3 key skills for effective Customer Success Manager
This article was written in collaboration with Ben Sietz . Ben is an expert in corporate and media services with over 20 years experience in this field. He currently works at Tableau Software.
Customer Success managers are no longer unusual. More and more companies open this position either in already existing departments, or form a new team from scratch. But, despite the popularity of the profession, not everyone will be able to give a clear answer to the question "What is the manager success after all doing?". Companies define this role differently. In some cases, the emphasis is on the commercial component of the work, in others - on a deep understanding of the product and the practice of its successful implementation and use.
Some details may differ, but in general, most CSMs are engaged in establishing long-term relationships with customers, preventing customer churn, communicating the value of the product to the customer, and managing organizational changes at the customer’s company.
At Wrike, the Customer Success Manager position has been around for quite some time, but as the company grew, its functionality changed somewhat. We currently have 2 types of CSM: one-to-one and one-to-many. The one-to-one team works directly with customers. Managers one-to-many cover the so-called customer category. The “low-touch” segment, i.e. those that do not have an attached CSM from a one-to-one command. The scope of their activities includes webinars and the preparation of self-learning products (video and other formats). The one-to-many team allows customers to consult CSMa and learn best product use practices.
Candidates with different experience come to the position of Customer Success Manager. Some CSMs previously engaged in consulting, others worked in sales or technical support. Unfortunately, the Customer Success Manager specialization is not yet available at the university. But in view of the fact that a candidate for this position should have a fairly diverse range of qualities and skills, an employer can select candidates with different experience from related industries.
Good CSM should have good communication and listening skills. The ability to get along with people is an obligatory skill, especially when you are trying to help a client solve a technical problem, share experiences on market trends or make predictions for the next quarter.
Today, more and more companies either open only CSM vacancies, or are already expanding their number. More recently, about the team CSMs said that it "would be nice to have." Now it has become a necessity. IT products sold by SaaS models are much simpler and faster implemented by customers, and to abandon them is doubly easier. That is why more and more companies are integrating into the process of interaction with customers of Customer Success managers who, in turn, must demonstrate to the client a high perceived value of the product.
The role of the Customer Success manager continues to change gradually, so the CSMs should develop their skills if they, of course, want to remain in demand and useful to their customers. We summarized the skills that, judging by our experience in Wrike, should have CSM, as well as recommendations for their development.
Skill # 1. Communication
The most important skill for every Customer Success manager is communication. It includes the ability to listen to the client, conduct presentations on the product and advise on individual product issues. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of good quality communication. Collect information about problems in customers' business processes, understand which solutions work for them, present the company's products and services in a favorable light, respond intelligently to negative feedback.
You are unlikely to become an expert on communication, having studied several books or articles. The books have good advice and approaches, but mainly they need practice, practice and more practice. Attending trainings on public speaking and negotiating will also be useful.
Some tips to keep in mind:
- More importantly, what the listener wants to hear, and not what you know about the product in principle. Communication is an exchange of ideas. So make sure that you start with exactly what the other group or person wants to know.
- Subordination. Make sure you choose the right words in a conversation with people of different official level. For example, if you are conducting a dialogue with someone who is taller than you in a position, be sure to exclude the use of informal vocabulary. If you communicate with those who are engaged in a detailed study of technology or product, then avoid common phrases.
- Pause for breath. It is very important to make pauses during the conversation and thereby give the listener time to digest what you have said. Such a reception will also allow you to make sure that your message reached the customer, and he heard it.
- Keep the conversation structured. Tell us what you are going to convey or take a moment to repeat what has been said.
- Finish on a strong note. The goal is not to say more, you need to bring the ideas that are expected of you.
Skill number 2. Change management
The second very important skill for CSM is the art of change management. CSMs are usually agents of change in customer companies. Changes can affect behavior, tools, processes, or even indicators. Perhaps the client has already used the product or service of your competitor, and your task will be to assist in the transition to a solution from your company. In such a situation, you may be required to conduct training for him, to provide technical support, and, of course, to consolidate the result.
It is not necessary for a Customer Success Manager to be an expert in every change management methodology. But it's good when CSM understands at least the basic concepts of all relevant methodologies. This will allow you to offer your client a whole range of solutions depending on their needs.
There are several ways to improve your change management skills . You can read books and articles on different methodologies or take a special course at a local institute or online. Professional activities can be very useful where you can learn about different approaches to change and learn the best examples.
Some tips to keep in mind:
- Start by asking why? Why are these changes needed? Increase profits? Efficiency? Customer experience? Cooperation? This question must be asked, otherwise changes are unlikely to occur.
- Initiate changes. Do people know the details of the changes? When they begin to be implemented, what kind of training will be needed, how to cope with emerging problems?
- Track changes. Make sure that you can set the criteria for successful change, and then measure the existing progress: 100% using a new tool, the transition to the market is 20% more efficient or saving 20% of the time to manage the project. If you can determine success, then you can make changes or, if necessary, make adjustments, too.
- Changes are always made easy. They require careful planning, communication and clear execution. However, to hold them is vital for your position.
Additional materials: ADKAR
Skill number 3. Product knowledge
It may seem obvious, but for CSM it is very important to know your product from top to bottom. Knowledge of the product can be divided into 2 sub-skills: knowledge of the specifics and functionality of the product (or service) and understanding of common use cases and best practices.
Knowledge of the capabilities of your product allows you to confidently conduct a dialogue with the client. It will prepare you to effectively advise and guide the client when they ask the question. For you as a consultant, whose opinion the client trusts, a greater amount of knowledge means providing more value to the client.
Always remember that the client actually expects from you - the solution to his problems, and not information about the functionality of the product. The more use cases you can offer and the more workarounds you can think of, the wider the range of customer problems you can solve with your product.
If your company has some kind of product use guide or customer service, reread all of the items in the guide until you have memorized most of them. And if you do not have such a resource or such materials for using a product (yes, and this sometimes happens), you can always take the initiative and develop them from scratch.
You can also organize regular meetings with your CSMs colleagues to share best practices. Do not forget to create a shared document, so you and your team members will have constant access to the ideas listed.
It is vital for CSM to be able to speak in accessible and understandable language about the company's products and the solutions they offer. Your success depends on how you use your knowledge to help customers.
Some tips to keep in mind:
- Knowledge of the product requires context. How does the customer use your product? What problems is he trying to solve? Always start with the needs and concerns of the client and move from the end to the beginning.
- Understand your client's business. Does he have any internal rules in the company that he should adhere to? What is their financial situation? Answers to these questions will help you become a valuable partner for your client.
- Set up news alerts in Google for your key customers as well as competitors. Be sure to subscribe to all relevant updates, knowledge of which can help you succeed in your work.
- Be prepared to invest time in the elaboration of the development plan and each of its components. Make sure that the product management team regularly shares the plan and everything that is and is not being developed.
- Understand the positioning of your product on the market. Why he wins in comparison with others or vice versa. What products are better or worse? Knowing the answers to all these questions, you will be better oriented in discussions with your customers.
We have listed only 3 skills from a huge number of those that Customer Success managers must have to successfully complete work. They are fundamental, and working on their development, you significantly increase your value in the market.