10 Key Customer Success Roles and Responsibilities for SaaS CS Managers

10 Key Customer Success Roles and Responsibilities for SaaS CS Managers cover

Since customer success roles are relatively new, companies don’t always have a clear idea of what responsibilities are appropriate for a customer success manager (CSM).

As a result, customer success managers end up with more tasks than they can handle—making it harder to focus on helping users engage with the product and achieve success.

So whether you’re hiring for a customer success (CS) position or applying for a role in this department, this guide will give you clarity on what CS managers do and how to make the most out of your time.

TL;DR

  • Customer success ensures customers get their desired outcome when using your product. And it mainly involves increasing retention, preventing churn, building loyalty, and generating account expansion revenue.
  • The customer success manager role involves building deep relationships with customers by handholding them throughout the user journey, understanding their needs, and engaging them with your product. However, your specific tasks will drastically depend on your product, company, and clients.
  • Although CS and support offer customer assistance, CS is more about helping users proactively and building long-term relationships.
  • Some soft skills required for a customer success manager position include leadership, problem-solving, communication, empathy, industry knowledge, technical savviness, and collaboration.
  • Customer success teams are responsible for ensuring your customers achieve their desired outcomes while using your product. Which involves:
  1. Managing churn and increasing customer retention
  2. Creating a minimum-viable onboarding process with in-app guidance
  3. Educating customers with in-app help and improving customer experience
  4. Driving account expansion with contextual offers and growing lifetime value
  5. Collecting customer feedback and closing feedback loops
  6. Building relationships by providing consistent value and fostering customer loyalty
  7. Mapping customer success journeys to spot and remove friction
  8. Building and implementing the right customer success playbook
  9. Liaising with the sales team to understand customer needs
  10. Liaising with the marketing team for better user insights
  • Userpilot can help you:
  1. Track user milestones at each stage to spot and remove friction
  2. Personalize in-app experiences based on specific segments and in-app behavior
  3. Conduct in-app microsurveys and NPS surveys for quantitative and qualitative research
  4. Create an in-app help center, so users don’t have to leave your product to get help
  • Get a Userpilot demo and see how you can make your customer success work easier.

What is customer success?

Customer success is the practice of ensuring customers get their desired outcome when using your SaaS.

Customer success goals include increasing customer retention, preventing churn, building loyalty, and expanding satisfaction with the product.

What does a customer success manager do?

To ensure success, a good customer success manager needs to build deep relationships with customers by handholding them throughout the user journey.

Or as Elise Marengo—Userpilot’s Head of Customer Success—explains:

“The relationship between a CSM and a customer should be based on two-way communication. You should strive to learn as much about the customer and their needs, as you teach them about your product and its functionality.” – Elise Marengo- Head of Customer Success at Userpilot

customer success roles quote elise marengo
Quote from Elise Marengo of Userpilot.

However, your exact tasks as a CSM will drastically depend on your product, your company’s stage, and the type of clients you have to support.

Sometimes you’d spend most of your time on calls with clients.

But in other companies (particularly in SaaS), you need to rely on in-app communication and automation to scale customer success to every user.

Customer success teams vs. customer support teams

Although CS and support teams overlap in having to assist users regularly, their differences are very noticeable:

  • Customer success is more relationship-driven, strategic, and analytical. While support is more tactical and there’s often no room to nurture long-term relationships.
  • CSMs can leverage personal relationships to provide strategies and offer contextual account expansions, renewals, upsells, and so on (which support can’t do).
  • Although proactive support is a thing, support teams tend to be reactive. In comparison, customer success is more proactive in preventing problems and solving them before they happen.

Customer success managers’ soft skills and qualifications

To perform well as a CSM, you need a good set of soft skills that are required for getting (and retaining) this job, including:

  • Leadership. To lead customer success initiatives that will help achieve goals faster.
  • Problem-solving. Since your time will be spent solving users’ obstacles and selling them the right solutions.
  • Communication. Since this is a very client-facing job, your ability to communicate effectively is essential to perform well.
  • Empathy. Which you’ll need if you want to understand your customers.
  • Industry knowledge. To be helpful, you must familiarize yourself with your customer’s business model and common pain points.
  • Technical savviness. So you can deeply understand your product and ensure that users are on the right track.
  • Collaboration. The best customer success teams regularly collaborate with sales, marketing, and support teams to interchange data and create more thoughtful strategies.

