What's the Role of a Customer Success Manager in a B2B Organization?

A B2B company's success hinges on prioritizing customer objectives and needs.

But doing this effectively involves understanding what each customer wants and guiding them as they shift from being new customers to engaged users.

Dedicated Customer Success Managers play a pivotal role in making this happen. Their core responsibility is catering to their customers' evolving needs, thereby reducing churn and expanding revenue. 

Customer Success Managers build close relationships with customers and give them guidance on how to get the most value out of their investment, which helps cultivate unwavering loyalty to the company.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of driving revenue growth for a B2B company through exceptional customer interactions, transitioning into a Customer Success Manager role could be a rewarding career move.

What Is a Customer Success Manager?

A Customer Success Manager (CSM) is a customer-facing role responsible for delivering a seamless post-purchase experience. 

Unlike customer support agents, CSMs establish personalized relationships with customers, delivering value through the course of the entire business relationship. This approach helps customers achieve their business own goals and strengthens their connection with your business and its product.

CSMs take proactive measures to improve customer experience (CX) by skillfully guiding new customers through onboarding, resolving product-related issues, suggesting complementary products or services, and managing upsells and renewals.

Depending on how your Customer Success organization is arranged, your CSMs could follow a high-touch model (providing personal attention to each client on a regular basis), a low-touch or tech-touch model (where check-ins and interactions are less frequent), or something in between.

What Is a CSM Responsible For?

CSMs are central to relationship-building and have key responsibilities for customer satisfaction, business growth, and overall organizational success. Their role goes beyond customer support to drive account expansion, upselling, and churn prevention through strategic initiatives.

Let's decode these responsibilities below.

1. Account expansion

Account expansion is the process of increasing revenue per account, often by getting more of the customers' organization to use your product. 

CSMs play a vital role in this endeavor by building trust and rapport with customers, and helping them see a positive return on their investment. This requires a mix of expertise, awareness, and empathy, which ultimately empowers CSMs to be seen as trusted resources for their clients.

Here's how to start building the groundwork for growing customer accounts:

Ensure seamless customer onboarding

The onboarding phase is your chance to create a positive CX, as it sets the stage for the entire customer journey. 

"Onboarding isn't just about getting customers started; it's also about educating them on how to maximize the value of your offerings," explains David Barnes, Global Customer Success Manager at Giftpack. “Well-informed customers are more likely to explore advanced features and make greater use of your products or services.”

Consider yourself as the guiding light, teaching customers about product features, helping them set achievable goals, and making sure they smoothly transition into using the product effectively.

Constantly stay in touch

Make sure you understand what your customers need and want, as these things change over time. By regularly talking with the clients in your book of business and keeping the conversations ongoing, you can find out their latest problems and opportunities, ensuring they stay satisfied and their changing needs are met.

"Proactive communication makes all the difference in keeping a long-time customer happy," shares Lisa Redman, Senior Customer Success Manager at ER Express. “When a busy healthcare facility faced issues with our software update, I didn't just rely on emails or messages. Instead, I reached out with a video call to personally help them. 

"By showing we cared and offering immediate solutions, we not only kept the customer but also made our bond stronger. This taught me that talking to customers in a caring, personalized way is the key to keeping them happy and loyal,” Lisa continued.

Gather and analyze feedback

As a CSM, you bridge the gap between customers and your company. By maintaining a regular cadence of surveys, check-ins, and interactions with the customers in your portfolio, you can collect essential insights to further refine CX. Leverage this refined understanding to craft personalized strategies that not only meet but exceed customer expectations.

2. Churn Prevention

"Nurturing relationships with existing customers is just as crucial as acquiring new ones," says Lisa. “Our main focus is to ensure our valued customers stay satisfied with our solutions. After all, happy customers are far more likely to consider additional purchases or upgrades.”

