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How to Become a Customer Success Manager

Excellent customer service is an integral contributor to business success, making the role of a customer success manager (CSM) vital in many different fields. If you have great interpersonal skills and business acumen, this might be the perfect career for you.

Whether you are a professional looking to switch careers into this industry or a novice looking to learn more about the profession, we’ve got you covered with this article describing how to become a customer success manager.

What Is a Customer Success Manager?

A customer success manager is the specialist responsible for converting members of a target audience into customers and overall  increasing a business’s customer base. A CSM’s job duties also include leading customer success teams.

Customer success managers oversee customer experience, lifecycle, and retention, as well as create portfolios of customers to use in data collection or to better understand the target audience. To excel in this role, you must have strong communication skills to build the relationships that will keep customers happy.

Customer Success Manager Job Description

The job responsibilities of a customer success manager include supervising the onboarding, satisfaction, and expansion opportunities for new and existing customers. Additionally, as a CSM you will manage customer retention after the initial sale and build strong relationships by responding to customer feedback.

In order to succeed in this role, CSM’s need to have a deep understanding of Scrum and Agile frameworks, product solutions, sales processes, pricing models, and leadership skills. Customer success managers also utilize data like application programming interface metrics throughout the customer success lifecycle.

Customer Success Manager Salary and Job Outlook

According to PayScale, the national average salary for customer success managers is $69,802 per year. CSM jobs fall under an amalgamation of sales and customer service roles, so the salary may vary depending on your field.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report a job outlook rate specific to customer success managers but projects a four percent growth for sales managers between 2019 to 2029. Because these roles are similar, we can expect the number to be similar in both occupations.

Top Reasons to Become a Customer Success Manager in 2021

There are many reasons to become a customer success manager in 2021 if you enjoy building relationships and the sales process. Below we will detail some of the benefits to launching a career in this field.

  • Field diversity. CSM is a leadership role that is found in several technical and non-technical fields. Once you gain in-depth experience with revenue pools, data analytics, CSM tools, communication infrastructures, as well as with managing product teams, you will be able to find a job in a field that fits your interests.
  • Ample industry job opportunities. As a customer success manager, you can pursue a career in plenty of industries that offer product solutions. Industries including business, finance, airlines, technology, and academia all require CSM services.
  • Career development. If you are a project manager, product manager, or a team leader looking to advance your career, then customer success management is a great role to pursue. Moreover, once you become a CSM, you can land executive roles in several fields that provide effective solutions for management, sales, and technical issues.
  • Interesting job duties. The variety of job responsibilities held by a CSM makes it an interesting profession. You oversee relationships with customers, the onboarding process, upselling and cross-selling, customer behavioral data analysis, retention rate, and revenue expansion.

Customer Success Manager Job Requirements

The job requirements for customer success managers include a deep knowledge of tools and techniques that achieve customer satisfaction and allow continuous improvement of a company’s revenue and business model. Read on to find detailed job requirements for customer success managers.

  • Management skills. These professionals take on a leadership position that includes managing customer support agents, product teams, and sales teams. You will have to successfully manage these teams to produce optimal customer success metrics.
  • Marketing or communication education. Customer success managers are required to have an education background in marketing, communication, or another relevant subject.
  • Technical CSM certifications. CSMs must gain certifications showcasing their understanding of adoption frameworks like Scrum, Agile, CRM, and CSM tools, as well as an understanding of data analytics.
  • Interpersonal skills. In addition to team management, customer success managers regularly meet with clients and are involved in product development and design processes. Excellent interpersonal skills are key to success in this profession.
  • Previous experience in customer success. Several companies also require you to have previous job experience handling customer success, customer loyalty, and customer accounts.

Types of Customer Success Manager Careers

There are a couple of career paths that are available once you gain the necessary soft skills and experience for this field. These roles are found in product management, sales, and marketing. Below are some of the popular careers that CSMs can strive for.

Chief Customer Officer

As a chief customer officer, you are responsible for leading the overall customer success department. This includes using customer analytics to make executive decisions regarding business opportunities and product success. According to PayScale, the average annual salary of chief customer officers is $172,529.

