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What is a Customer Success Manager and How to Become One

By Ajoke Aminu


Did you know a good Customer Success Program can result in a 91% ROI? 

Now, imagine being in charge of this success story for both brands and customers—that sums up the answer to the question, “What is a customer success manager?” Whether you are a novice or a seasoned professional looking to scale or transition, this guide will help you understand the customer success manager job description perfectly. 

Career Summary

Customer Success Manager Salary

Customer Success Manager Salary

As a Customer Success Manager, your salary can be influenced by various factors such as your level of experience, geographical location, the sector you’re in, and the size of your organization.

Nevertheless, the average customer success manager salary trajectory is worth giving a shot:

  • Entry: US$85K
  • Median: US$108K
  • Executive: US$$140K 

Considering the national average income of $59,428, according to Forbes, the average customer success manager salary is considered relatively high.

What is a Customer Success Manager?

A Customer Success Manager (CSM) is a professional responsible for cultivating strong customer relationships, ensuring customer satisfaction, and driving customer loyalty. They work closely with customers to understand their needs, help them achieve their goals using the company’s product or service, and ensure a positive customer experience.

Customer Success Manager Job Description

A Customer Success Manager (CSM) is the main contact for customers, developing strong relationships and understanding their objectives to help achieve them through the company’s product or service. They identify upselling or cross-selling opportunities and collaborate with sales, marketing, and product development teams for optimal customer service. Additionally, they handle customer complaints and escalations, implementing preventative solutions.

Customer Success Manager Career Progression

  • Customer Support Representative: This role involves direct interaction with customers, solving their problems, and providing information about products or services.
  • Account Manager: Account managers maintain and develop client-business relationships. They may manage a portfolio of accounts, devise growth plans, and work towards achieving customer satisfaction.
  • Customer Success Manager: Here, the focus shifts to proactive customer management. CSMs work to understand customers’ goals and help them succeed using the company’s products or services.
  • Senior Customer Success Manager: This role involves overseeing a team of CSMs, strategizing customer success initiatives, and handling high-priority clients.
  • Director of Customer Success: The director leads the entire customer success department, sets its vision and strategy, and works closely with other departments to drive customer-centric growth.
Customer Success Manager Career Progression

Best Aspects of Working as a Customer Success Manager 

  • Opportunity to build meaningful relationships with customers.
  • Direct impact on customer satisfaction and company growth.
  • Variety in daily tasks, making the job dynamic and interesting.
  • High demand for CSM roles, offering good job security and growth opportunities.
  • Competitive salary and benefits in many industries.

Worst Aspects of Working as a Customer Success Manager 

  • Handling difficult or irate customers can be stressful.
  • High expectations and pressure to meet customer satisfaction and retention targets.
  • Balancing the needs of the customer with the goals of the company can be challenging.
  • The role can involve irregular hours, including evenings and weekends, depending on the customer base.
  • It can be emotionally taxing as it requires constant problem-solving and dealing with complaints.

Useful Skills to Have as a Customer Success Manager 

  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Problem-solving and decision-making abilities.
  • Familiarity with customer relationship management (CRM) software.
  • Understanding of customer success metrics and KPIs.
  • Ability to handle stress and stay calm under pressure.

Popular Customer Success Manager Specialties 

  • Software and IT
  • Financial Services
  • Healthcare
  • E-commerce
  • SaaS (Software as a Service)

How to Become a Customer Success Manager

Customer Success Manager 5 Steps to Career


Do I Need a Degree to Become a Customer Success Manager?

Yes, you need a degree to become a customer success manager. According to Zippia, 77.5% of customer success manager positions are filled by bachelor’s degree holders. In your pursuit to become a Customer Success Manager, the first step often includes obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Business, Marketing, Communications, or a related field, equipping you with the fundamental knowledge and skills that are crucial for success in this role. 

However, it’s important to note that not all companies require a degree in their customer success manager job description, but it is more of an exception rather than the norm. While these opportunities exist, they represent a small fraction of the overall picture. Most employers value the specialized knowledge and skills that come with a degree, viewing this as a significant advantage for prospective candidates. Therefore, investing in your education can open more doors and increase your chances of landing a rewarding role as a Customer Success Manager.

