Tangible & Intangible Skills for High-Performing Customer Success Managers

This blog was originally written and published on Medium by Sylvia Yin.  

Early on, when building out a Customer Success team, one of my biggest challenges was developing predictable renewals and expansion measures. Though performance, customer and historical data are being collected, it’s not always enough to predict such measures. 

If someone were to ask me, ‘What are the best indicators to track early on for renewals and expansions?’ My answer would be the observable traits and behaviors of a Customer Success Manager (CSM). 

After my observation, there are five traits and behaviors of a CSM that help consistently drive renewals, expansions, customer satisfaction, and upsells. Much of my experience is with B2B SaaS and high-touch CSMs, but these traits and behaviors hold true for any CSM.

Customer Success Manager Skill #1: Courageous & Action-Oriented

Out of all five, being courageous and action-oriented are the most critical indicators of a successful CSM that will drive results.

High-performing CSMs may worry about saying the wrong thing or looking stupid. Still, if a CSM chooses to give it a go anyways, it proves they are action-oriented, and they know the best remedy to uncertainty is acting on it so they can see the result. 

Because they focus on taking action, they become what some may view as “lucky” individuals. Their ability to take action proves that they can achieve expansion opportunities and renewals.

Customer Success Manager Skill #2: Firm & Flexible

High-performing CSMs use structure and processes as their guides rather than rules set in stone. 

For example, high-performing CSMs would take a pricing plan as a guide and create alternatives that would personalize it to the customer’s budget and overall company objectives. They want to ensure that their customers deliver the absolute best and avoid disappointment.

Customers have more respect for a CSM who is firm but also flexible. These CSMs are likely to successfully deliver customer asks and be seen as trusted advisors by their customers.

Customer Success Manager Skill #3: Have an Abundance Mindset

Being customer-centric is at the forefront of everyone's mind, but it's only sometimes put into action. And note that I'm not talking about tactical actions, like avoiding jargon, using easy-to-understand words, or being a good listener.

If a CSM has an abundance mindset, they tend to be customer-centric. And why is that? Because CSMs who operate with this mindset understand that options and resources are always available. 

With an abundance mindset, CSMs will benefit in a variety of ways…

Overall, a CSM with an abundance mindset will allow them to put themselves in the customers' shoes to pursue and achieve a win-win outcome.

Customer Success Manager Skill #4: Robust Product Understanding

Best-performing CSMs take lots of time to thoroughly understand the product and technology to provide the best solutions for their customers. 

Educating themselves helps CSMs better understand the existing product and services while considering the customer’s needs and the company’s overarching mission. Their plentiful product knowledge can help them devise creative and best-fitting solutions for their customers. Additionally, these are the CSMs who seek opportunities to build upon existing or new relationships with the engineering, product, and data science team(s).

Customer Success Manager Skill #5: Always Have a Plan

Some of the greatest CSMs are the ones who always have a plan to achieve a particular outcome that is ready to go in their back pocket. These CSMs are objective-driven and spend a lot of time thinking and understanding the best steps or how they could work backward to achieve the customer’s goal.

The CSMs I have worked with, 100% of the time, will follow up any challenge with a plan they would like to experiment with and see what the result could be. Their ability to constantly plan, stay courageous, and pursue an actionable path conquers any odds against them that could prevent them from achieving their desired goals. 

Final Thoughts on The Skill Set of a High-Performing Customer Success Manager

Today, if I were building out a Customer Success team, I would want the Customer Success Managers I hire to have all the above traits. When it comes to hiring, these traits and observable behavior are at the top of my list, and it's understandable why. With this blog posted on Vitally, it's a great time to share a customer success plan that can help a CSM showcase these traits and behaviors in their everyday business processes. From automation to building out playbooks, there are many ways that a CSM using Vitally can showcase these traits while maximizing on team-collaboration and productivity.  

This blog was written and contributed by Sylvia Yin. Vitally is proud to distribute thought leadership content to the Customer Success community, so if you know of an article or author with some Customer Success knowledge and wisdom worthy of endorsement, we would love to expand its reach. Reach out to haley@vitally.io with all the details, plus visit our blog to read more Customer Success content worthy of your time. 

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