To certify or not to certify? That is the question on the lips of today’s Customer Success professionals. And the answer may surprise you.
In this article, we deep dive into the significance of certifications in Customer Success for every level of your career. From pouring over real CS job listings to asking hiring managers what they‘re looking for in a CS professional, we’ve curated all the information you need to determine whether or not investing time and money in Customer Success certifications pays off when it comes to career advancement.
Significance of Certifications in Customer Success
First things first: do certifications matter still? We got the inside scoop from experts in the field.
We spoke to Matt Erhard, a Managing Partner with the recruiting firm Summit Search Group, who said that Customer Success certifications are a want but not a need when hiring. “I wouldn’t say that certifications are a ‘must have’ to get hired as a Customer Success professional, but they certainly do attract my notice,” he shared.
Why? “A certification shows that the individual is committed to both the field and to their own growth and self-improvement. A desire for continuous growth and improvement is a big plus in CS roles, so this is a very good sign of someone who will be an excellent fit for these roles.”
But it’s not a golden ticket. “A certification alone isn’t likely to get someone hired — I still look for a combination of professional experience and other skills when I’m recommending candidates to clients. But when I see a certification on someone’s resume, they at least get a second look, and very often will get selected for an interview.”
“As far as which certification to get,” Erhard said, “the Certified Customer Success Manager (CCSM) program is the top in the industry, and the one I’d recommend for professionals who want to add this credential to their resumes.”
We also spoke to Kurt Uhlir, current CMO of Ethereal Innovations, Inc. and seasoned executive with extensive leadership experience in hiring and training Customer Success teams across multiple companies. Here’s what he had to say on the subject:
“While I increasingly look for CS certifications, I find the best members of my CS team often come from other roles or do not have certifications.”
After hiring more than 200+ CS professionals over his career, he said mindset mattered most. “My highest priorities for hiring CS professionals is a bias towards action, expertise in healthy conflict, and having strong opinions held loosely.”
He also said that if a certification is required you may have the opportunity to get it on the job. “Now, after they are on board, I always budget to make sure my CS team members go through at least two levels of certifications,” shared Uhlir. “As an example, at eXp Realty, I sent my entire team through the CCSM Level 1 and 2.”
Main takeaway: Certifications won’t guarantee that you’ll be considered for a role or promoted in Customer Success. But they may help you stand out from the crowd.
What do real life job listings say?
What do you really need to get hired or promoted in Customer Success? To find out, we studied 10 job listings posted on both Indeed and LinkedIn that are currently hiring Customer Success professionals.
When gathering data for our research we focused on jobs in the United States that cover various industries and experience levels, ranging from entry-level to managerial positions. We also made sure to include a solid mix of fully remote, in-office, and hybrid work opportunities.
Here’s what they mostly all had in common:
- No certification, no problem. Out of our randomly selected listings, only one said they prefer candidates that have a certification — in recruitment or human resources. The title of the role was “Customer Success Manager” for a recruiting software company, by the way.
- Experience is king. The job listings all asked candidates with at least one to three years of relevant experience or more depending on the level of seniority. They also all emphasized strong communication and interpersonal skills, technical proficiency in SaaS or other job related tools, and a customer-focused mindset.
- A niche would be nice. Some positions preferred experience in specific industries related to their products, such as cybersecurity, advocacy, or SaaS.
Main takeaway: If you really want to get hired or promoted in Customer Success, you’ll need to gain experience with certain key job-related tasks, soft skills, and digital tools. You’ll also need to cultivate the right mindset.
Main Benefits of Customer Success Certifications
Besides getting hired for your dream role, here’s what else you stand to gain from getting a certification:
Enhanced Skill Set
Certifications often indicate that professionals have acquired a specific set of skills and knowledge relevant to their field. In Customer Success, certifications may cover areas such as relationship management, communication, problem-solving, and product knowledge, all of which make you better at your job.
As we’ve already seen from our featured guest experts, employers may view certified professionals as more credible and capable. Either way, certification demonstrates a commitment to ongoing learning and professional development which is a key quality for any successful CS professional.
Network and Community Engagement
Certification programs often come with opportunities to engage with a professional community, attend Customer Success conferences and virtual events, and network with peers. This can open doors to new career opportunities and industry connections even if you’re brand new to the field.
The Industry’s Top Customer Success Certifications
Let’s take a closer look at the industry’s leading certifications and what they have to offer.
1. CCSM (Certified Customer Success Manager)
Endorsed by our featured experts, CCSM offers different levels of certification in fundamental Customer Success best practices. The focus is on day to day responsibilities and boasts accreditation from top universities as part of their customer success curriculum.