The Importance of a Degree for a Customer Success Manager

Obtaining a degree for the role of a Customer Success Manager (CSM) is important for several reasons, such as: 

  • It equips you with a strong understanding of business, providing a foundation of knowledge that can be applied in different scenarios.
  • Having a degree can give you an edge over other candidates, showcasing your commitment to learning and your ability to acquire and apply complex concepts. 
  • Adding a degree to your qualifications can also position you to negotiate for a competitive customer success manager salary. 
  • A degree in business or marketing can provide you with the necessary skills to effectively manage client relationships and to understand and meet their needs.
  • Higher degree paths, including master’s degrees, can further enhance your capabilities as a CSM, enabling you to maximize value from customer relationships and to use both short-term and long-term data to create comprehensive customer profiles.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree to Become a Customer Success Manager?

As revealed above, the journey to becoming a Customer Success Manager (CSM) typically begins with obtaining a bachelor’s degree in business, marketing, or a related field. This step alone usually takes around four years to complete. On another note, you might need to gain some experience in a related role before transitioning into a customer success management role. The time spent in these roles can vary, but on average, it could take an additional 2 to 4 years. 

In addition to this, some companies provide on-the-job training for new customer success managers, which can last between 6-12 months. As we delve deeper, you will learn the right internships and entry-level roles to start with. Overall, the process of becoming a CSM, from education to gaining the necessary experience, can take anywhere between six to eight years.

How Much Does it Cost to Study to Become a Customer Success Manager at University?

Studying at university is generally cost-effective, although the expenses can differ substantially depending on the chosen program and educational institution. For instance, the University of San Francisco offers Certified Customer Success Manager Level I and Level II courses, each costing US$1,695 per level. Meanwhile, Western Governors University offers a program where the tuition is US$4,755 per 6-month term. However, these are only certifications, so if you want to pursue a Marketing or Business degree as suggested before, it averagely costs around US$30,000 to US$60,000 or more. 

Can I Become a Customer Success Manager through Online Education?

Yes, you can certainly become a Customer Success Manager through online education. There are several courses and certifications available that can equip you with the necessary skills and knowledge. For one, the University of San Francisco in partnership with SuccessCOACHING offers an all-encompassing eight-week program designed for customer success. There are also free customer success certifications and training programs available for current and aspiring managers, support professionals, and stakeholders. Additionally, there are online platforms that offer customer success certifications for a range of prices, starting from US$99 per year for a level one Certified Customer Success Manager (CCSM) credential and going up to over US$1,795 for a CSA credential.

Online education, especially in fields like Customer Success Management, offers numerous benefits, such as flexibility and self-paced learning, allowing students to balance their studies with other responsibilities. Also, it prepares students for an increasingly digital workforce, a reality that’s particularly relevant for customer success managers who often use digital tools. Furthermore, this mode of learning encourages better time management skills, is generally cost-effective due to lower overheads, and improves technical skills. With its accessibility, it caters to those in remote areas, and its diverse methods cater to various learning styles. 

What are Some Web Resources to Learn Skills to Become a Customer Success Manager?

As a Customer Success Manager, there are several web resources to help you learn and develop the skills needed for the role.

Here are some resources worth exploring:

  • Customer Success Association (CSA): The CSA offers a wealth of resources, including articles, webinars, and best practice guides, to help professionals in customer success. They also provide certification programs that can enhance your credibility as a Customer Success Manager.
  • Gainsight’s Customer Success University: Gainsight, a leading customer success platform, offers its Customer Success University. It provides comprehensive training and resources to help you learn and master the skills required in customer success management.
  • Totango’s Customer Success Center: Totango’s Customer Success Center is a valuable resource hub that offers articles, eBooks, webinars, and templates to help you understand and excel in customer success management. They cover a wide range of topics, including customer onboarding, engagement, and retention strategies.
  • SuccessCOACHING: SuccessCOACHING is a community-driven platform that offers resources, articles, and training courses specifically tailored for customer success professionals. Their content covers various aspects of customer success, including best practices, frameworks, and career development.
  • The Success League: The Success League provides resources and training programs focused on customer success management. Their blog offers insights, tips, and strategies to help you improve your customer success skills and drive positive outcomes for your organization.

Practical Experience

What are Internship Opportunities for a Customer Success Manager?

As a Customer Success Manager, there are several internship opportunities that can help you gain valuable experience and develop your skills in the field.

