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Traits of Top Customer Success Managers

Traits of Top Customer Success Managers

Ensuring customer happiness is critical to the long-term growth and prosperity of your business. But who is responsible for managing that?

Customer success is a newer industry that now employs millions of people worldwide, accounting for substantial top-line revenue generation. It is the role of customer success managers (CSMs) to oversee that aforementioned happiness by ensuring customers understand how to use the product or service they’ve been sold and maximizing the value they receive. CSMs are on the front lines of managing your customer experience. Customer success is similar to customer service in some aspects, but also includes expanded responsibilities such as:

  • Proactive outreach
  • Building deeper customer relationships
  • Churn reduction
  • Increased focus on controlling risk
  • Relationship management informed by a more holistic view of the customer’s company

But customer success needs to be more than just another job function. It needs to be a company ethos.

Today’s top organizations are driving the future of this emerging industry. Seventy percent of companies report having a dedicated customer success function in 2019, according to the Deloitte 2019 Enterprise Customer Success Study and Outlook. Nobody, especially you, wants to be left out of new revenue opportunities and growing customer loyalty.

So what does it take to be a high-performing customer success manager? Wired Magazine reported on the revolutionary rise of customer success and the industry’s need for workers who are uniquely talented in technology, training, support, and sales. These are some of the main skill areas required for CSMs to lead the customer success charge within your company.

When hiring a CSM, you want to identify professionals with a blend of hard (systems, software, and other teachable abilities) and soft (communication and collegiality) skills. Here are the top traits of the best CSMs: Operator, Educator, Dot-Connector, Techie, and Conductor.


The customer should be the center of all activity within your company. A CSM must understand how each departmental strategy, process, technology system, and policy impacts the customer. The capacity to learn quickly and distill complex concepts into relatable insights is necessary for today’s CSMs. Top-notch customer success performers then take this new knowledge and apply it to instantly improve the customer experience. Look for professionals who can effectively operationalize around the customer and their specific needs. CSMs who do this well have:

  • Effective time management skills to manage concurrent priorities.
  • Acute attention to detail.
  • Critical thinking abilities with demonstrated analytical and technical aptitude.
  • Strategic mindsets focused on short and long-term retention and growth goals.


Rich with knowledge, CSMs are better equipped to meet the needs of customers, therefore increasing cross-selling and upselling opportunities. When customers are well-informed and take part in onboarding and adoption processes, they need less support. This autonomy creates efficiencies for your company while also strengthening customer retention. Customers often welcome training, evaluation, and reporting opportunities to become more informed about the tools and products that will contribute to increased sales. CSMs invest the time to stay current on industry trends, research, and best practices, using all of this knowledge to educate customers. Rockstar CSMs have to be great educators.


CSMs are relationship-focused and thrive on collaboration and curiosity. This allows them to not only connect with the customer on a deeper level, but also serve them in a way that’s informed by a more holistic view of the company. Such a perspective enables CSMs to be more strategic and to better advocate on the customer’s behalf. Stellar CSMs possess an authentic interest in their customer’s success, truly wanting their experience to be the best it can be.

Customer success professionals who are wholly dedicated to the process – engaging in active listening, questioning and exploring ideas, welcoming challenges and opportunities, and researching qualitative and quantitative relationship insights – will be in a better position to anticipate customer needs.

Establishing a relationship of trust with customers also requires a commitment to proactively communicate news and developments. CSMs connect the dots between the various departments to keep everyone informed. This may include the coordination of internal communication systems (i.e. Slack or an intranet) for internal stakeholders and regularly scheduled meetings/calls with external stakeholders.


The best customer success operations employ advanced software and technology systems to manage every aspect of the customer relationship, so you need someone with a deep knowledge of CRM platforms. Talented CSMs will be able to leverage these systems to improve the customer relationship, knowing what metrics to track, the methods necessary for data collection, and how to operationalize those insights to improve outcomes.

CSMs will also improve the quality and frequency of communication between your company and your customers through the use of video conferencing, chatbots, and messaging applications – it’s important they have a strong understanding of these technologies as well.


Every touchpoint a customer has with your company is an opportunity for flawless execution and incremental improvement. Orchestrating all of the moving parts within the relationship takes a conductor to lead the way. CSMs have a responsibility to the customer to proactively identify opportunities, ideate solutions, engage the rest of their team to make change happen, manage expectations, and communicate all of this to the customer. This takes someone with personal accountability, initiative, flexibility, and a strong sense of cultural, business, and tactical needs.

These are the top five traits for customer success managers

  1. Operator
  2. Educator
  3. Dot-Connector
  4. Techie
  5. Conductor

When recruiting and hiring your customer success team you have to take the time and spend the resources to build out a high-performing team of CSMs. You’ll be better positioned to reduce churn risk, build stronger customer relationships, and grow your recurring revenue.

Leading B2B companies around the globe rely on ServiceSource’s Customer Success solution to transform their customer relationships. Reach out at any time – we’d love to learn how we can do the same for your business!

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