Customer Success Leader

A customer success leader is a senior professional who is responsible for managing other CSMs in an organization. They also use customer analytics and product knowledge to enhance customer success. According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a customer success leader is $114,974 per year.

Customer Success Director

Customer success directors also supervise customer success management teams. However, this role focuses mostly on the business development factors and requires in-depth industry knowledge. They’re responsible for increasing revenue, marketing, and business development. According to PayScale, the average salary for a customer success director is $101,857 per year.

Customer Success Manager Meaning: What Does a Customer Success Manager Do?

A customer success manager works to increase a company’s overall revenue and product success by managing customer relations. Below are more details about some of the job responsibilities of a customer success manager.

Customer loyalty

As a CSM you are responsible for maintaining and increasing customer loyalty. This can be achieved through strong interpersonal skills, as well as by utilizing common technologies to study customer analytics. These professionals address customer concerns by supervising customer support agents.

Customer onboarding

CSMs also assist new customers during the onboarding process. They use their in-depth understanding of available products to ensure new customers have their needs met. During this process, CSMs work to build a positive and valuable reputation for their products.

Customer analytics

A CSMs job also includes data analysis and data integration. This means they use customer’s behavioral, qualitative, and identity data to draft an excellent customer service and retention strategy and identify key milestones.

Essential Customer Success Management Skills

To become a successful customer success manager you must have a blend of technical and soft skills to ensure you can perform your job duties effectively. Below are some of the essential skills a customer success manager needs.

Management skills

All CSM jobs include working with and managing several teams including sales, customer support, marketing, and product development. Therefore, it is crucial to have excellent communication and management skills to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Empathy and relationship management skills

The key to customer retention and loyalty lies in mastering empathy and relationship management. As a CSM you are expected to understand your customer, solve customer issues, and advocate for the value of your product.

Sales and marketing skills

CSMs don’t directly work in sales or marketing but use their relationships with customers to upsell, cross-sell, and market new products. Thus, having marketing and sales skills will allow you to thrive in this position.

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

It can take you anywhere between six and eight years to become a CSM spending on your educational background and industry-relevant experience. Earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing will take you four years, then you will need an additional two to three years of work experience in the field to become a CSM.

You can also take advantage of alternative learning paths like coding bootcamps and online courses to build up your skills. However, this educational pathway requires more years of industry experience because employers prefer applicants with a bachelor’s degree.

Can a Coding Bootcamp Help Me Become a Customer Success Manager?

Yes, a coding bootcamp can help you become a customer success manager. Coding bootcamps are short-term intensive tech training institutions that provide you industry relevant skills to get you job ready.

You can attend bootcamps that teach SaaS, product management, and CRM software to get started on your customer success management journey. After completing a bootcamp program on relevant subjects, you can gain entry-level customer success positions and move up the ladder to a management position.

Can I Become A Customer Success Manager From Home?

Yes, you can become a customer success manager from home. You can gain crucial skills by attending an online sales bootcamp or get an online bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. You can also take certifications courses to help you find success as a customer success manager.

How to Become a Customer Success Manager : A Step-by-Step Guide

Becoming a customer success manager requires both educational qualifications and relevant work experience, as it is a senior level position. Below is a step-by-step guide you can follow to become a customer success manager. Your career trajectory may differ depending on your education pathway.

Step 1: Get a relevant education in business, or computer science

The first step is to acquire the relevant education required to become a CSM. You can get a Bachelor’s Degree in Business or a related field. Alternatively, you could attend a coding bootcamp that teaches CRM tools, product management, and SaaS.

Step 2: Earn the professional CSM certifications

The next step is to earn professional CSM certifications to help validate your skills to future employers. This will help you stand out among other candidates because they look great on your resume. Keep reading for information about CSM certifications.

Step 3: Apply for an entry-level customer success position

Once you have the education qualifications you can apply for entry-level jobs. After a couple of years spent building relevant experience and increasing your soft skills, you will be ready to apply for a customer success manager role.

Best Schools and Education for a Customer Success Manager Career

There are a wide variety of educational routes available if you are interested in becoming a CSM. Below we will detail some of these educational paths, and explain how they will help you gain the skills to succeed in your career.

