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4 Hard CSM Lessons : Insights from Veterans

4 Lessons as a CSM

Customer Success Managers (CSMs) with years of experience under their belts have a wealth of knowledge to share. They’ve navigated the triumphs and tribulations of the role, learned from their mistakes, and honed their skills to become true customer champions. Here, I recollected some of the insights shared by some of the seasoned CSMs who offer valuable advice for both their peers and those just starting out.

Lesson #1: Balancing Skill with Strategy

One experienced CSM highlights the importance of internal politics and strategic self-promotion. While strong skills are essential, visibility and building relationships with key players can significantly impact your career trajectory. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Promote Your Successes: Share wins and positive client stories internally. Speak up during meetings, but avoid dominating conversations.
  • Align with Leadership: Understand your manager’s priorities and proactively offer solutions. Focus on initiatives that demonstrably benefit the business.
  • Forge Strong Connections: Develop relationships with sales and product teams. Offer compliments, seek advice, and build a network of allies.
  • Embrace Positivity: Maintain a positive attitude when receiving new tasks, even those outside your core responsibilities. Voice concerns constructively behind the scenes.

Lesson #2: Mastering the Art of Customer Success

Another veteran CSM I talked to recently, emphasized the importance of building genuine relationships with clients and fostering their independence. Here are some key principles they advocate for:

  • Empathy and Likability: Clients are more receptive to CSMs they connect with on a personal level.
  • Empowerment Over Enablement: Don’t do everything for your clients – guide them to become self-sufficient in using the product.
  • Proactive Problem Solving: Utilize data and intuition to anticipate issues and prevent churn.
  • Work-Life Balance: Set clear boundaries between work and personal life to avoid burnout.
  • Product Expertise: Become a product expert to provide deeper client support and potentially transition to a product role.
  • Confident Communication: Project authority and avoid shyness in meetings, both internally and with clients.
  • Transparency and Trust: Be genuine and open with clients. Building trust fosters stronger relationships.

Lesson #3: Defining Your Scope and Protecting Your Time

A mid-level CSM emphasizes the importance of clearly defining your role and responsibilities. Here’s the key takeaway:

  • Understand Your RACI: Become familiar with your team’s Responsibility, Accountability, Consultaion, and Inform (RACI) matrix for your specific role.
  • Tactfully Defend Your Boundaries: Learn to politely decline tasks that fall outside your defined scope and negotiate workload expectations.

Lesson #4: The Importance of Networking

Customer Success Networking

The ever-evolving CSM landscape demands a strong professional network. Here’s the key takeaway:

  • Network Relentlessly: Continually build relationships with colleagues and industry peers. Express gratitude to those who have helped you in your career.

These seasoned CSMs offer a treasure trove of wisdom. By embracing these hard-won lessons, aspiring and experienced CSMs alike can navigate the challenges of the role, build stronger client relationships, and achieve long-term success.

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Picture of Kritika Kishor

Kritika Kishor

Customer Success Strategist | I help SaaS companies achieve exceptional customer satisfaction, customer retention and growth through strategic customer success initiatives.

What is AppEQ? 


AppEQ is a lightweight customer data activation plugin that brings customer data like product usage data/trends right at CSM’s fingertips , on their existing applications like Inbox/CRM /CSP /HelpDesk. We integrate data directly from product analytics like Pendo, Mixpanel, Amplitude and CRM like Salesforce, Hubspot etc. 

Our capability to bring this within your existing applications through our in-app widgets  leads to much higher adoption  and implementation time of 1 week or less

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