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In our most recent research with IDC on the Modern Partner, we have seen an emerging theme of our top performing partners hiring Customer Success Managers (CSMs – also referred to as Account Managers or Directors). This role helps “farm” their accounts and drive cross-sell and upsell opportunities within their customer bases. As a follow up to this research, I wanted to dig a little deeper into this trend to learn more about this role. I asked a set of partners to share their insights and here is what I’ve learned.

The Top 5 Responsibilities of the Customer Success Manager

1. Manage the Customer Relationship

Most partners shared that their number one focus is managing the customer relationship. CSMs are typically involved in all customer lifecycle phases from deployment, to sustained usage and expansion, and on through periodic service updates. A CSM’s goal is to help customers meet or exceed their desired ROI and in turn, convert them to lifelong advocates. Additionally, CSMs act as an interface between the customer, support and the professional services team within a partner organization.

2. Closely Track Customer Satisfaction, Usage and Consumption

By closely tracking satisfaction, usage, and consumption behaviors of your customers, and then working to identify opportunities for improvement, your CSMs have their finger to the pulse of your customer needs. Microsoft now provides a great deal of reporting to help partners understand their customers’ usage patterns across our cloud services. Top performing partners look to CSMs to review usage data and act on this data by creating “get well” plans when customers’ usage is low.

A common way to track and manage customer satisfaction is to measure the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Another practice is to track satisfaction after each completed project and to secure a customer reference when satisfaction is high.

3. Identify Cross-sell and Upsell Opportunities

To do a great job identifying cross-sell and upsell activities with customers, it is critical that CSMs build a strong and trustful relationship with their customers. When you do that your customers will be open to sharing their ongoing needs and look to the CSM for solutions to their business challenges. A best practice for partners is to ensure that their CSM is building relationships with line of business stakeholders who hold massive decision making power. IDC research indicates that line of business decision makers fund 61% of technology projects and influence 81% of technology projects.


4. Conduct Customer Training

A component of the CSM role involves conducting training for solutions deployed as well as new features (such as enhancements to Office 365 and Azure). The key here is to identify ways to train customers in scalable ways. Consider running train the trainer sessions and creating adoption portals that host self-service how to content. Also, consider leveraging automation through nurture email campaigns targeted at existing customers that are authored by the CSM.

5. Escalate Critical Customer Issues and Resolve with Internal Resources

A main responsibility for the CSM is to act as an internal ambassador or champion for the customer. They will work to drive towards alignment with internal stakeholders to help resolve any customer challenges or issues that may arise.

Measuring the Success of Customer Success Manager

Knowing what a successful CSM is capable of will help you and your business drive cross-sell and upsell opportunities with your customer base. Here are the key metrics you should measure your CSMs by:

  • Gross Profit of Client (a result of cross-sell, upsell, and run rate transactions)
  • Net new seat or subscription adds
  • Customer retention (renewals)
  • Customer satisfaction (often measured by NPS)

Top Skills to Look for in a Customer Success Manager

When bringing a CSM on board, you should look for candidates with the following traits to ensure their long-term success with your company.

  • Sales or pre-sales technical experience
  • Strong business acumen and relationship building expertise
  • High emotional quotient
  • Well organized and disciplined

I hope this blog has been useful to helping you better understand the role of a CSM. If you are interested in learning more about how to drive customer lifetime value and customer success, check out the Deliver Customer Lifetime Value ebook.

Please feel free to reach out anytime via email, Twitter, or LinkedIn.


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