Challenges of a Customer Success Manager

challenges of customer success manager
challenges of customer success manager

I talk a lot about becoming a Customer Success Manager in this blog. However, this doesn’t mean that the role is without its challenges. There are definitely hard days, maybe even days where you might question whether it’s the right role for you. I thought that in this week’s article, I might share some common challenges you will face. The main question you should be asking yourself is: “what challenges am I willing to tolerate to continue in this role?”

What challenges am I willing to tolerate to continue in this role?

Johnson K.

Working hours

I’ll tell you right off the bat that the working hours of a Customer Success Manager are very fair. Unlike a lot of other roles where overtime is expected, this is not the case as a CSM. Having said that, it’s strongly determined to the hours that your customers work and/or the hours that your team operates in.

I’ll use my own current role as an example. My SaaS solution supports the construction industry. A lot of the contractors and operators in construction send me emails prior to 7am. They tend to start early and finish early. I don’t go replying to emails at 7am, but sometimes I might if the issue is urgent.

We’re headquartered in Sydney, Australia, but we have offices in the Philippines, Denver, Colorado and Europe. We try our best to accommodate all time zones, but this means that we need to be available for meetings a bit earlier than usual (8-8:30am) during the Australian Winter months.

I don’t see it necessarily as a bad thing. If your company is able to have offices in different countries, it’s a sign of growth. But just know that this might be the norm if you want to work in a big tech company.

Responsibility of account expansion/contraction

This is another key responsibility of Customer Success Managers. The success of the role is determined not only your ability to maintain customer health, but to also expand these accounts, i.e. make them pay more to you each year, every year. Depending on a whole host of factors, e.g. industry, economy, competition, product, this may or may not be that easy.

On the flip side, there’s contractor or the dreaded five-letter word: churn. When customers churn, they stop being customers and stop paying your company. Typically, an investigation goes into this account that you were looking after to see if this churn could have been avoided or not. The worst thing is when a customer is seemingly healthy, then churns out of nowhere. It’s like a slap in the face… and a real challenge that CSMs have to deal with.

Start-up volatility

This last one is definitely worth mentioning, as people don’t often talk about it, even though it’s a very real problem. It’s not uncommon that if you’re a CSM, you’re doing so for a younger, tech company. You might be the only CSM there. That might have been the appeal to you in the first place, the fact that you can work for a small, agile, trailblazer actually trying to make a dent in the world.

As we’ve seen throughout 2022, when the economy turned and public markets dried up, the effect of this was a wide loss of jobs in the tech industry. This was on the back of a market not six months prior where a talent shortage meant that tech workers could jump roles and command increases of up to 20-30% more. You might find yourself on the wrong side of this.

Then there are the internal challenges, such as:

  • Product direction,
  • becoming someone who wears many hats,
  • not having a clear career path,
  • not having a stable manager as people change roles frequently and
  • quickly changing minds of management as they decide the “experiment” didn’t work, making people suddenly redundant…

These are all real challenges that I’ve experienced as a CSM. While you won’t see this in all instances of working in tech, don’t be surprised if you see at least one of these happen while you work.

Hopefully from reading these challenges, you aren’t turned off from becoming a Customer Success Manager. It’s still an immensely rewarding role. You do need a bit of luck but if you do find the right company, you can go far and deliver the impact that truly makes a difference in the lives of many.

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