Here are a few internship options to consider:

  • Customer Success Departments: Many companies with established customer success departments offer internships to students or recent graduates. These internships typically involve supporting the customer success team in tasks such as customer onboarding, conducting customer satisfaction surveys, assisting with customer training programs, and analyzing customer data.
  • SaaS (Software as a Service) Startups: Startups in the SaaS industry often have customer success teams and may offer internship opportunities. Working with a SaaS startup can provide you with exposure to a fast-paced and innovative environment, where you can contribute to customer success initiatives and gain a deeper understanding of the unique challenges faced by SaaS companies.
  • Account Management or Customer Support Roles: Interning in account management or customer support departments can also be beneficial for aspiring Customer Success Managers. These roles involve working closely with customers, addressing their needs and concerns, and managing relationships. Such internships can provide you with valuable experience in customer interaction and problem-solving, which are essential skills in customer success management.
  • Customer Success Software Companies: Consider internships at companies that specialize in developing customer success software or platforms. These companies often have dedicated customer success teams and can provide you with exposure to the latest tools and technologies used in the field. You may have the opportunity to assist with software implementation, data analysis, and customer engagement strategies.
  • Networking and Referrals: Utilize your network and connections to explore internship opportunities. Reach out to professionals in the customer success field, attend industry events or webinars, and join relevant online communities. Networking can lead to referrals or introductions to companies that may have internship positions available. 

What Skills Will I Learn as a Customer Success Manager?

These skills are not just beneficial for a career as a Customer Success Manager, but they’re also transferable to many other roles and industries.

As a Customer Success Manager (CSM), you’ll develop a wide range of skills, including: 

  • Customer Relationship Management: You’ll learn how to build and maintain strong relationships with customers, ensuring their satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Communication Skills: You’ll need to communicate effectively with customers, understand their needs, and relay their feedback to the product team.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: You will learn to identify customer problems and come up with effective solutions for them.
  • Product Knowledge: A CSM should have an in-depth understanding of the company’s products or services. This knowledge will help you to assist customers better and suggest ways to make the most out of the product.
  • Project Management: You’ll often be in charge of overseeing customer-related projects, requiring skills in planning, organization, and time management.
  • Analytical Skills: You’ll need to analyze customer data to identify trends, predict future needs, and create strategies to improve customer engagement and retention.
  • Negotiation Skills: Sometimes, you’ll need to negotiate contract terms, renewals, or resolve disputes, which requires good negotiation skills.
  • Technical Proficiency: Depending on the industry, a CSM may need to understand certain technical aspects of the product or service to better support the customer.
  • Teamwork and Collaboration: You’ll often work with different teams within your organization, such as sales, marketing, and product development, so you’ll need to be a good team player.
  • Empathy: Understanding and sharing the feelings of your customers is crucial to ensure they feel heard and valued. 

What is the Work-life Balance of a Customer Success Manager? 

Many CSMs, especially those working with public agencies due to their slower pace of change, reportedly experience a good work-life balance, albeit this can be influenced by the need to cater to customers in different time zones or during periods of high demand. Nevertheless, it’s crucial for CSMs to set boundaries between work and personal time. This may involve being clear with teammates and superiors about availability outside of working hours.

Furthermore, a survey found that 86% of CSMs need resources and support to succeed in their roles, underlining the importance of a supportive work environment for maintaining work-life balance. However, CSM roles can vary greatly depending on the company’s size and industry. For example, a CSM at a Series B startup might have a more technically oriented role compared to those in non-tech industries.

In terms of job satisfaction, testimonials from Glassdoor indicate that CSMs find their jobs rewarding, particularly because of the relationships they build with customers and the impact they have on a company’s success.

What’s the Career Outlook for Customer Success Managers?

The career outlook for Customer Success Managers is highly promising, with a projected growth rate of 5% from 2018 to 2028, according to data from Zippia. This indicates a growing demand for professionals in this field as businesses prioritize customer satisfaction and retention. As companies recognize the value of cultivating strong customer relationships, the role of Customer Success Managers becomes increasingly important in ensuring customer success and driving business growth.

The rise of the SaaS industry, along with the evolving business landscape and changing customer expectations, further contributes to the demand for Customer Success Managers. As more businesses adopt cloud-based software solutions and embrace customer-centric strategies, there is a need for skilled professionals who can guide customers through the onboarding process, drive adoption, and proactively address challenges. This presents a wealth of opportunities for individuals in the customer success field to develop their skills, make a significant impact on customer satisfaction, and advance their careers. 

Customer Success Manager Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of a Customer Success Manager?

These job opportunities represent various aspects and specializations within the broader field of customer success management. 