As a CSM, every piece of feedback, each need, and every request you convey to your internal teams is a vital piece of the puzzle, working in harmony to foster a more customer-centric approach. This alignment between customer expectations and your company's efforts serves as a powerful weapon in the battle against churn, or the loss of paying customers.

Below are the core responsibilities of a CSM in preventing churn:

Be proactive in problem-solving

As a CSM, your goal is to spot potential issues before they escalate into dissatisfaction. How do you do this? Lisa Redman explains:

"I believe in staying one step ahead by proactively contacting our customers. Regular check-ins, both scheduled and ad-hoc, will help you gauge their satisfaction, address concerns promptly, and offer assistance before issues escalate. Plus, this approach builds trust and keeps lines of communication open.”

Continuously prove your worth

When you consistently demonstrate how your offering solves your customers’ problems, overcomes their challenges, and helps them reach their goals, you're reminding them why they chose to work with you. It's about fostering the idea that they're not just customers but equal partners in achieving success.

Provide personalized check-ins and value demonstrations

Regular check-ins and QBRs aren't just routine — they're opportunities to remind your customers of the value they're gaining from your product. These interactions are perfect for addressing any emerging concerns, collecting feedback, and showing new features that match their needs.

You can also compare these conversations with customer behavioral data, such as how often clients are using your product, to gauge their overall satisfaction. "For instance, a sudden drop in engagement or an increase in support requests can indicate dissatisfaction. When I spot these warning signs of churn, I dig deeper to uncover the root causes and devise strategies to retain the customer," explains David Barnes.

3. Upselling

Upselling is closely related to account expansion but primarily focuses on encouraging customers to upgrade to higher-tier products or add additional features that align with their growing needs. 

CSMs play a big role here, understanding what customers need and suggesting personalized solutions. This helps companies improve customer experiences, perform better, and earn more money.

Here's how you can do it:

Promote your brand and products

In your role as a CSM, you take the lead in promoting your company's brand and products to your current clients. These clients don't just see you as a representative; they turn to you for insights on the latest updates in your industry and innovations from your company. Your goal is to keep their interest alive by sharing exciting news and thought leadership and making sure they're always up-to-date.

"But before making any recommendations, focus on delivering value," cautions David. “Ensure that your customers are satisfied and successful with their current usage of your product or service.”

Show how things work through demos and training

Your job goes beyond just talking about the benefits of your product. When your company launches new product offerings, a CSM should step in to help customers understand how they work. This often involves conducting hands-on demos and leading training sessions, thereby enabling clients to effectively use the new products.

Provide tailored recommendations

As a CSM, your job is to understand your clients inside and out and tailor your recommendations to fit them like a glove. Explaining how your company's solutions match the customer's needs and goals is key to successfully convincing them to upgrade. 

As Lisa puts it, "I work closely with every customer, getting to know their goals and challenges. By customizing solutions that fit their needs, I make it more likely they'll succeed and stay loyal."

How to Measure CSM Success?

As a CSM, your performance is often assessed using various metrics tailored to your client interactions and expansion efforts.

Your job involves proactively connecting with customers, regularly checking in with them, sharing useful insights, addressing their concerns, and guiding them toward success. The more you do this effectively, the better your performance is considered.

Further, your performance is also linked to revenue targets and a sales quota. These targets show how well you're contributing to increasing the value of customer accounts. You're encouraged to identify opportunities where customers can benefit from more of your products or services. 

The revenue generated from these efforts is a clear measure of your impact on the company's financial growth.

Here are common CSM performance metrics that provide insights into how well CSMs are performing in their roles:

  • Net Revenue Retention (NRR): The percentage of revenue retained from your individual book of business or your company’s customer base as a whole; ideally you want this to be over 100%, thanks to your account expansion efforts.
  • CSAT (Customer Satisfaction): Measures customer satisfaction with your service.
  • NPS (Net Promoter Score): Gauges likelihood of recommending the product.
  • Churn rate: Indicates customer retention.
  • Expansion/Upsell rate: Reflects revenue growth efforts.
  • Time-to-Value: Measures the speed of customer value realization.
  • Response and resolution time: Shows efficiency in issue handling.
  • Customer engagement: Measures interaction quality and frequency.
  • Revenue generation: Tracks revenue from CSM efforts.
  • Customer health score: Evaluates overall customer account health.
  • Retention rate: Reflects customer loyalty.

