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  1. Blog
  2. Career Development
  3. September 7, 2020

What Does a Customer Success Manager Do?

Three women on their roles in customer success

Customer success rep working with a customer
Image courtesy of Blake Wisz

This article is part of InHerSight's What Do You Do? series. This series explores the working lives of women by job title. Readers can get a glimpse of what it's like to work as an account executive, software developer, restaurant manager, and more.

What does a customer success manager do?

A customer success manager fosters and maintains the relationship between a business and its customers. They do things like answer questions about products and services, troubleshoot problems, review results, and work with customers to find new ways to use the business’s products and services.

Customer success professionals work across all industries, in B2B and B2C environments, and at all levels of business, from entry level to the c-suite. But the job can be broad and varied, and what a CSM does at one company will be different than what a CSM does at another. To give you a better understanding of what the job looks like, we spoke to three women at different points in their careers, with different backgrounds who work in customer success.

Amanda Szymanski

Customer success manager at InHerSight, in customer success since 2019

What’s your background and how did you end up in this role? 

I have a B.S. in psychology and worked in research for three years, two of those years in neuroscience research, and one in clinical trials. I realized working in research—at least in the roles I worked in—wasn’t the right career fit for me, and I wanted something more dynamic, creative, and fast-paced.

What do you do for the business as a customer success manager?

I track and maintain the health of our partners, with the aim of providing exceptional customer service and performance. After sales has demoed our platform and offerings and a new partner has joined us, I onboard them to our platform and take over the majority of the relationship from there. This involves delivering on anything that was agreed to or purchased in the sales process, providing support and feedback, and communicating feedback received from the customer to the InHerSight team.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

After walking the dogs with my partner and making some iced coffee to cool from the North Carolina heat, I log on around 8:30 a.m. and check Slack for any updates or messages from my team members, check my emails for any questions or correspondence from our customers, and check my schedule for the day to see what kind of meetings I have. 

If I have a mostly open day, I will work on plans and strategies for our customers based on individual needs, create email campaigns for our audience to build awareness of roles our customers are hiring for, or other email campaigns containing insights on women and work based on research myself and the editorial team have conducted.

I have fairly regular meetings, between three and six a week, ranging from internal sales and editorial meetings to external onboarding calls and monthly/quarterly performance reviews.

Internal meetings provide me with critical information I need to continue serving our partners. They allow me to hear any pain points sales has learned about from prospective clients and are great opportunities to brainstorm with my colleagues on how we can solve those problems. The meetings with our editorial team are additional brainstorming sessions to ideate topics we want to research in order to serve our partners. We discuss current trends happening in society, ranging from child care during COVID to onboarding while remotely, as well as persistent topics such as reducing implicit bias at work, the importance of employee resources groups, etc.

External calls will typically be new customer onboarding, monthly check-ins, and monthly, quarterly, or annual performance reviews. I also will conduct voice-of-customer calls to research new services or offerings we can provide our partners. These help inform how we should structure or build a new offering to ensure it accurately addresses the most important pain points or requests we hear from our partners.

What are the three most important parts of your job?

Onboarding new partners, tracking the health and performance of our partners, and communicating and collaborating with sales to ensure we all have a thorough understanding of what each partner needs from us, both now and in the future.

What skills do you need to be a customer success manager?

What’s the toughest part of being a customer success manager? 

Sometimes things are out of your hands or control, and it can be hard to accept that even when you do your best, sometimes client partnerships don’t work out, and there’s nothing that you could have done differently to change the outcome. When a partnership doesn’t work out, it can definitely feel like a personal failing, which certainly isn’t true, but it can be hard to view it as any other way when in that moment.

What do you like about your job?

I love meeting all of the people I get to work with on the client side. It feels great when I’m onboarding a new customer, answering their questions, and I can hear the excitement in their voice about all the awesome tools InHerSight offers our partners. I also love working closely with our sales and tech teams—it’s an awesome blend of perspectives where we all get to contribute and share our unique learnings and insights with each other, which then leads to better product development since we all get such different pieces of information from customers based on our roles!

