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7 Habits of Great Customer Success Managers

Learn and adopt 7 habits from great customer success managers and improve your own performance!
Patrick Icasas
March 9, 2021

On the surface, being a CSM is very straightforward. It’s “helping the customer help themselves.”

Anyone who’s been on the job more than two days will tell you that it’s much more than that. 

Many people can join a company and be a passable Customer Success Manager--maybe even a good one. But it’s the great CSMs that really make a difference. 

A great CSM elevates the company. They drive away a customer’s business-related nightmares. They create loyal customers who would be willing to walk through fire (or talk to your marketing department) if you asked. 

It takes effort to become a great CSM. It requires technical and social skills. Patience and foresight. Organization and discipline. 

We want you to be a great CSM. 

That’s why we surveyed the best Customer Success Managers and CS professionals we know. We assembled a list of the most common habits and listed them here, for you to learn from and adopt. 

1. Teaching not doing

As a CSM, you have a lot of product knowledge and (hopefully) know how to fix any problem you encounter. 

But fixing the problem isn’t your job--teaching the customer is.

It’s tempting to just get a list of your customer’s issues and fix it on your own time. But really, who are you helping? Yes, the issue is fixed, but the customer doesn’t know the why and how of what happened, so they’re likely to make similar mistakes in the future. 

Put your customer in the hot seat. Walk them through the process of fixing it themselves, so that they can build some independence. It’ll go a long way to making your product “stickier” and increase their confidence using it. 

Who knows? They may even become an internal resource! Encourage them to pass the knowledge to their team. It’ll increase their standing within the company as the “go to” person for your product. 

2. Understand the “Why”

When a customer complains about a feature, they’re not really complaining about a feature.

They’re complaining about not being able to do something they need to do, and not getting the results they need. 

Get to the root of the pain point. Figure out what the core issue is and solve from there. 

Doing it from the ground up helps you come up with workable alternatives. And even if it doesn’t, you’ll be able to pass the information along to the product team so they can understand the customer’s true concerns. 

3. Answer immediately, but don’t answer immediately

Customers hate waiting, especially for issues that they consider urgent. And they have a point. A fast response begets a great customer service experience. 

But when questions and support requests come in hard and fast, you’re not going to be able to field them all at once. But you don’t want to keep the customer waiting, so what do you do?

Always acknowledge incoming requests in a timely manner. Also set expectations for when you can get back to them (e.g. later on in the week). This lets customers know that their issue has been heard, and that someone is going to work on it. 

This will satisfy customers in the short-term, while giving you breathing room to investigate issues and solve problems. 

4. Share insights across the organization

You might not realize this, but you’re sitting on a gold mine. 

You’ve got direct access to the customer. Every day, you hear about how the product--and every change you make to it--is impacting their lives. 

Don’t keep that information to yourself! 

Share customer stories and feedback with the other members of your team. Other teams like engineering and marketing don’t have the good fortune to hear directly from the customer, and your insights can only benefit them.

By sharing information, you’ll unite the company as everyone grows to understand customer narratives and the impact of product decisions. 

5. Recharge your batteries

If you’re going to take care of your customers, you have to take care of yourself, too. 

Customer success is a stressful job. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and overworked--especially when working remotely, where there’s less separation between work and home life. 

Take breaks. Take a day off. The customer will still be there when you come back. 

Let the customer be independent in your absence. It encourages them to be proactive and learn on their own, and it reinforces your value. Then, if they’re really stumped and still need assistance, you’ll be able to talk to them refreshed and energetic. 

6. Develop good pre- and post-meeting habits

Everyone has strong opinions about meetings, but we can all agree that they’re still necessary.

As an effective CSM, you’ll want to make the meetings as valuable and fruitful as possible. It respects everyone’s time and keeps people productive. 

One way of protecting people’s time is by setting an agenda. Lay out exactly what is going to be discussed and do not deviate from it. I’ve been in lots of meetings where the agendas are treated as “guidelines,” and they were always a waste.

Publicize your agenda. Send it to others so that they can hold you accountable during the call (and don’t get defensive when they call you out). 

7. Support, not obedience

You’re there to help the customer: it’s in your job description. 

You’re not supposed to be at their beck and call. 

I once had a customer who called multiple times a week, asking me to perform a task she could easily do herself. She was adamant that it was too much for her, and that it would be faster if I did it.

There’s a difference between support and enabling, and customer success managers sometimes have trouble telling the two apart.

Help your customer as best as you can, but don’t do so at the expense of other customers. Focus on training. Give them the knowledge they need to eventually solve their own problems. Customers will feel better about their own skills, and you have more time to do your job. 

My customer and I had a quick, 15-minute training session where I re-trained her on the task. While she initially resisted, it eventually became second-nature to her; enough that she eventually trained the others on her team. 


In conclusion

You don’t have to adopt all of the habits above all at the same time (although I really hope you do). Growth is gradual, not sudden. Incorporate them into your workflow and pay attention to how it affects your results. 

Are you getting more work done? Are your customers happier? More independent? 

Adopt and evaluate. Don’t just take my word for it: find a pattern that works for you, and grow at your own pace. Greatness is gradual--it’s not instant. 

Let me know how you do. ;-)

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