Customer Success Management Strategies & Best Practices


Customer Success management is an important part of a Customer Success team and becomes vital in the transition from sales to support.

What is the role of a CSM?

The role of a Customer Success manager, or CSM, is to help customers through the transition from leads and sales prospects to actual users of the product or service. CSMs focus on loyalty and relationships over customer service needs.

What Exactly is Customer Success?

Simply put, customer success is a proactive approach to answering clients questions, resolving challenges, and providing solutions. This approach guides the users through your product while keeping their unique goals and objectives in mind.

Customer Success managers continuously look for new ways to provide value to users and are seen more as trusted advisors than support staff. Customer Success management plays a vital role in combating churn, improving retention, and increasing the overall lifetime value of the customer.

What Does a Customer Success Manager Do?

Customer Success managers focus on adding value and reducing churn by developing personalized solutions that match the client’s needs and goals. You can think of a CSM as a white-glove support and sales role hybrid.

Many people often confuse customer success with customer support, when in fact both roles are very different. Customer Success managers take a proactive approach to resolve issues, develop long-term relationships, and ensure the users receives value from the product.

On the contrary, customer support is a reactive process that focuses on resolving individual problems in the short term. For example, support may help a person access a particular feature, but fail to understand if that feature aligns with their goals and expected outcomes using the product. For a deeper dive into these differences, please read our blogpost Customer Success vs Customer Support: Advocacy Champions.

The goals of a CSM can include:

  • Empowering customers to use the right features for their goals

  • Helping reduce churn by working with customers that may not renew

  • Shortening the onboarding process

  • Identifying upsell opportunities when appropriate

What Makes a Good Customer Success Manager?

A good CSM has a unique mixture of soft and hard skills that allows them to develop relationships with customers, and pair customer goals with different solutions. This requires a deep working knowledge of the product as well as a strong bond between the client and the success manager.

Soft skills are incredibly important as a CSM. The customer needs to know that the CSM has their best interest in mind when recommending solutions or additional product upgrades. Without this trust between the customer and CSM, recommendations designed to help the client achieve their goals may be ignored or cause friction.

Below are a few key traits of a great CSM:

  • Has a deep understanding of the product, its value, and the outcome it delivers

  • Is proactive in addressing questions, resolving issues, and general communication

  • Can understand clients needs and goals

  • Can develop long term relationships beyond simple rapport

  • Has strong leadership skills - is considered a self-starter

  • Can empathize with the customer and put their needs first

There are several important metrics to consider when evaluating the success of the work of a CSM. Some of the most common are churn, upsell, net revenue retention and gross revenue retention. Other important metrics are:

  • Customer effort (CES) – This measures how much effort it takes for a client to get an issue resolved, a request filled, or a question answered.

  • Customer lifetime value (LTV) – This measures the total worth of a customer to your business over their entire relationship with your company. This is a key metric because it costs less to retain existing users than to acquire new ones.

  • Customer health – You can use this metric to determine whether your users are healthy or at risk of churning. Paying attention to this metric helps managers identify and mitigate risks before they escalate.

Customer Success Management Best Practices

While your Customer Success strategy may vary, there are a few core best practices you can follow to help retain clients longer and increase their lifetime value across your products.


Adoption is the earliest stage in the customer journey and often requires the most amount of listening and training. In the adoption process, listen to what outcome the client wants by using the product, and determine the goals they need to achieve to make that happen.

If your clients cannot see value in the product or service, they will likely churn quickly. An expedited and smooth onboarding process can increase the time to value for the customer and eliminate unnecessary pain points early on in the relationship.

Lastly, for some products training might be needed. This can be group coaching calls, interactive video lessons, or easy-to-follow documentation. More complicated products tend to require more personalized training. While this can take time, it improves the chances a new customer will stick with the product for the long term.


Retention is vital in reducing churn and hinges on ensuring that the product can meet the customers evolving needs. CSMs can build KPIs and other metrics and track their users against them. This helps gauge the success of your CSM strategy as well as highlights customers that might be trending in the wrong direction.

Regular check-ins with users ensure that the product is still meeting their expectations and open the door to talk about new features that could help them achieve their goals faster. As users dive deeper into the product they may have more questions or need assistance with integrations and other features. Make sure these issues are addressed as promptly as possible.


The expansion stage helps pair your customer’s additional needs with your products and services. This helps them achieve additional success and increases their spend with you over time. Expansion doesn’t have to feel like a hard sell, especially if the CSM has built trust during the course of the relationship. Good expansion opportunities will make immediate sense to the customer and are designed to scale overtime if needed.

This could be a direct upgrade, such as more cloud storage per month. Or perhaps an additional service such as consulting. Quarterly meetings and other touchpoints serve as a natural place to offer expansion services when appropriate.


Turning clients into advocates takes time, but is well worth the wait. When organizations make big purchases, they often ask for recommendations. The more advocates you have, the more sales you’ll generate through word of mouth and referrals.

Most people won’t know how to be advocates, even when they want to be. With some guidance, you can generate an entirely new line of leads and businesses from advocacy alone. One of the easiest ways to promote advocacy is to simply ask your best clients for reviews or referrals.

Case studies and testimonials are another powerful way your existing customers can help you generate new businesses. This form of social proof can be used for lead generation on the company website, or put inside of paid advertising and landing pages to help increase top of funnel conversions.

How Planhat can help

Planhat makes customer success simple through elegant design, easy-to-use templates, and powerful analytics. Planhat takes the guesswork out of tracking customer happiness and churn rate by consolidating your user data in a single platform.

Planhat also provides a unified view of your customers all in one place, identifies risks and opportunities, creates clear, repeatable processes through the customer lifecycle, and offers multi-channel communication as well as customized inboxes for teams.

With Planhat Portals, it is possible to share success plans, playbooks, dashboards, goals, documents, and align on business goals with your clients in a branded Customer Portal.

Altogether, Planhat is a complete Customer platform that lets you track the KPIs that matter the most for the future growth of your business.

To find out more:

Planhat Experts: 3 Visions for the Future of Customer Success

Join our end of year panel as they discuss how they believe Customer Success needs to change in 2022 and beyond.

How Customer Retention Can Drive Your Sales

Customer retention isn't just a pretty metric to throw around but a key measurement on how well your business is doing and how to improve your sales.

How to build effective health scores

Our host Anika Zubair chats with Andrew Marks, Co-Founder of SuccessHACKER, about how to build effective health scores.

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