What does a Customer Success Manager do?

After hosting our inaugural Customer Success Summit, the consensus was that a lot of people don’t know what Customer Success Managers (CSMs) do (may be called a Client Success Manager). Sometimes the CSMs themselves aren’t even sure if they are doing things right! As early pioneers of customer success, it’s really up to them to shape and clear the path for CSMs to follow.

The best way to learn about this is to go straight to the source. I interviewed 3 CSMs to look past the job description and get a real-life view into what they actually do on a day-to-day basis, what their challenges are, and what makes being a CSM worthwhile. Two common things that I discovered were that they all have various types of experience working with customers (e.g. account management and professional services), and their goal was to keep delivering value to their customers with each interaction. You’ll soon find that every CSM’s experience and approach are a little different, but the end goal is the same: to constantly provide value while holding the customer as their first priority.


“My morning starts in emails, I wonder: What’s going on out there? How can I improve their experience with Cloudwords?”

Mary Rosberg, CSM at Cloudwords

(a leading translation management solution), starts off the morning in a reactive mode to see what’s going on in her Totango and Zendesk reports. She “opens shop” by logging on to a host of chat apps so her customers know she’s online and that she’s there for them. “My next step is to review my touch points. Who needs specific attention? What would be valuable for them as a touch point? Providing customer love is a lot of my day, this means providing value and attention.”

She has her Salesforce dashboard set up to pull stats from Totango and other analytics tools to get an all-in-one view of her customers and what’s happening in the product.

“One of the most rewarding things is being able to empower the customers,” she recalls. “I was discussing with a customer, who was quite junior in her role, about what was going on with her data. It turned out that leadership was pulling the wrong numbers for their valuations and she caught this discrepancy through our conversations. It helped prevent future errors and upgraded her credibility and experience.”

Their chain of command goes: CSM to Chief Technology Officer to CEO.

“We’ve got to catch the clients before they reach no man’s land.”

Alex Gorman, CSM at Clarizen


(a leading project management solution), shares “It’s busy! Because customers are looking for a total solution and not a point solution, I help them map their process and goals. I like that we have direct and consistent contact with our customers; it’s important that there is someone at Clarizen who can really own that relationship.” One time after assisting a smaller customer, he received a thank you note and gift basket from them. He had spent a great deal of time making sure they were properly onboarded and were getting the value they had hoped when signing on. “It was a great feeling and totally made all the time I spent with them worth it. Being a CSM is a good challenge because it’s a mix between tech creative problem solving and relationship building.”

Their chain of command goes: CSM to Director of Customer Success to VP of Customer Success to CEO.

“I build relationships, I’m not a sales person.”

I also spoke with Chris Ordemann, CSM at Ooyala (a leading provider of video technology), who told me he normally takes the reins post-sale. “I’m really there to help the new customer transition from onboarding to become a fully functional user. For example, I help strategize with them on how to use the product better and share what the trends are in their industry to keep them at the top of their game, like how are their competitors using video to engage and what are other best practices.”

One important thing that CSMs should be pushing for is advocating for the customer. They help build trust between the brand and the user, and as their insider, CSMs are tasked with voicing the concerns and wants of the customer to the organization. At the same time, Chris helps streamline his customers’ experience. “To keep the experience consistent, I am their primary point of contact whether they have questions about support, product or billing. This way I can better manage their experience and be truly in tune with what their needs or challenges are.”

Their chain of command goes: CSM to Director of Account Management to Senior VP of Client Services Group to CEO. (Interestingly, the Client Services Group is an umbrella that covers: customer success, support, and professional services — all very customer-focused divisions.)

Beyond the Typical Customer Success Manager Job Description

If you think that that’s all they do though, think again. These CSMs are encouraged to work on their own projects beyond advocating for the customer. Chris has developed a new hire training plan for newbie customer success managers. Mary does QA testing from the POV of the customer and also writes content for blogs and outreach email templates. Alex hosts webinars and answers support tickets.

CSMs provide a lot of value both to their companies and their customers. Their passion to help customers is reflected in their interactions.

Find out what a CSM earns. Download the Customer Success Salary Report for 2018.

If you’re ready to start customer success programs at your company and need some help getting started, check out our helpful guides to Successful Customer Onboarding and Customer Renewal and Upsell.

This video shows how you can optimize processes and time management with Totango Spark.

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