Customer Success is a relatively new and evolving function, therefore, there is a fair bit of overlap in terms of roles, functioning and goals with other teams. Although SaaS Customer Success requires fair amount of collaboration with different teams across the organization, currently, the function itself is overlapping. Hence, it’s essential to understand various teams and roles performing Customer Success activities in an organization.
Such an effort can help in better coordination, better utilization of resources, and higher effectiveness of teams.
There are various other names for customer success manager being used in the industry like Customer Success Engineer, Sales Manager, Customer Success Specialist, and others.
A Customer Success benchmark report found out that following are the titles used in a Customer Success team:
- CSM or CS-rep (61%)
- VP of CS
- Managing Director CS
- CSM Director
- KAM (Key Account Manager) or AM (Account Manager)
- Customer Experience
Responses provided for “Others” were:
- Sales Manager
- Customer Success Marketer
- Customer Success Analyst
- VP Services Delivery
- Director Merchant Development
- Customer Success Specialist
- A Customer Service Director
- Customer Success/ Quality Manager
- Customer Support
We notice there is decent overlap with account management, sales and customer support. All these business roles will always have bit overlap and will require collaboration for business as a unit to be successful. Having said, each of these functions need to have a unique purpose to be able to have a direction and work towards it.
CSM and its Purpose
McKinsey published a report on this emerging business stream. Access here. The report states that:
“SaaS vendors faced a problem of customer churn and to retain customers this initiative of CSM took birth. McKinsey names this as the first version. Several recent trends prompt them to name this as the beginning of a new version 2.0. This version is going beyond customer retention to business growth. “
McKinsey states the following as five elements of customer Success 2.0:
1. A unified go-to-market strategy
CSM as a specialized and defined role in the organization. CSM’s have good product knowledge and domain expertise. They can identify opportunities quickly and help customers solve their problems
Articulating the growth charter for the CSM and integrating it into the sales function.
2. A sustainable funding model
Providing value addition to customers that could be free or paid. Building incentives for customer loyalty and customer referral. This is applicable to the sales team as well to make sure they find the right-fit customer who stays for long-term.
3. A customer success talent engine
Recognition of the role within the organization structure. Building the appropriate compensation, recruitment, and training plan. Building a great team is indispensable to providing a great customer experience to the existing customers. Their expenses can be justified by the value they bring to the customers.
4. Advanced analytics to predict customer behavior and target customer segments
Use of technology to make more informed decisions. Modern AI or ML based services can be used for predictive analysis of the customer accounts. This helps in taking proactive approach towards preventing customer churn. And also to study the churned accounts to find the patterns that are causing this phenomenon.
5. A customer-success philosophy embedded across the organization
Being a customer centric organization is part of the vision and mission statements of most business entities. Through a customer-success philosophy, we can get a structured understanding of this with a defined action plan based on real-time data analysis.
The role of every individual and function of the organization can be articulated better for delivering optimal customer experience.
CSM – Customer Experience in Totality vs Touch Points
Mckinsey puts forth another very interesting insight. Customer satisfaction through excellent customer experience has always been the focus of most organizations. There are several touch points for this experience ranging from calls for sales, feedback, complaints resolution, visit of a sales representative, technician, etc. The digital era introduced even more touch points in terms of a chatbot, email, WhatsApp, etc.
In a media company case study, McKinsey highlighted that despite all the helpdesks and customer support, customer churn was still very high. Data also showed that at each touch point the customer had rated the experience as excellent rating at 9 on a scale of 10 mostly.
This did not seem to match. The data was correct. What was really happening was that each touch point was almost working in isolation and concerned with doing their part well. Eventually the client ended up being engaged very highly, and yet not getting a solution in totality. Company costs to maintain so many touch points was actually proving counter productive.
The answer to this lay in a comprehensive approach of total customer experience with an aim to arrest customer churn. That is the CSM’s function. The comprehensive approach that is still evolving, therefore, has a lot of overlaps with various roles and functions of the organization. It cuts across all the touch points that a customer experiences.
How does the CSM role overlaps with other roles/ functions?
There can be various goals for the customer success team in an organization. Even though the primary business goal remains to reduce churn and increase upsell, the organizations devise their strategies aligned to their business, market client landscape and organization values.
Say, for example, Salesforce didn’t invent Customer Success as a new profession, but the company quickly built what was then the largest CS department in the industry. The group was (and still is) called Customers For Life, and while it was not responsible for renewals, up-sells or cross-sells, it was specifically chartered to address customer retention by increasing user adoption.
Some specific role overlaps:
1. Accounts Manager / Relationship Manager/ Client Service Manager
The accounts manager or relationship manager is the interface between the company and the client. Customer retention and delivery is part of their KRA for the client they are servicing. This is also leading to customer retention which is the role of the CSM.
2. Product Manager / Operations Manager / Project Manager
These roles are managing the service to the client in their own way. Their role could be to make product improvements based on client feedback. They could be responsible for managing the process for the client. They could also be responsible for meeting the targets and deadlines set by the client. Each one is part of delivering optimal customer experience
3. Sales Manager / Marketing Manager / Business Development Manager
These roles engage with the customer from the time they were just prospective clients. Promises of delivery were made based on which the client was on-boarded. Ensuring customers are satisfied and are giving good reviews for further business development is part of their role. This is an overlap with the role of the CSM.
Customer Success Manager – Job Description
We saw what are the other names for Customer Success Manager and how the role overlaps with a variety of other roles in the business. We also figured although the strategic business goals for the Customer Success team retain to retain the customers and grow lifetime value, immediate objectives can be very different like higher engagement, higher customer satisfaction, etc.
Regardless, the key roles and responsibilities for a Customer Success Manager remains the same. These can have partial overlap with other roles as well.
Refer the article for a detailed Customer Success job description.
The expected duties and responsibilities are classified into three broad parts:
- Establish customer support practices
- Provide technical and product support
- Supervise employees
A Customer Success Manager is responsible for developing customer relationships that promote retention and loyalty. Their job is to work closely with customers to ensure they are satisfied with the services they receive and to improve upon areas of dissatisfaction.
Refer here for top customer success manager skills.
Customer success is a relatively new concept mostly employed by organization engaged in SaaS business activities. It is growing rapidly and evolving fast.
Customer Success initiative started with the primary focus of arresting customer churn. It has quickly evolved to its next version which McKinsey has named as version 2.0. It has been recognized now that Customer Success is also the growth engine of the organization.
Even though Customer Success function is new, is Customer Success Manager role an old package with a new wrapping? HBR article highlights that some CSMs are rebranded customer service managers, some are erstwhile account managers. 35
In reality, a CSM’s responsibility depends on the opportunity for mutual value creation with the client determined by the engagement status, customer readiness and the solution offering. Regardless of the other names for customer success manager, the role remains highly critical in the organizations today.
Rakhin has over 10 years of experience driving business development and client services. In his prior roles, he stayed close to customers to understand their requirements and help them achieve their business goals. He is passionate about customer success.
Published April 23, 2020, Updated September 05, 2022