More broadly, I love working at InHerSight. I’m an incredibly mission-driven person, and working in an organization with such high-reaching goals of changing the working world for better really vibes with me. Regardless of my official job title, I love the company and people I work with and am grateful to have the opportunity to work on such a wide range of projects.

What’s something people might be surprised to learn is part of your job?

All the other things I do to support our teams and the company. They aren’t always part of my role as a customer success manager, which is fine by me! I’m not one to be boxed in or defined by roles. It’s great to learn new things and see different aspects of the business, since we’re a small, close-knit team. This would certainly be different at a larger organization where CSMs may restricted to only customer-related duties.

What would you say to someone who’s interested in being a customer success manager?

Customer success is a new role that’s really only in recent years come onto the work scene. It’s a bit of a blend of account management, sales, and support. You may have 10 different companies that are hiring for a CSM, and they’ll define it in 10 different ways. Make sure you understand why you are interested in being a customer success manager, like what aspects and responsibilities you’d like in your daily work life, and then make sure those line up with how the companies you’re interviewing define the role. It might be that what you’re actually interested in doing is an entirely different job title, so try to gather as much information as you can. 

Read more: How to Answer: What Does Customer Service Mean to You?


Diana De Jesus customer success manager at atSpoke

Diana De Jesus

Enterprise customer success manager with atSpoke, in customer success since 2016

What’s your background and how did you end up in this role?

I accidentally stumbled upon a customer success role after learning how to code for nearly a year. After a few months as a CSM, I transitioned into building the technical support team and then led the onboarding support team until finally locking in a dedicated customer success role where I currently work.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

Since I also write about customer success in my blog, Keep The Customer, I kick my days off at roughly 6:00 a.m., and it looks a little something like this:

6:00 a.m.: Wake up, coffee, plan the day.

6:15 a.m.: Listen to or recap a podcast episode about customer success on my blog. 

8:00 a.m.: Networking. This could look like calls with other peers in CS, participating in the different communities I’m involved in (shout out to Gain Grow Retain and Customer Success En Español) or updating resources on the Open Book of Customer Success.

9:00 a.m.: I kick off my workday by catching up on emails and Slack messages (my team is mainly based in San Francisco and I’m in New York). 

9:30 a.m.: Focus time. I use this time to review any accounts or work on outstanding projects. Currently, I’m developing a few playbooks for our commercial book and have been dedicating my focus time to that. 

11:00 a.m.: Customer call. We're expanding atSpoke to a new team and helping them get on board with in-depth product training and sharing best practices. 

12:00 p.m.: Lunch and hang out with my twin six-year-olds. 

1:00 p.m.: Internal meetings like weekly syncs with my team to talk about any projects or renewals we’re working on. On these calls, my manager also shares any updates from leadership. 

2:00 p.m.: Customer calls. This can be a quarterly business review, a renewal, or a handoff from onboarding. 

4:30 p.m.: Send follow-up emails to all customers I had a call with and add any notes in Salesforce.

5:30–6:00 p.m.: I wrap up the day, scan Slack for any ongoing conversations, reply to any outstanding emails, and leave myself some notes for the next day. 

What are the three most important parts of your job?

Building relationships with our customers: We’re a customer-centric company (I know, I know. Everyone says that, but we really are!) and part of my job is making sure that they’re getting the best experience of atSpoke and that includes our relationship with them. It’s also difficult to get customers to do anything without an established relationship that’s built on trust. 

Serving as the voice of the customer to the rest of the company: We’re a small startup, which means that our customers take the front seat in our product development. After every call, I share our customer’s feedback with our product team and I show up to all cross-functional calls with my customer’s feedback and sentiment in mind. 

Helping the customer reach their goals (why they bought us in the first place): Ultimately, the customer bought atSpoke for a reason, they have goals to reach and I’m the person that steers them in that direction. I provide strategic solutions, help them with their adoption, and help remove any blockers for them. 