  • Customer Success Manager (CSM): This is the primary role title for professionals responsible for managing relationships with clients, ensuring customer satisfaction, and driving retention and upsell opportunities.
  • Customer Service Representative (CSR): A Customer Service Representative (CSR) is a professional who serves as the direct point of contact between a company and its customers. They handle inquiries, complaints, and provide information about products or services. 
  • Client Success Specialist: Similar to a CSM, a Client Success Specialist focuses on ensuring clients achieve their desired outcomes through the company’s products or services. They provide support, guidance, and strategic advice to clients.
  • Customer Support Manager: While customer support focuses more on addressing specific issues and inquiries, a Customer Support Manager may also play a role in ensuring overall customer satisfaction and identifying areas for improvement in products or services.
  • Renewals Manager: Renewals Managers are tasked with ensuring that clients renew their subscriptions or contracts with the company. They build relationships with clients, understand their needs, and work to demonstrate the ongoing value of the company’s offerings.
  • Onboarding Specialist: Onboarding Specialists focus on guiding new customers through the initial setup and implementation process. They help clients understand the product or service, set goals, and develop a plan for success.
  • Customer Success Analyst: Customer Success Analysts analyze customer data and metrics to identify trends, opportunities, and areas for improvement in the customer success process. They provide insights and recommendations to enhance the overall customer experience.
  • Customer Success Operations Manager: Customer Success Operations Managers oversee the operational aspects of the customer success function. They may be responsible for implementing and optimizing customer success processes, managing technology platforms, and analyzing performance metrics.
  • Technical Account Manager (TAM): TAMs serve as the primary technical contact for clients, assisting them with technical issues, integrations, and customization of products or services. They collaborate closely with customers and internal technical teams to ensure successful outcomes.
  • Customer Experience Manager: Customer Experience Managers focus on designing and optimizing the end-to-end customer journey. They identify touchpoints, gather feedback, and implement strategies to improve the overall customer experience.

What Type of Companies Hire a Customer Success Manager?

As a Customer Success Manager, you can find employment opportunities in a wide range of industries and companies that prioritize customer satisfaction and retention.

Here are some types of companies that commonly hire Customer Success Managers:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) Companies: SaaS companies, that provide cloud-based software solutions, often have dedicated customer success teams. These teams ensure that customers are maximizing the value of the software and have positive experiences throughout their journey.
  • Technology Companies: Technology companies across various sectors, such as telecommunications, e-commerce, fintech, and healthcare, understand the importance of customer success. They hire Customer Success Managers to build strong relationships with clients, drive adoption of their products or services, and ensure customer satisfaction.
  • Startups: Startups, particularly those in the technology space, recognize the need for customer success  from the early stages. These companies may hire Customer Success Managers to focus on customer onboarding, retention, and expansion strategies as they grow their customer base.
  • Enterprise-Level Organizations: Large enterprises often employ Customer Success Managers to manage relationships with key accounts and ensure their long-term success. These managers work closely with high-value clients to understand their goals, address their needs, and drive value through the company’s products or services.
  • E-commerce and Online Subscription Businesses: Companies in the e-commerce and online subscription industries heavily rely on customer satisfaction and retention. Customer Success Managers play a crucial role in nurturing customer relationships, reducing churn, and driving customer loyalty in these industries.
  • Professional Services and Consulting Firms: Professional services firms, such as marketing agencies, consulting firms, or IT services providers, may have customer success teams to ensure that clients receive ongoing support and achieve their desired outcomes.
  • Financial Institutions: Banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions recognize the value of customer success in retaining and expanding their customer base. They may hire Customer Success Managers to build strong relationships with clients and drive customer satisfaction in the financial services industry.

Should I Become a Customer Success Manager?

Informed decision-making includes a deep understanding of the situation at hand. Indeed, you’ll play a vital role in maintaining customer relationships and ensuring client satisfaction, as a customer success manager. However, how do you know if this career suits you? You now have all the answers to questions like “What is a customer success manager?” and more, which can help inform your decision. 

Also, you can ask yourself if you enjoy problem-solving, building relationships, and contributing to a company’s success. You also have to consider that, while the career outlook is generally positive with good customer success manager salary prospects and job growth, these factors can vary based on location, company size, and industry. 

Ultimately, becoming a CSM should align with your personal interests and long-term career goals. If you have a passion for customer service, enjoy working in a fast-paced environment, and have the necessary skills, becoming a CSM could be a great fit for you.

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Ajoke Aminu

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