A question I don’t hear very often – but is still quite valid – is what hard skills should a Customer Success Manager have? It’s generally quite well known that CSMs or CSEs (Customer Success Engineers) have strong soft skills: patience, empathy, emotional intelligence, reading body language, etc. In a way, that means that “anyone” can become a CSM… as long as you can build on these soft skills.
As far as I know, there aren’t any hard skill requirements to being a Customer Success Manager. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t specific hard skills that would be of value in a tech SaaS. I’ll share a few with you here that I think would be worthwhile upskilling in. Who knows, they very well might be the difference between you and someone else getting a job offer.
Customer Success Managers don’t need to know how to code. That’s definitely in the territory of being a web developer or software engineer. Having said that, there are languages like SQL and HTML that sometimes pop up on job descriptions.
While SQL is not used for writing software, it does serve an important purpose: it’s used to organize and search for data fields and objects. As your tech organization matures, there will be more and more complex data. Some of this data will relate to your SaaS’s usage, or your customers’ behavior. So if you know how to write SQL to query data tables and extract that information out, it’s a useful skill to communicate with higher ups as to the effectiveness of your CS efforts.
Customer Relationship Management (CRMs)
Customer Relationship Management software is used to organize and look after customer information. CRMs often produce the data tables that SQL can be used to extract data from. Often, this isn’t required because CRM companies build User Interfaces (UI) that can allow non-techy people to find the information they need quickly and easily.
This doesn’t mean though that anyone can pick up the navigation of CRMs straight away. They themselves are complex pieces of software and funnily enough, they themselves might also have Customer Success Managers who can help you use their solutions better!
Common CRMs used by tech companies are:
If you can put on your resume that you’ve at least used one of these before, it can give you the edge in a CSM job application.
Microsoft Excel/Google Sheets
We can’t go past good, old spreadsheets. As clunky as they can be, when it comes to cobbling up a solution that organizes data, Excel is the OG. It lets you be as in depth as you want to be, or as simple as you want to be as well.
Of course, true Excel gurus can build complex pivot tables, macros and formulae that talk to one another, as well as to external servers that update the spreadsheet with information every day. In the absence of CRMs, spreadsheets can still present powerful information that informs senior management of usage metrics, customer health and sentiment scores.
If you’re coming from a background like accounting where you might be not half bad at Excel and you want to move into a more people-focused like Customer Success, Excel skills will put you in good stead. Bringing some spreadsheets that you’ve done and repurposing them to show data related to Customer Success might just wow the interviewer.
I’ll repeat: there aren’t any true hard skills that serve as prerequisites for Customer Success Engineers. This doesn’t mean that if you possess skills in using CRMs, writing SQL/HTML or using Excel, that you’ll be a disadvantage. If anything, you’ll be at a huge advantage, as long as you can also prove that you have decent soft skills to complement them. Definitely put them into your resume and even consider having a portfolio showing off what you’ve done for an added edge in the interview.