5 Core Values That Define a Great Customer Success Manager

Note: This post originally appeared on LinkedIn and has been edited for clarity. Read it here or get in touch with Nick on Twitter @npataky.

I’m on the Customer Success team at Leanplum, a VC-backed mobile marketing automation platform with customers like Lyft, Tesco, and Expedia. Our team owns everything post-sales and is responsible for minimizing our businesses’ churn rate. Here are five key takeaways I’ve gathered for those looking to break into a customer-facing role at an enterprise SaaS startup.


Image: Death to the Stock Photo

Set Success Criteria Upfront

The most important question we ask a new customer in our first kickoff meeting is, “How will you define success with Leanplum?” It is your job as a Customer Success Manager (CSM) to know the Key Performance Indicators that are most important to each of your customers. Your primary focus every day should be to ensure they are heading toward those success metrics. Once it comes time for renewal, there should be no debate as to whether they reached their benchmarks.

It is a lot of work to determine how much value a product provides. It’s even harder when that product is one piece of software functioning as a component of a much broader business offering. Sales sold a value proposition. Your job is to execute on that value proposition every day.

Automate Your Role to Focus on Relationships

As companies grow, manual processes must become automated in order to scale. Think about the processes that you do and your customers do on a regular basis. Work closely with product to improve efficiency on any aspect of your job that is not relationship-driven.

A few projects that I have personally seen save a lot of time and resources: improving new customer onboarding flow, automate weekly performance reports, automate the announcement of new features. This will leave more time for relationship building.

Open Feedback Loops

You are on the front lines more than any other department in your organization. Every day, you talk to the people who keep your company running. You hear what they love, what they hate, and what they must have in order to remain a customer. No one else in the company has access to that sort of tangible feedback.

This customer feedback is the foundation for validating product-market fit, company growth strategy and roadmap prioritization. This feedback is a precious resource. You have an absolute, undying obligation to share it with everyone at your company. Bubble feedback up to the top, brainstorm solutions, build product, repeat. If someone in your company does not understand the value of customer feedback, it is your job to make them understand the importance of client satisfaction.

Don’t Cry Wolf

Customer success is founded upon fostering strong relationships. That starts with exhibiting true empathy for your customer’s needs and setting realistic expectations both internally and externally. Do not promise a feature this quarter that engineering will not have time to deliver. You don’t have many shots at redemption after over promising. This will not make your customers happy. And it will make your engineering team want to eradicate you from existence — and more importantly not build features that are actually essential to a customer’s needs in the future.

Instead, only promise features that you have explicitly vetted with product and engineering, after prioritizing against all other outstanding requests. That being said, approach every feature request with the attitude that there is always room for product improvement (because there always is).

Show Your Co-Workers Gratitude

As part of the CSM team, you have a lot of requests from other departments. You need Product to take a project out of the current sprint to fit in an urgent customer ask. You need Engineering to drop everything and help you when something breaks and half of your customer base has called you in the past five minutes. You need Marketing to bring in leads and support you with customer collateral. You need Sales to close the deals that bring you customers. You need Ops to keep things running smoothly and provide a culture that makes every day worth coming into the office. In other words, you can’t function without compromise and collaboration.

Doing your job well is entirely dependent upon people from every other team in the company choosing to help you. Thank them. Eat food with them. Grab drinks with them. Make it clear that you appreciate all they do. Empathizing with those around you will pay dividends when you least expect it.

Leanplum is mobile marketing automation that lets you shape meaningful experiences for your users at scale — driving engagement and results. We work with top brands such as Expedia, Tesco, and Lyft. Discover more at www.leanplum.com.