5 Qualities of Crap Customer Success Managers

Had a thought the other day about what sort of people would make decent Customer Success Managers. Looking in Google showed that there were quite a few articles about it. Not wanting to write another “me too” blog, I flipped the idea on its head. This blog post is going to be all about five qualities that poor customer success managers have.

Bad With People

It’s no secret: if you’re not good with people, you probably shouldn’t be a Customer Success Manager. “But Johnson,” I hear you say, “you can’t just assume that the customer is always right.” That’s the thing, if the customer is wrong, I will make to let them know. In some cases, it’s better that they’re told this by their CSM so they stop making the same mistake.

Customer Success Managers have to enjoy working with people because customers are people. Shock horror, I know.

Cannot Prioritize

There are always conflicting priorities being a Customer Success Manager. Today when I logged in, I had one of the product managers start a new Slack group, pinging a group of the CSMs about a feature that they were thinking of building that needed our input. Last week, I had a Product Marketing Manager ask for help in getting screenshots for a blog article.

This is on top of the stream of emails and phone calls that come in throughout the day, each customer wanting help right now. If you’re not able to prioritize your work, you’re going to have a bad time.

Thinks that selling is icky

Let me be clear: Customer Success Management is not a sales role. That doesn’t mean that you don’t do any of it. Many if not all CSM roles will have a component that relates to expansion. This means that the customer should be paying more to you each year.

Of course, you would only do this if in your eyes, the value you’re getting from the SaaS is increasing as well. That’s what you have to do well as a CSM. Show your customers how they’re getting value out of your solution and expertly guide them towards conversations about how paying more gets them more value. It’s a subtle skill, but one that good CSMs have.

Doesn’t like surprises

I’m not talking about, “surprise, it’s your birthday!” type surprises. I mean, the unpleasant kind from customers:

  • you think everything’s going well, and then they suddenly churn and stop paying for your product,
  • a customer rings you late in the day and asks you to help them with something,
  • a customer actually comes into your office and asks for you because you haven’t been returning their calls.

OK, that last one’s a bit extreme, but you get the gist of it. Truth is, Customer Success gets you really involved in the customer’s life, so they might get a bit clingy. Setting boundaries is key, as well as being able to brush off these “surprises” and go with the flow.

Doesn’t like technology

The majority of companies hiring for customer success managers now are tech companies solving complex problems. That’s primarily why you’re there, to help the customers use the software better than they can learn how to use it themselves to get value sooner.

If you yourself aren’t open to learning how to better use technology or you find it gets in the way of your life, then you’d better learn how to embrace it or consider a different career path.

I don’t think there is a Customer Success Manager out there who possesses all five of these qualities. If there was one, I’d be curious how they came to be in the role in the first place. You might find yourself having one or maybe even two of these qualities. Heck, working with customers is hard. There are days where it doesn’t feel like it’s worth it. It’s only a problem if it’s ongoing.

How does this make you feel about getting into a CSM career? Hope I haven’t scared you off!

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