Five Essential Skills for Customer Success Managers (CSMs)

Five Essential Skills for Customer Success Managers (CSMs)

Customer success management involves building customer-focused relationships that are collaborative, goal-focused, and able to adapt as customer needs evolve. The customer success process must also be highly scalable, as SaaS company success depends on the ability to operationalize meeting custom


Customer success management involves building customer-focused relationships that are collaborative, goal-focused, and able to adapt as customer needs evolve. The customer success process must also be highly scalable, as SaaS company success depends on the ability to operationalize meeting customer goals, ensuring use, and optimizing processes to keep customers subscribed. Several skills are essential for customer success managers to meet their company’s goals for reducing churn and retaining customers. Unlike other areas of business operations such as sales, these skills go beyond ensuring customer satisfaction to help customers derive ongoing value from a SaaS solution.


Here are five crucial skills that will lead a customer success manager to optimal retention rates:


The ability to clearly convey messages to an audience is an essential business skill, but customer success requires a higher level of connection with customers. Determining the right level of touch for a particular customer is important. Some customers will want a more hands-on approach to their relationship with your company. In contrast, others just want some information, smooth onboarding, and the ability to go solo without your assistance. While customer success manager communication should respect the customer’s desired touch level, there needs to be a balance.

Low-touch customers still require communication, and it is the customer success manager’s job to provide information efficiently. It can be tricky to handle a customer who, for example, keeps wanting to reschedule a meeting. A great communicator can clearly explain the importance of using different features of your SaaS product, so use, and adoption rate grow. For optimal results and customers that want to stay on board, make sure your communication always delivers value. No one appreciates an aimless meeting that is called just to check-in. Bring something new to the table, such as a quick and to the point presentation on how you can deliver value, and you will build an easy, ongoing dialogue that will be the foundation of customer success.


Just like communication, a well-managed process is a necessary step for operationalizing customer success. Your goal should be that your customers don’t have to think all that much about your solution, and achieving this requires automation, tight scheduling, and meeting deadlines. A highly organized approach means that your customer’s pain points are easier to alleviate because you have insights and access to information, and you’ve created systems that systematically address concerns. Customer success cannot occur without a high degree of organization.

Your customers rely on your SaaS to be a solution that works seamlessly towards their goals. With a highly organized process, your company will not be waiting for a customer to renew. Instead, you will be proactively interacting with the customer. This focus on organization is one key way that SaaS CSMs can guarantee that the customer is deriving value from the relationship. 


Some may believe that customer success is all about ensuring use and avoiding churn. While product use is a key factor in retaining customers, on its own, use can be an instance where SaaS company success is mistaken for customer success. Empathy — the ability to understand another’s concerns and a commitment to resolution — establishes a connection with the customer that feeds all of the metrics customer success managers use to evaluate success.

Empathy is a difficult skill to acquire, but once mastered, it greatly helps a customer success manager identify meaningful goals for customers. An empathetic approach ensures that customer pain points are addressed. While use and retention are indicators of success, meeting goals and providing value is what overall customer success is all about.


Customer success management requires the ability to derive valuable insights from various metrics. Data is everywhere. The key is harnessing the right information and developing problem-solving skills that look for the reason behind the numbers. Forward-thinking can also help anticipate problems and use prior experiences with other customers to build upon successes.

The best way to develop analytics abilities is to encourage your customers to use the product and monitor usage statistics and other related metrics. Then, you can connect the dots, and point to areas where greater success may result.

Team building

When CSMs speak of their own company’s successes, they often refer to scalability. Growth means the ability to make all of the activities that drive customer success to seem like second nature. As your company grows, customer success activities can be at risk of dilution or CSMs can become overwhelmed. This can spread your customer success activities too thin and lead to poor customer experience.

The most important skill for sustained growth is the ability to build a team that can continue to provide customers with their desired touch level. How can CSMs build the right teams? A good first step is to ensure that the other essential skills listed here: communication, organization, empathy, and analytics, are developed and nurtured. And, while consistency in delivering solutions to customers is crucial, so too is flexibility and responsiveness to change. A good team enjoys a culture of always moving towards excellence. Your customer success team will never be perfect, but should always be in pursuit of the best solution for your customer.


CSMs need to develop skills that help identify customer pain points, match product features with desired results, and replicate processes at scale. Developing these skills requires diligence, but a customer success platform, such as SmartKarrot can help. By providing an array of metrics and insights, and the tools to operationalize customer success, SmartKarrot is the customer success manager’s secret weapon. For more information on how SmartKarrot can bolster key customer success management skills, contact us for a free demonstration.

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