Customer Success Manager Bootcamps

Coding bootcamps including Flatiron School, App Academy, Thinkful, Kellogg, CRMBase, and GrowthX Academy, offer courses covering product management and SaaS. You can attend these bootcamps to gain valuable skills in the customer success industry and start your CSM journey.

Bootcamps are known for being more affordable than traditional colleges and universities, and the programs take less time to complete. This allows you to join the job market sooner, however many employers would prefer that you have a degree.

Vocational School

Vocational schools offer job-specific training to help students gain the necessary skills to enter the workforce. While vocational schools don’t offer specific programs for customer success managers, you can utilize them to help you gain foundational knowledge in relevant areas such as data analysis, sales techniques, and how to use tools and software that will help you in a CSA role.

Community College

Community colleges offer associate degrees and certification programs in an array of academic fields. You can attend Houston Community College, Austin Community College, or find a local community college and enroll in its customer success program.

Community colleges allow you to get a degree for an affordable price and if you choose to gain a four-year degree in the future, the credits you earn can be transferred to a bachelor’s degree program.

Customer Success Manager Degrees

There are several higher degree paths you can take to become a customer success manager including bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. You can get a degree in business administration, information technology, computer science, or human resource management to enter this profession.

Gaining at least a bachelor’s degree is the best way of increasing your chances of landing a job as a customer success manager, but gaining a master's degree in a related field can help open up your career opportunities even further.

The Most Important Customer Success Manager Certificates

There are several important customer success management certificates you can get to enhance your portfolio. Customer success management is a profession that combines several fields including business management, CRM software, customer support, and product development.

No matter your educational qualifications, it is a good idea to earn a certification to boost your resume and display your skills and abilities to employers. Below we list some of the most relevant certificates for customer success managers.

PracticalCSM’s Certified Customer Success Management Professional (CCSMP) Customer Success Certification

The CCSMP is suitable for both beginners and advanced customer success candidates. This certification covers everything from customer success basics to advanced consulting techniques. The curriculum is based on the Practical CSM framework and covers every aspect of the central repository of customer success.

Cisco Customer Success Manager Certification

The Cisco CSM certification course is aimed at those wanting to clear the DTCSM exam and learn the core frameworks of customer success. The program covers adoption barriers, solution integration, customer data analytics, and sales opportunities.

The Success League CSM Training Certification Program

If you are looking for a strong comprehensive certification on CSM, then The Success League’s 15 course CSM program might be for you. It will cover customer advocacy, CRM and CSM tools, selling cycles, and churns to make sure you are prepared to succeed.

How to Prepare for Your Customer Success Manager Job Interview

Once you have built up your education and gained real-world experience, it will be time to start applying for CSM jobs. You can prepare for your customer success manager job interview by researching the organization’s industry and customer base to ensure you are prepared to answer questions regarding how you can help the company succeed.

Customer Success Manager Job Interview Practice Questions

  • Describe some of your strong customer success interpersonal skills and give us an example of a time you successfully managed a team.
  • Do you have an understanding of CSM, SaaS, and CRM tools, if so please specify the software?
  • How will you improve our company’s customer success process, increase customer loyalty, and improve our ROI?
  • How can you, as a CSM, aid our product development and design team?

Should I Become a Customer Success Manager in 2021?

Yes, you should become a customer success manager in 2021 if you have strong interpersonal skills and think you would enjoy helping business grow. Businesses in all fields need CSMs, and this demand means they often earn above-average salaries. With such a wide variety of career opportunities, there will always be CSM roles available.


Can You Become a Customer Success Manager Without a Degree?
Yes, you can become a customer success manager without a degree. You can attend a bootcamp to learn product management, SaaS, and CRM software, or enroll in relevant online courses to get started.
Is It Hard to Become a Customer Success Manager?
Yes, it can be hard to become a customer success manager. This is because it is a senior position that requires you to have a background proving your ability to fulfill customer goals and increase company profits.
What does a customer success manager do?
A customer success manager collaborates and supervises several teams including customer support, product development, and marketing to develop optimal customer onboarding, retention, and loyalty relationships.
What degrees can I get to become a customer success manager?
You can get a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Business Administration, Information Technology, or other relevant majors to gain the skills you need to become a customer success manager.
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