What is a customer success manager, and why do they matter?

As a business owner, you understand the importance of customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction goes hand in hand with customer retention, and it can also boost your influx of new customers due to referrals, reviews, and recommendations. Because of this combination, experts estimate that just increasing customer retention by 5% can increase your profits by between 25 and 95%. On top of that, 69% of American consumers feel that their customer service experience affects their brand loyalty. In fact, 82% of consumers will stop buying from a brand if they don’t have a satisfactory customer service experience. 


Knowing that you need to boost customer satisfaction and retention is one thing but knowing how to do so is another. You likely already have a customer support team, but that may not be enough. Hiring a customer success manager can be the answer you need to boost your customer retention and satisfaction.


What is the job role of a customer success manager?

A customer success manager (CSM) supports customers as they go from prospects to active customers. Their focus includes building long-term relationships and customer loyalty. 


A great way to picture the role of a customer success manager is to compare it with that of customer support. The biggest difference between the two is that customer service or support reacts to issues while customer success managers try to prevent those issues from ever occurring.

Graph highlighting customer success vs service

You can think of a customer success manager as someone who bridges the gap separating sales from customer support. The important point to remember is that the focus of a CSM is to ensure the customer is happy and create a great customer-company relationship. Instead of focusing on directly making sales, they indirectly create them by driving customer satisfaction. 


The following are some of the most common responsibilities of customer success managers:

  •   Onboarding new customers
  •   Advocating for the company in interactions with customers
  •   Promoting the brand
  •   Building relationships connecting the support team and customers
  •   Managing long-term customer relationships
  •   Giving the customers a voice
  •   Following up on renewals and loyalty
  •   Encouraging cross-sells and upsells


How do they bring success to the company? Major trends influencing a customer success manager.

Customer success managers use a range of strategies to develop a system and improve customer satisfaction. The following are just some of the methods that they may use.


Outlining customer goals and creating strategies to achieve them.


One of the most important things that a CSM can do is to determine the goals of their customers. Then, they can create strategies that will help customers achieve those goals. This is crucial as it lets your business address the concerns and needs of customers.


Incorporating innovative technology for customer support.

One of the many ways CSMs can bring success is by finding and using innovative technology in customer support and relationship management. Podium is the perfect example of this type of technology. It offers the ability to easily get feedback from customers so CSMs can be their voice. It also makes it easy to maintain communications with customers with SMS marketing and texting options, webchat, and more.


All of these features are incredibly important in their own ways. Gathering feedback, for example, gives the CSMs insight into what changes customers would like to see. Having easy communication helps maintain the CSM-client relationship.


Onboarding and training customers.

In the case of businesses that offer software or anything else that requires training, CSMs can also develop processes to train and onboard clients. This is a role that some companies currently assign to customer support, but those teams tend to take a reactive approach; they are there if the customer has questions. 


When customer success managers provide training and onboarding, they do so proactively. They reach out to the customer and offer advice or ask if they would like one-on-one training. This shows customers that they are valued and saves them time.


Suggesting Improvements

Because of their close relationship with customers, CSMs are perfectly positioned to suggest improvements on products, designs, marketing, and more. Their knowledge of customer goals provides insight into how the products should work or what improvements customers want. Their experience with training customers shows them what aspects could be changed to make them easier for clients to use.


How much should you pay a customer success manager?

What you pay a customer success manager depends somewhat on your region. You want to balance offering them a competitive salary and not overspending. Offering a competitive salary helps ensure that you attract the best talent while not overspending helps maximize your profits. 


The average customer success manager salary varies slightly based on the source you use, but it is always in a similar range, as follows: 

  •   Glassdoor reports an average of $81,414, with a range of $55,000 to $126,000.
  •   Indeed reports an average of $63,871.
  •   Payscale reports an average of $69,480, with a range of $48,000 to $109,000.
  •   Salary.com reports an average salary of $58,590, with a range of $50,290 to $70,590.


It is also important to note that there is some variation in average salary based on skills. The following chart shows how certain skills affect the average pay for CSMs.

graphic showing skills that affect customer success manager salaries

As mentioned, you will also notice some regional differences in expected salaries for this role. For example, all of the following averages are from Payscale but for the same role in various cities:

  •   San Diego, California – $59,747
  •   Atlanta, Georgia – $65,335
  •   Austin, Texas – $65,627
  •   Denver, Colorado – $67,972
  •   Seattle, Washington – $69,893
  •   Chicago, Illinois – $71,897
  •   Los Angeles, California – $72,493
  •   Boston, Massachusetts – $73,062
  •   New York, New York – $77,727
  •   San Francisco, California – $88,954


The following image offers another comparison of what you may want to pay customer success managers by region, this time from Indeed. 

highest paying cities for customer success managers

Qualities to look for in a customer success manager and those to avoid.

We will highlight some of the most important skills, qualities, and experience to look for in a customer success manager before briefly listing other useful ones.


Organizational Skills

Customer success managers will have presentation skills as well as organizational skills. The ability to stay organized is crucial for their ability to communicate in a timely manner. It is also important for delivering on promises.


Strategic Thinking

Customer success managers should be great at solving problems and thinking strategically. This allows them to determine how your product or service helps customers meet their goals. It also helps them come up with innovative ideas to overcome concerns or challenges customers face.


Analytical Skills

In addition to directly working with customers, CSMs look at data regarding those customers. As such, they should also have good analytical skills.


Relationship Building

One of the most important soft skills is the ability to quickly build relationships. This helps the CSM get the customer to trust your company and product. To build relationships well, customer success managers should be willing to work and cooperate with others.



Not only should CSMs be able to build relationships, but they also should be able to talk to others with ease, even if there are no existing relationships. They should be sociable and not easily irritated by the habits or personalities of others.



Empathy is also incredibly helpful, as it helps customer success managers connect with customers and form a bond. It also helps CSMs anticipate pain points.



Communication is another crucial skill for CSMs, as they are responsible for communicating with customers and others within the company. Because of their customer-facing role, customer success managers constantly use their communication skills. The ability to speak and write well is particularly important, as many of their interactions will be over the phone, email, or text. With the rise of video calls, they should also have excellent communication skills over this channel.


Graceful handling of difficult situations.

Customer success managers tend to face challenges or difficult conversations regularly. These may involve accountability, money, or product complaints. CSMs should be able to handle these situations and conversations gracefully while remaining professional and respectful.


Other useful or important skills.

  •   Leadership
  •   Cooperation
  •   Mental fortitude and a positive outlook
  •   Expectation management
  •   Perception
  •   Relational intelligence
  •   Confidence
  •   Resilience
  •   Assertiveness
  •   Persuasion
  •   Being proactive
  •   Professional agility
  •   Teaching

The ideal customer success manager will have experience using a range of these skills. At the very least, they should have customer service or support experience.


Conclusion – Why you should care about a customer success manager.

Hiring a customer success manager will help ensure that your customers have the best possible experience. This will translate into customer retention and referrals, boosting your company’s profits and growth.


Savvy customer service managers will use technology to improve customer success, such as Podium. This tool can help with communications and getting feedback for improvements. Let Podium power your business.

Matt Boyce
Matt Boyce Head of SMB Marketing

Matt Boyce is a marketing and business professional at Podium, the premiere messaging platform that connects local businesses with their customers.

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