Now, what are your exact responsibilities once you get into this role?

10 Key responsibilities of a customer success team in SaaS companies

Customer success teams are responsible for ensuring your customers achieve their desired outcomes while using your product. Which involves:

  1. Churn management and customer retention
  2. Creating a minimum-viable onboarding process
  3. Educating customers and improving customer experience
  4. Driving account expansion and increasing lifetime value
  5. Collecting customer feedback and closing feedback loops
  6. Build customer relationships and drive loyalty
  7. Mapping customer success journeys and removing friction
  8. Building and implementing the right customer success playbook
  9. Liaising with the sales team to understand customer needs
  10. Liaising with the marketing team for better user insights

Editor’s note: You might also want to read our article on the customer success playbook here.

Now let’s go over each of the responsibilities.

1. Churn management and customer retention

A customer that churns is a customer that didn’t achieve success.

Hence, a CSM’s top priority is to prevent churn as much as possible.

The best way to prevent churn is with proactive engagement, anticipating the customer’s needs and solving problems before they happen, ultimately increasing customer retention.

For this, you need to use data to understand what drives users to engage, track churn rates, and then act on it.

For example, you can use a user engagement tool to track feature engagement and reach out to users who are not using core features.

customer success roles tracking feature egnagement
Tagging product features to track on Userpilot.

2. Customer success teams are responsible for the minimum viable onboarding process

User onboarding plays an essential customer success role.

But a common onboarding mistake is to get the user into a long product tour before they can experience the value of your product. It might feel like the right thing to do at first, but it only generates friction and rarely provides the user value.

The onboarding process doesn’t have to be long. It must guide users on the shortest path to success—and you do this with minimum-viable onboarding.

The goal is simple: getting users to the activation point as soon as possible.

For example, you can show in-app help like a short “getting started” checklist once the user signs up:

customer success role onboarding checklist
Onboarding checklist example with Userpilot.

3. Educate customers and improve customer experience

As a CSM, educating users about your product is a never-ending activity.

When it comes to product education, you can guide users with in-app guides, video tutorials, and a knowledge base. Or also with 1-on-1 strategy sessions, where you can personalize your customer’s path to success.

Ultimately, the best channels will depend on your customer engagement model.

Product education also ensures users adopt new features when you launch them by showing widgets such as tooltips, hotspots, and modals inside your app.

For example, you can announce a training webinar inside your product by including a banner that doesn’t disrupt the customer experience:

customer success roles announcement banner
Announcement banner example.

4. Driving account expansion and increasing lifetime value

As customers progress through their journey, it’s your job as a CSM to understand when and how an account expansion would be beneficial.

This means you’re responsible for generating revenue with account expansions.

It might sound like a big responsibility on your shoulders, but the good news is that you only need to offer an account expansion when the user truly needs it (no need to push for it).

Like in this upselling example, Loom asks you to upgrade when you’re using their free plan to its limits.

customer success roles upsell example
Loom upgrade offer example.

And this isn’t the only way. You can find more tactics on how to drive account expansion in our video:

5. Collecting customer feedback and closing the feedback loop

As a CSM, you need to collect both active and passive feedback so you can:

  • Identify what generates the most friction.
  • Check how satisfied your customers are with your product.
  • Understand what’s making users churn.
  • Improve your product continuously through the feedback loop and increase customer satisfaction.

There’re many channels to collect feedback, such as NPS surveys, customer satisfaction surveys, in-app feature surveys, reviews, and more—think of this Hubspot onboarding survey as a good example:

customer success hubspot onboarding survey example
Hubspot onboarding survey example.

6. Build relationships and drive customer loyalty

Customer loyalty is only achieved when users succeed.

