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Client Success Manager Career Guide

How to Become a Client Success Manager

The new goal in business is to foster continuous satisfaction, not just the motivation needed to make a single purchase. This means relationship management becomes key for businesses to reinforce that their product or service has ongoing value for the customer. In response, more businesses are switching from a one-time purchase model to recurring revenue or a repeat-sales model. To assist this transition, client relations are evolving too. The success of the relationship that begins between the client and the business after the initial sale is the responsibility of a client success manager.

budget analyst crunching numbers

What Is a Client Success Manager?

A client success manager (CSM), sometimes referred to as a “customer success manager,” acts as a bridge between the business and the client. They focus on customer retention and building long-term relationships. Once a business acquires a new client, it is the responsibility of a client success manager to monitor the client’s happiness and proactively find solutions to concerns before they become complaints. Client success managers utilize a strong sense of customer awareness, problem-solving, mediation, and communication to help businesses reach their goals.

In the tech industry, the revenue of software as a service (SaaS) products, like Dropbox or Salesforce, is just one example of how important client retention can be. Currently, 70-95% of SaaS revenue comes from renewals and upsells of existing clients. These satisfied clients renew and enhance their relationships with a product or service as a result of the dedicated work of client managers. 

What Does a Client Success Manager Do?

The day-to-day duties of a client success manager can range from nurturing client relationships to collaborating with team members. A typical workday may include: 

  • Bridging the gap between sales and customer support: Once a business gains a new client, it’s the responsibility of the CSM to set up and support that client’s experience. A large majority of a client success manager’s time is spent educating and onboarding clients.
  • Ensuring customers get fast time-to-value: A key factor in client management is securing a “win” for the client. For example, if a client purchases an invoice management subscription to help them better organize their business expenses, a client success manager will work to ensure the client achieves a more organized invoice system within the first 30 days after purchase to reinforce the value added for the client. 
  • Keeping clients engaged and regularly using products: Client success managers regularly check in with their clients to keep engagement high. Some clients can lose interest quickly, and a vital part of the CSM and client relationship is keeping the product or service a top priority for the client. 
  • Building customer loyalty and reducing churn: Understanding a customer’s needs and fostering relationships helps to build trust and loyalty to a business’s product or service. Cross-selling and upselling products or services to meet those needs is an important aspect of retaining client loyalty and reducing turnover. 
  • Keeping a "high-level view" of the entire support process: It’s important for CSMs to gain insight from looking at the client experience process as a whole. With this perspective, they can troubleshoot concerns before they become issues and perceive areas of growth in the client-business relationship. 
  • Advocating for customers to the business: Once a client success manager has a strong relationship with the client, they are able to predict what their needs are and how best to meet them. For instance, a CSM might notice that a handful of clients would benefit from an update or additional service and relay that knowledge to product managers. 
  • Resolving customer issues: As they develop a relationship with the client, CSMs are often the ones to hear about and mediate concerns. It’s important that they are proactive in solving these issues to keep the client relationship healthy and thriving. 
  • Fostering a customer-centered team environment: Client success managers act as representatives for the client and their needs. By doing this, they keep the customer as the center of conversations amongst the sales team, development team, support team, and so on.

How Do I Become a Client Success Manager?

The first step to becoming a client success manager is to earn a bachelor’s degree in business or marketing. Either of these programs of study will provide you with knowledge and skills in business communication, project management, marketing, and strategic planning—all of which are important for a career as a client success manager. Next, gaining experience in customer service through internships and working your way up the ranks will develop your knowledge, skills, and hiring potential. If you’re interested in advancing further, then earning an MBA,m aster’s in management (MIM) or a master's degree in marketing degree can increase your expertise and earning potential. Additionally, frequently pursuing professional development opportunities allows you to specialize and show your commitment as a constant learner of the latest trends and changes in management.

Best Degrees for a Client Success Manager

Business Management – B.S. Business Administration

Hone your business acumen and garner added respect:...

Hone your business acumen and garner added...

Hone your business acumen and garner added respect:

  • Time: 68% of graduates finish within 36 months.
  • Tuition: $3,575 per 6-month term.

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Account executive
  • Business analyst
  • Program manager
  • Director or senior director
  • Vice president

This online degree program is an excellent choice for kick-starting your organizational management career.

Marketing – B.S. Business Administration

For those who want to lead brands and steer consumer markets:...

For those who want to lead brands and steer...

For those who want to lead brands and steer consumer markets:

  • Time: 67% of graduates finish within 36 months.
  • Tuition: $3,575 per 6-month term.

Some careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Marketing and PR manager
  • Director of marketing and communications
  • Director of publications
  • Customer intelligence manager
  • Marketing sales manager

Marketing is a creative and exciting field—and one where an undergraduate degree will open better opportunities.

Management and Leadership – M.S.

An online master's degree focused on change management,...

An online master's degree focused on change...

An online master's degree focused on change management, innovation, and leading teams:

  • Time: 62% of graduates finish within 18 months.
  • Tuition: $4,530 per 6-month term.

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • President
  • Vice president
  • Director of operations
  • Executive director

Develop a comprehensive suite of leadership skills and your confidence to navigate changing business structures.

Master of Business Administration

The flexible MBA program you need, focused on business...

The flexible MBA program you need, focused on...

The flexible MBA program you need, focused on business management, strategy, and leading teams:

  • Time: Graduates can finish in 12 months.
  • Tuition: $4,530 per 6-month term.

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • President and CEO
  • Vice president
  • Executive director
  • Chief strategic officer

Our competency-based model gives you an innovative learning experience you won't find anywhere else—and our MBA grads tell us they loved accelerating their program to see a faster ROI.

Marketing – M.S.

Two online marketing master's degree options with a focus on...

Two online marketing master's degree options with...

Two online marketing master's degree options with a focus on either digital marketing or marketing analytics.

  • Time: 70% of grads finish master's programs within 24 months.
  • Tuition: $4,530 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 11 total courses in this program
  • Specializatin: Students choose from two specializations to focus their marketing studies on digital marketing or marketing analytics.

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Marketing manager
  • Marketing analyst
  • Marketing director
  • SEO manager
  • SEM manager
  • Email manager

A marketing master's degree will help you prepare for a wide range of exciting marketing careers.


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What Skills Does a Client Success Manager Need?

A client success manager needs a variety of professional and interpersonal skills, most importantly:

  • Customer awareness
  • Product knowledge
  • Data integration
  • Cross-selling and upselling
  • Creative problem-solving 
  • Active listening
  • Strong digital and in-person communication skills
  • Time management 
  • Strategic planning
  • Adaptability 
  • Empathy and patience
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How Much Does a Client Success Manager Make?

$71,341

According to PayScale, the median annual salary for a client success manager is $71,341, with the lowest 10% earning $49,000 and the highest 10% earning $111,000. Salary is largely dependent on one’s industry and years of experience, with a mid-career CSM (who has five to nine years of experience) earning on average $20,000 more per year than an entry-level CSM.

What Is the Projected Job Outlook?

5%

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of client management is projected to increase by 5% from 2021 to 2031, with 41,900 new jobs expected during that time frame.

Where Does a Client Success Manager Work?

Varies

Given their customer-experience skills, client success managers have the option to work in any industry, with the highest percentage working in wholesale, professional and technical services, finance, and manufacturing.  

Additional FAQs

Yes. Most companies require at least a bachelor’s degree from their CSMs.

No, but many client success managers earn certificates in customer relationship management (CRM) software to deepen their technical knowledge in the field.

On average, it takes four to six years of education and experience to become a client success manager.

Interested in Becoming a Client Success Manager?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this exciting career.

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