How Do You Become a Customer Success Manager?

how do you become a customer success manager
how do you become a customer success manager?

Before I started writing this blog today, I felt really tempted to just find that Yoda meme. You know the one where he says:

Here it is!

Anyway, as with any attempts to pivot into a new career path, trying actually is important. If anything, it’s the biggest component. Believing that you are ready to become a Customer Success Manager is a huge part in looking for that breakout role.

But instead of providing philosophical advice, I thought I’d try and provide more concrete steps that will bring you steps closer towards your goal. Even if it is just a few steps, they might feel huge for you. So let’s get right into it.

Think about what you’ve done from the lens of a CSM

I’m assuming that you have some sort of work experience. While it might not be directly involved in customer success, the only thing stopping you from using that experience in CS job applications is yourself.

Here are some skills that CSMs have that you probably also have. It’s just a matter of framing them in the right context. For the sake of this example, let’s say you are a barista at Starbucks. Here’s how you might think of yourself as a CSM:

  • Customer Retention: your friendly and approachable manner, as well as your ability to remember faces pretty well means that you automatically put names down for customers who visit your particular shop. In any given month, you’ve seen 10-12 customers who have appeared for the first time and have come back, who particularly seem to like you.
  • Customer Expansion: seeing that there are a particular subset of customers who come in the morning who are in a hurry, you make sure to draw their attention to the cookies that are delivered before they arrive, emphasizing their freshness and healthy nature, as they contain walnuts. One out of five takes you up on your offer.
  • Dealing with Disgruntled Customers: you’ve stepped in for a team member who is in an escalation with a customer. Under pressure, the first thing you do is de-escalate the situation by making them feel heard and understood, before offering to remake their beverage free of charge.

Use your Industry Experience

There was a lady I used to work with who until that point had spent her career in construction project management. She wanted to move into tech, which was a big change for her. While she lacked the usual skills – she was stumped when initially presented with a MacBook! – she grew into the role as she understood the pain points of the target market for the company I was with, which was in construction.

You might currently be working for a company where you’ve come to be quite proficient at using a particular piece of software, or an app. Keep an eye out on job openings at that company. If they’re looking for Customer Success Managers, I promise you their eyes will light up that there’s a power user who understands the problem space from their customers’ point of view.

Get talking to hiring managers and recruiters

This piece of advice I’ve left til last because in my opinion, it is the most important, if the least sexy. You might be completely uncomfortable with the idea of talking to strangers, but guess what? This is what you’ll be doing as a CSM. You’ll have to get used to it quickly if you truly want to go down this path.

The people who run the companies or fill roles for the companies that you’ll be working for are the best ones to talk to. Get them to look at your resume, ask them about pay scales, what it’s like working in the companies they’re hiring for and what else you should do to be competitive in the role. Because CS is more about soft skills, most should be happy to consider you if you’re at least trying to tailor your resume and experience to the role. The approach itself can be part of the interview, even if you initiate it!

These three tips are good starting points. They might seem basic, but I can assure you that 8 out of 10 people won’t do everything here. One or two maybe, but only those who are serious about making the leap into a customer success manager role will do them all, and keep improving. Which group of people do you fall into?

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