What skills do you need to be a customer success manager?

Caring: If you don’t care about what you or your customers are doing, it’s hard to do anything as a CSM. This should be your number-one skill. 

Curiosity: This means always be learning, asking discovery questions, and wanting to know more about the customer’s day-to-day—not just the solution you provide. 

Organizational skills: There are a million things up in the air, and it’s your job to document points raised on a call, balance your schedule, and be proactive. Strong organizational skills help you stay on top of it all.

Confidence: Your customers need to trust you, and it’s hard to do that when a person isn’t too confident in what they’re saying or how they’re acting. I don’t mean confidence as in “fake it til you make it”; I mean building confidence by becoming a product expert, by doing your research on the customer, and my putting it all together through strong storytelling. 

What’s the toughest part of being a customer success manager? 

Making sure that you’re using your time wisely. It’s easy to take up customer support tasks or run around chasing fires all day. The role of customer success is to be strategic, and defining what this means and how to focus on it is the toughest part. There will always be competing priorities, so being able to say “no” is critical.

What do you like about your job?

I struggle to find what I don’t like!

  1. Developing a strong relationship with the customer: This isn’t a walk in the park; like any relationship, it takes time. But when we finally get to the stage where every call starts off like a 1:1 with the best manager you can think of, that’s a win. Those calls usually start off with chit chat about life, kids, etc., and then we move on to what’s going on, projects, updates, and lastly, a big part of the call is about feedback and improvements. 

  2. Helping them with data: I love data, and I know my customers do too, so when they need any tips on how to improve X, I’m there with solutions that are backed by data, not just thoughts. I usually go down rabbit holes analyzing data—it’s my weakness. 

What’s something people might be surprised to learn is part of your job?

Providing ongoing training to my customers. It sounds like something either the customer learns on their own or that there would be a dedicated role for. But if I’m pushing a customer to increase adoption, it’s up to me to train them properly.  

What would you say to someone who’s interested in being a customer success manager?

On a practical level, customer success is different from industry to industry and from company to company, so get clear on what you really want to do and what you enjoy doing. The industry is growing tremendously, and there’s room for all of us. 

There are tons of resources and people who want to help. Go on LinkedIn, start connecting with people, and ask for advice! Join the communities, put yourself out there, and make it happen! 

Read more: The Beginner's Guide to Professional Communication


Ciara Cooper, director of customer experience at Leesa Sleep

Ciara Cooper

Director of customer experience at Leesa Sleep, in customer success since 2019

What’s your background? How did you end up in this role?

I started in an entry-level job at a call center and worked my way up. I took every opportunity to learn how to do something else in the companies I worked for, which lead to promotions.

What do you do for the business as a customer success manager?

I help to bring the voice of our customers back through the company. This allows us to improve our product or identify potential problems our customers may face and fix them!

What does a typical workday look like for you?

Every day can be a little different. I look at reports to see how well we are handling customer inquiries, coach my team, talk to escalated customers, manage relationships with our vendors, and attend a lot of meetings with other departments to share feedback. 

What are the three most important parts of your job?

  • Making relationships with customers
  • Developing my team
  • Providing feedback to improve our products and processes

What skills do you need to be a customer success manager?

You must have excellent communication skills and the ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes. 

What’s the toughest part of being a customer success manager? 

You need to speak with people who are very upset or emotional. Sometimes when people are emotional, it is difficult to identify how you can turn their experience around.

What do you like about your job?

I love solving problems and making people happy!

What’s something people might be surprised to learn is part of your job?

A surprising amount of invoice review and approval.

What would you say to someone who’s interested in being a customer success manager?

Always take the opportunity to learn about people. If you are genuinely interested in them, it translates into a great experience.

Read more: How to Answer: What Should I Do with My Life?

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Photo of Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza

Content Strategist, InHerSight

Emily is on staff at InHerSight where she researches and writes about data that describes women in the workplace, specifically societal barriers to advancement, and workplace rights. Her bylines include Fast Company and The Glossary Co.

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