who is the contact person on their side?” says Miguel Melo, Technical Account Manager at Pipedrive. “This revenue—and product pains, victories, all their history with your company—all of it is owned by a Customer Success Manager.

“Your customer will need to know what heights they can achieve when they are using your product. Besides this, Customer Success Managers will identify new revenue opportunities with old clients. If you want someone to tie all the metrics with real people and invest in human relationships, you will need a Customer Success Manager.”


What is the standard customer success manager salary?

Based on the CSM job description, it is easy to see how their jobs can be a constant balancing act between company success and client success.

Although CSMs are viewed as instrumental in company growth, clients can have the impression that CSMs are more interested in their own sales goals and commissions than in helping the customer’s company succeed. For this reason, companies must build the right compensation plan to help maintain a CSM’s delicate balance as consultant and salesperson.

Here are some average pay stats to give you an idea of what you can expect to pay for a customer success manager:

Stuck on how to put together a winning compensation plan? Check out our sales commission and compensation plans article for help.

If you’re considering becoming a client success manager, take other aspects of the role into consideration:

  • Carefully read the Customer Success Manager job description and see where you’ll fit in the picture. A lot of companies make the mistake of talking all about themselves and their needs without telling you why you’d want to be there.
  • Pay attention to their communication style. Are they timely in responding, professional and do they personalize responses? If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, you may want to consider other options.
  • Observe how the interview process is handled. If you sense any lack of cohesiveness, it may be a big red flag.

Writing a customer success manager job description to find the right candidate

On the flip side, if you’re in the position of finding the right client success manager for your company, there are some crucial details to know about what to look for in candidates. It is important that hiring managers craft a customer success job description that clearly defines this role.

To find the right candidate, it can be helpful to place more emphasis on the CMS role as a consultant rather than as a salesperson to avoid customers feeling the CMS is more concerned with your company’s sales than their company’s goals.

To develop long-term relationships with customers and ensure customer satisfaction, hiring managers must include that the success manager needs to have strong interpersonal skills in their job descriptions. In the same vein, success managers should also have the ability to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you plan on having your CSM supervise and train a customer success team?

  • Do you expect them to develop and implement customer service policies to ensure that all customers receive the same level of service?

If the answer to both these questions is “yes”, it is also important to include the ability to lead, train and manage in a CSM job description.

Some other important attributes to include in a CSM job description include:

  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite (specifically Excel and PowerPoint)
  • General knowledge of customer service practices
  • Technical aptitude

No matter how you craft your description, be sure to clearly explain the CSM job and its responsibilities, provide a clear description of your company’s product and service, culture and vision, the hire’s earning potential and how you envision them fitting in with your team. Choose someone who is a problem solver, solution-driven and capable of maintaining an excellent rapport.

Your description of the customer success manager role within your company should leave a potential CSM candidate feeling excited and ready to achieve greatness for your company.

CSMs and their worth summed up

Whether you’re considering hiring a CSM for your company or considering a career as a CSM, you must stay up to date with the latest sales and industry trends and patterns.

For a CSM, researching trends and patterns will help you determine if this career path is right for your skillset, set realistic compensation expectations and determine potential career growth opportunities.

As someone looking to hire a CSM, being aware of these trends will help you determine the right time to hire and what qualities to look for in potential Client Success Manager candidates. It will also provide insight into what kind of compensation plans will help you hire and retain great talent for your business. A CSM role is a valuable and crucial player in a long-term sales strategy, so you want to make sure your offerings reflect that.

At Pipedrive, we understand how valuable a customer success manager can be to a business, which is why we offer custom onboarding and support to our Enterprise customers. If you select the Enterprise plan when you become a customer, your dedicated Customer Success Manager will guide you through the onboarding process, providing expert insights on how you can use our products and services. After you and your team are onboarded, your CSM is always available to offer guidance and support.

To discover more about our Enterprise plan, contact us through our pricing page.

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