This is why building trust with customers and fostering loyalty is vital for a CSM. And although other teams also help with loyalty by implementing loyalty programs and rewards (nothing wrong with this), most customer success teams focus more on the product experience.

Why? Because personalization can go a long way when building relationships.

You can segment your users based on in-app activity and events and then offer hyper-personalized guidance and relevant content that helps users stick with your product and convert into loyal customers.

customer success flows personalization userpilot
Targeting flows on Userpilot.

7. Mapping customer success journeys and removing friction

Since your job as a CSM is to drive customers through the shortest path to success, you need a clear roadmap to know how to achieve goals repeatedly.

That’s why you must build a customer success journey map.

customer success adoption journey map
User adoption journey map.

The goal of your journey map isn’t only to help users get from one milestone to the next. It also allows you to identify and remove friction whenever the user faces an obstacle.

8. Building and implementing the right customer success playbook

Mapping the user journey isn’t enough. You also need to create a customer success playbook to put it into use. Just like this user activation playbook example:

customer success activation playbook example
User activation playbook example.

However, a common mistake when implementing playbooks is not knowing how to handle automation. So which processes should you automate, and what should be in person?

The reality is that it depends on how complex your product is.

But in short: Unless your product is too simple (for a low-touch model) or too complex (for a B2B high-touch model), a tech-touch model will offer the right balance between automation and personal interactions for your SaaS.

9. Liaising with the sales team to understand customer needs

The best customer success teams collaborate with sales. And the reason is simple:

Your sales team knows your customers better than you.

That’s why it’s crucial to have regular communication with a sales rep so you can understand:

  • The needs your customers have.
  • Which objections are often present in their mind.
  • Their goals with your product.

With this, you can do a better job in helping them succeed.

10. Liaising with the marketing team for better user insights

Marketing and CS can collaborate to do customer research and understand your user persona better.

This way, you can give insights on who are the best customers to the marketers, and marketing can focus on generating leads with great customer fit.

For more intimate collaboration, you can share the same CRM, so everyone is on the same page—or even use other customer success tools to collect data and automate actions.

How Userpilot can help customer success managers increase customer satisfaction and drive success

As a CSM, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the tasks on your plate.

That’s why it’s essential to use customer success software, so you can save time and focus on important tasks.

Here’s how Userpilot can help your CS team achieve your goals.

Track and analyze how customers progress through the journey

If you built a detailed customer journey map, you can track how users reach specific milestones by setting goals for each stage:

customer success roles tracking milestones
Tracking milestones on Userpilot.

Here, you can spot where friction is and then fix it, so users get from one milestone to the next without requiring your assistance (thus saving your time).

Automate customer education with in-app training

If you already have the resources to educate users about your product, you can personalize in-app experiences based on specific segments and in-app behavior.

With Userpilot, you can create flows and choose specific triggers in order to make sure you reach the right users.

customer success flows personalization userpilot
Personalizing flows on Userpilot.

Collect customer feedback and understand user sentiment

If you were looking for ways to collect feedback, Userpilot has many options.

One is to create microsurveys to ask users for feedback at each touchpoint.

But more than that, you can also conduct quantitative and qualitative research with NPS surveys:

customer success nps surveys userpilot
Creating NPS surveys on Userpilot.

After collecting the customer data, tag your NPS responses from the open-ended question to identify what makes a customer a promoter or a detractor.

customer success NPS tags userpilot
Tagging NPS responses on Userpilot.

Provide support 24/7 with a self-service help center

If you’ve been creating helpful tutorials and guides, you can use Userpilot to implement self-service support.

This means adding an in-app help center where users can have access to support without leaving the product—reducing friction whenever a customer faces a problem.

customer success in app resource center
In-app resource center demonstration on Userpilot.

Conclusion

Customer success is a fast-growing career and will likely have more demand in the future.

That’s why you need to embrace good practices as a CSM—so you can stand out and secure your job.

So if you want to excel at customer success, get an Userpilot demo and see how you can make your job easier.

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