What’s a Typical Workday Look Like for a Customer Success Manager?

If you've ever wondered what a typical workday looks like for a CSM, we got Amelia Losciale, Sr. Customer Success Manager at Vitally, to give us a glimpse into her usual workday. 

"Before I log on every day, I make sure I've taken care of everything that my body and mind need," she shares. "CSMs are a people-pleasing breed, and it's taken me a long time to learn this lesson. I spend two hours in the morning meditating, doing yoga, and eating a good breakfast before I even look at my email or Slack."

Her morning routine is a vital part of her daily preparation because, as Amelia humorously puts it, "there probably won't be much time for that once I start." This deliberate self-care helps her fill her cup every day, ensuring she has the energy and clarity needed to serve her clients to the best of her abilities.

Related: How to Avoid Burnout as a Customer Success Manager

Once her workday begins, Amelia interacts with clients primarily through Zoom meetings. To ensure these interactions are successful and tailored to her client's needs, Amelia relies on Vitally's Note Templates. She says that they are invaluable in setting up meetings for success, regardless of the topic.

"We have Note Templates for all the different types of meetings we host," Amelia elaborates. "In those templates are embedded traits that help me keep important things top of mind, such as the customer's top priorities or any blockers they're currently facing." These templates also allow her to create follow-up tasks directly in her notes, ensuring that nothing slips through the cracks.

When it comes to daily activities, Amelia is keen on automating CSM responsibilities that don't directly involve her client meetings. "Anything I can automate that isn't related to my meetings, I do," she says. Even though Amelia is responsible for a manageable-sized book of customers, she acknowledges that manually checking on certain aspects like feature usage or user training needs can be time-consuming. 

Amelia appreciates how Vitally can automatically handle indicators, tasks, and conversations, making sure that important information comes up easily without her needing to search for it.

Amelia's daily routine and strategic use of Customer Success Platform (CSP) software reflects the dedication and proactive approach that make her a successful CSM. She understands that taking care of herself before serving others and automating non-meeting tasks are key to ensuring her clients' satisfaction and engagement.

Who Does a CSM Report To?

CSMs typically report either to a team lead or the head of the Customer Success department, who often has the title VP of Customer Success. This organizational setup is crucial for maintaining a strategic focus and ensuring the overall success of both the CSMs and the customers they serve.

In many cases, having a dedicated CS leader solely focused on the CSM team's success is imperative. Customer Success is not just about keeping customers happy; it's a strategic function that requires careful planning and execution. A dedicated leader helps prevent CSMs from becoming overly reactive and overwhelmed with tasks, enabling them to work more strategically and effectively.

For CSMs, having a dedicated leader means feeling valued and supported. It assures them that the company is invested in their growth and willing to provide expert guidance. This approach creates a conducive work environment where CSMs can focus on strategic initiatives, collaborate better, and ensure long-term customer success.

What’s the Average Salary for a B2B Customer Success Manager?

To negotiate CSM compensation packages well, you need to be well-versed in industry standards. Here's the average US salary for a Customer Success Manager as of October 2023:

  • According to Glassdoor, the estimated total pay for a Customer Success Manager is $124,245 per year in the United States, with an average salary of $103,989 per year
  • According to Salary.com, the average Customer Success Manager salary in the United States is $119,034, but the range typically falls between $100,592 and $142,064

The demand for CSM roles is expected to rise. This offers a fantastic opportunity for driven individuals who aspire to take on more substantial responsibilities and contribute to establishing a seamless connection between businesses and their customers.

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