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What are the most important soft and hard skills customer success managers can build to become successful in their field going forward?

Manil Vasantha
Manil Vasantha
Freelance Information Technology ConsultantJanuary 17

Communication and mental fortitude are essential soft skills, and Product and Industry knowledge are essential hard skills one must have as a core strength.

Customer Success Associates/Customer Success Managers/Director Customer Success - all need to have or eventually have some essential soft skills.

• Communication: (both skills of speaking and active listing)

• Verbal: the ability to communicate clearly in an individual or group setting.

• Non-Verbal: In conversation with the customer - 1:1 or group setting- non-verbal cues play an essential role: body language, Facial expression, and Vocal tone.

• Witten: the ability to communicate Cleary in any written communication.

• Listening: There is a reason why we have two ears and one month. We need to listen twice as much.

• Interpersonal: Build and maintain relationships with diverse folks from different cultures and countries.

• Emotional intelligence: We are often told to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes. Understanding and managing emotions in oneself and others is crucial for effective conflict resolution, active listening, and building trust.

• Mental-fortitude: Innate, ingrained desire to help others unconditionally. We may have a crisis on hand - production outage, DevOPS, Engineering, and Customer pulling their hair - the sky is falling, and indeed, financial loss - YOU are the calmest person in the room.

• Navigation skills: You need to be a master negotiator. You will not win every battle, nor can or should you expect PM to accept all your ER to be approved; there are other CSMs and new logos that will take precedence. What do you do, you bring your charm to work—your negotiation skills.

• Adaptability: Today’s world is changing. Change is the ONLY constant. The ability to adjust to changing customer needs and priorities and to be flexible in finding solutions.

• Problem-solving skills: No one, including the customer, expects you to have all the answers. The ability to quickly and effectively identify and resolve customer issues is crucial for maintaining customer satisfaction, loyalty, and long-term engagement.

• Assertiveness and Persistence - the customer is NOT ignoring you. They are just busy and have other priorities. Being persistent and assertive - get your attention WHEN required. Remember - the customer is not available cannot be an excuse.

• Knowledge of Tools (soft and hard skills): CRM (Jira/SFDC/HubSpot/Zoho etc.),, Gainsight. Analytical Tools like Tableau, SAS/ PowerBI, and Google Analytics. You should get some training as part of your onboarding; however, self-help is the best help.

As for hard skills, some key areas that customer success managers should focus on include:

• Product knowledge: a deep understanding of the product or service can help customer success managers troubleshoot and provide solutions to customer issues. This is tactical. But CSMs must also engage very closely with Product Management and Product Marketing. They must be up to speed on new products in the pipeline. Identify both very and horizontals of the product suite. Pick the impacted “diamond” customer and bring them into the steering meeting to help influence product direction. This is sure to keep the customer engaged and a promoter.

• Technical skills: navigating technical tools and software used in customer support and engagement. This is still tactical, but engaging with TS and moving your customers’ cases will be an excellent tool to help alleviate any relationship issue.

• Analytical skills/Data analysis: the ability to analyze customer data and metrics to identify trends and opportunities for improvement. Data should contain how customers utilize every channel offered as part of their QBR.

• Project management: the ability to manage customer projects and initiatives effectively to ensure timely delivery and customer satisfaction.

• Industry knowledge: the ability to stay current on industry developments and trends, as well as an understanding of best practices in customer success management. Remember, change occurs faster than we can handle - which means we need to be up to speed on the nature of the customer’s business - educate him even on what the competition offers and how you differentiate. Progressive Insurance model, if giving their insurance quote and their competition quote, clearly shows how they differentiate themselves from the competition. And also demonstrates their superior service.

Meenal Shukla
Meenal Shukla
Gainsight Senior Director of Customer SuccessJune 1

Customer Success Managers (CSMs) require a combination of soft and hard skills to be successful in their roles. As we move forward into a world that is becoming increasingly digital and customer-centric, these skills become even more crucial.

Soft Skills

  1. Communication: Exceptional verbal and written communication skills are crucial. A CSM needs to articulate solutions clearly, know how to write effective emails, and manage conversations with a variety of stakeholders.

  2. Empathy: Understanding customer needs and feelings is key to building strong relationships. Empathy allows you to anticipate issues and address them proactively.

  3. Problem-Solving: Customers will bring problems; it's the CSM's role to find solutions. Being able to think critically and creatively to navigate challenges is important.

  4. Active Listening: Listening to what the customer is saying, and also picking up on what's left unsaid, is crucial for understanding their needs.

  5. Relationship Building: Building and maintaining strong relationships with customers helps ensure their loyalty and satisfaction.

  6. Adaptability: Customer needs and circumstances can change rapidly. Being flexible and adaptable is key to navigating these changes effectively.

  7. Patience: Dealing with frustrated customers or complex problems requires a high level of patience.

Hard Skills

  1. Product Knowledge: Thorough understanding of the product or service is essential to troubleshoot issues and educate customers effectively.

  2. Technical Skills: Depending on the product or service, some level of technical knowledge might be necessary. This could range from understanding software platforms to having knowledge of specific technical products.

  3. Data Analysis: The ability to analyze and interpret customer data can help you understand customer behavior, identify trends or issues, and make data-driven decisions.

  4. Project Management: Managing multiple accounts or projects, prioritizing tasks, and keeping track of deadlines is important for a CSM role.

  5. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software: Proficiency in using CRM software, like Salesforce or HubSpot, is often a requirement in customer success roles. These tools help manage customer relationships and track interactions over time.

  6. Sales and Marketing Knowledge: Understanding the principles of sales and marketing can help CSMs identify opportunities for upselling or cross-selling, as well as better understand the customer journey.

Remember, being a CSM is about more than just having the right skills; it's also about having the right mindset. A customer-centric approach and a genuine desire to help customers succeed are what truly set the best CSMs apart.

Natasha Evans
Natasha Evans
Hook Head of CustomerApril 25

Soft skills

  • Communication - (This is everything from how to communicate with an Executive, to how to deliver a training session, how to manage expectations with customers in the right way and get their buy-in to a Success Plan)

  • Organisation & prioritisation - More and more is expected of CSMs as the role progresses, balancing time and workload effectively and focusing on the right customers at the right time is key

  • Storytelling with data - As we get more and more data heavy, CSMs need to be able to interpret the data into insight for their customers and explain it in a way that the customer is able to understand and take action, to influence their goals

Hard skills

  • Change management

  • Project management

  • And increasingly tech expertise in CRMs, CS tech (like Hook!) and Sales Engagement software

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