Key Skills/Knowledge Areas:
- Customer Lifecycle Management
- Customer Engagement Strategies
- Data-Driven Decision-Making
- Communication And Interpersonal Skills
- Product Knowledge And Troubleshooting
- Churn Prevention And Retention Strategies
Do you need it? Some hiring managers prefer candidates who have it but may also pay for employees to get certified after hiring. At the very least it may help you score an interview, according to our sources.
Offered by: Customer Success Collective
The Customer Success Core: Certified course is a comprehensive training program designed to enhance your professional skills in customer success management. Upon completion, you will possess the skills and confidence needed for a lifetime of customer success, enabling you to execute strategies that are highly valued and recognized in your organization.
Key Skills/Knowledge Areas:
- Customer Onboarding
- Churn Management
- Key Metrics For CS Professionals
- Account Expansion Strategy
- How To Make Metric-Driven Decisions
- How To Effectively Advocate For Customers
- How To Build A Robust Customer Success Strategy
Do you need it? If you want a holistic and detailed view on how to succeed in Customer Success then this course is a yes.
If you already have experience in CS, you may want to check out the Customer Success Collective's other course offerings that go more in-depth into higher level topics such as their masters in building a customer success team from scratch.
RecastSuccess helps mid-career professionals in underrepresented communities identify transferable skills and build new ones to capture career opportunities in the Customer Success industry that would otherwise be out of reach.
The organization's learners go through a 10-week Bootcamp with a combination of live instruction, job seeker services, career coaching, and community support that continues after graduation.
RecastSuccess is deeply committed to diversifying the tech industry from the inside out. 90%+ of its learners identify with at least one dimension of diversity, with 68% being women/nonbinary and 58% identifying as people of color.
Key Skills/Knowledge Areas:
- CSM training
- Job interviewing
- Personal marketing
- Career pathing
- CS enablement
Do you need it? RecastSuccess's Bootcamp offering is a very accessible way to start building skills in Customer Success. If you feel stuck in your current career and want to explore CS as a potential pathway, we highly recommend exploring RecastSuccess's education and community offerings.
While not specific to Customer Success, CCXP is a broader certification covering customer experience, and it may be relevant for professionals in customer success.
Key Skills/Knowledge Areas:
- Customer-Centric Culture
- Metrics, Measurement, and ROI
- Customer Experience Design
- Voice of the Customer (VoC) Programs
- Employee Engagement for Customer Success
Do you need it? CCXP is generally not a strict requirement for Customer Success roles but may be valued for a holistic understanding of customer experience.
Offered by: Gainsight
Gainsight offers a series of courses covering various aspects of customer success, and certification demonstrates proficiency in their platform and methodologies.
Key Skills/Knowledge Areas:
- Gainsight Platform Utilization
- Customer Journey Mapping
- Health Score Management
- Lifecycle Analytics
- Customer Retention Strategies
Do you need it? It’s not a strict requirement but Gainsight certification is often beneficial for roles specifically involving the Gainsight platform. We would recommend it for anyone who wants to advance in a company that uses these tools.
Choosing the Right Customer Success Certification for You
They’re not all created equally and even the industry leading CS certifications may not be right for your unique situation. Here’s how to choose the one that’s right for you:
- To get the most bang for your buck, make sure the certification is most relevant to the job you want, not the job you have so you can advance to the next level sooner than later.
- Do your due diligence when assessing the credibility of a provider. Check to see if they have endorsements from trusted thought leaders outside of their marketing materials.
- Make sure it’s in your budget. If it isn’t, reach out to the provider to ask for payment plans, discounted rates, or scholarships.
- Always look for testimonials on third party review sites. Reddit isn’t a bad place to look either.
- Consider alternatives. Joining groups such as the Customer Success Association or the Customer Success Collective’s free community may offer more education and networking opportunities than a standard certification course alone.
What You Need to Know About Customer Success Certifications
No, you technically don’t need a certification to obtain a job or promotion within Customer Success. But having one may help give you a leg up in your career.
Now that you know what today’s hiring managers think about certifications, which ones are considered the best in the biz, and how to choose one that’s right for you, you’re well on your way to strategically achieving your career goals!
- Certifications are not mandatory for Customer Success roles, but they can make you stand out in the hiring process and potentially enhance your career opportunities.
- Professional experience is highly valued in Customer Success job listings, with a focus on communication skills, technical proficiency, and a customer-centric mindset.
- Niche experience in specific industries related to the product or service is preferred in some positions.
- The most sought-after certifications include CCSM, Customer Success Certified: Core, RecastSuccess, Gainsight Customer Success University Certification, and CCXP, with each offering unique benefits for career growth.
- Customer Success certifications bring an enhanced skill set, increased credibility, and networking opportunities, contributing to an overall successful career in the field.