How to Become a Customer Success Manager even with No Tech Experience

How to become a customer success manager even with no experience

Customer Success Management has been around as long as technology has been around. If there are complex workflows, then there is likely also to be software to try to improve these workflows. However, often the software’s user experience leaves little to be desired. That’s where Customer Success Managers come in. They help new users navigate this software so that users can save time and achieve time to value a lot quicker than if they were to learn to use it themselves.

If you’re considering starting a career in tech, becoming a customer success manager is a great way to get in. Big reason for this is because there is no specific degree requirement. While there are more and more certifications popping up, they usually aren’t prerequisites for customer success management jobs. This blog’s all giving you a leg-up so you can get into tech through this job, even if you have no tech experience. Here are some things to consider.

Are you good at simplifying complex things?

As I mentioned at the start, you’ll find customer success management roles wherever you find complex workflows. Good tech companies will hire User Experience Designers (shortened to UX Designers) whose job is to make these workflows more user-friendly. As much as they’ll try to make the software as easy to use as possible, there will be components that require a human to onboard.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • do you deal with archaic, crappy software in your current job that you are forced to use?
  • Do you help other people within your organisation with using said crappy software?
  • Have you written up documentation (even a basic how-to list) that people rely on to use the software?
  • Do you speak with IT people who have to fix bugs/improve features in this software and explain what’s actually going on?

The more of these things you do, the better your chance of qualifying for a customer success manager job.

Are you good at de-escalating situations?

One of the things that customer success managers need to be good at is having difficult conversations. What comes to mind straight away are people who work in retail or hospitality. The videos you see online where they face very fiery customers… I applaud their professionalism and calmness in the face of real danger.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • if you’re on the phone a lot, are you responsible for making outbound calls? What’s your approach at calming a customer down?
  • do you have any good stories of customers that no one else wants to deal with, who you’ll gladly take because you aren’t scared of them?
  • what is an example of a time that you have lost control? How did you recover and turn a bad situation into a good one?

De-escalating is a key skill that you can only learn on the job. Any job that gives you this skill gives you an advantage when applying to be a customer success manager.

Are you good at working with a wide variety of people?

It’s no secret that customer success managers are people people. You don’t have to be an extrovert per se, but you do need to be open, curious and empathetic. This isn’t just for the wide array of customers that you’ll meet, but the internal stakeholders that you’ll talk to who have conflicting priorities that you’re expected to at least listen to.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you speak with people who are more senior (even as high as C-suite/CEO) as well as your peers (on your level) or people below you regularly?
  • Do you get along with people who come from white- and blue-collar backgrounds?
  • Are you that person that people go to to ask a question about something that isn’t in their realm because you’re able to explain it in a way that they understand (related to simplifying complex things)?

Then I have news for you: you have a great, natural skillset to become a CSM. In future blog posts, we’ll look at how you can actually translate these into your CV so that it gets the attention of recruiters looking for skills like yours.

What Does A Customer Success Manager Actually Do?

a woman laughing while sitting in front of a laptop
What does a Customer Success Manager Do?

So… you’ve been scrolling through LinkedIn or Seek, thinking what life might be like doing something that actually makes you want to get up in the morning. You stumble upon a few roles for “Customer Success Managers” and see that they’re mostly associated with tech companies. Cool! You’ve always wanted to get into tech.

You tap into a few of the jobs, have a scroll through the JD. Your interest is piqued. It seems a lot of the actual day-to-day isn’t too technical. Maybe you could use your existing skillset to show that you have what it takes to make the jump across.

If that’s what you’re thinking, welcome to this blog. That’s why it exists and what I’m here to help you achieve.

Let’s dive a bit into what a Customer Success Manager actually does. It’s my day job, after all. I’m going to talk about it in plain speak and cut out the CS mumbo-jumbo for the time being. We’ll dive into resumes/CVs and what not in future blogs.

People Skills FTW

If there was one key skill that sets customer success apart from other roles in tech, it’s how well you work with people. For the time being, I’m going to focus on dealing with external stakeholders (customers), a big piece of it is also dealing with internal stakeholders (your colleagues) but I’ll leave that for a future article.

The next time someone asks you, “what does a customer success manager do?”, you tell them, “I help customers get good at using my software.” That’s it. The role exists because the problems that the software solves might be complex and as a result, needs a customer success manager (CSM for short) to hold their hand, at least in the early days, until they become pros at using it themselves.

If you’ve ever been the one in the family who helps everyone with their tech problems, this is great experience to talk about.

So How Techy Do You Have To Be?

There are definitely more technical CSM roles out there, but in the great tech companies I’ve seen, they embrace the varied experience of their CSMs.

Here’s what CSMs don’t need:

  • coding experience,
  • app/website design experience,
  • sales experience.

Don’t get me wrong, those things will help but 9 times out of 10, they aren’t a prerequisite for the role. Or if they are, it would mention that in the job description.

While you might not be “traditionally” technical, i.e. computer smart, you might possess technical knowledge that comes with being in an industry for a long time. That is priceless and arguably harder to find than someone who possesses experience as a CSM. That’s because there is no substitute for living and breathing the problems that your key customers face. That empathy is gold.

So Now For Some Day-To-Day

OK let’s cut the crap and get to some dot points on what a typical day looks like:

  • start the day by checking missed calls from anxious customers who need you to show them how to do the thing that you’ve already shown them a few times (patience is a virtue!),
  • check emails from customers who might ask whether something is possible while using your software,
  • using the insights from that email, write a feature request and send to the product team so they can add it to their backlog of things to work on,
  • jump on a CS team stand-up. It’s called a stand-up because it’s meant to be done literally standing up, but COVID might have changed how things are done. It’s meant to be a short meeting talking about what everyone’s got on for the day,
  • Plan your day around customers at different stages of their onboarding, be a bit reactive but also proactive as you get calls and emails through the day.
  • Help other people from the company who need insights from someone who works most intimately with customers (that’s you!… or will be, soon. 😉)

And… that’s pretty much a standard day. Doesn’t sound like much, but it goes by. So hopefully that’s helped you understand what a customer success manager does. It’s a lot of fun, keeps you on your toes and best of all, you’re helping people solve real problems.