Drawing Parallels

While the correlation between a Customer Success Manager and a CEO may seem like a bit of a stretch, there are quite a few parallels that can be drawn between the responsibilities of each role. Each role has a proactive nature to it, and requires the ability to harness foresight to handle issues before they become full-fledged problems. People tend to look to each as the leader of their sphere, although of course, the CEO’s sphere is considerable larger, but the CSM’s sphere directly affects the profitability and growth of the company, like the CEO’s.

A CEO is the head of their company, and the face of the company externally. Similarly, for the users in each account, their CSM represents the company and is their personal point of contact. Each speaks for the larger organization and takes on the role of speaking directly to customers, or the customer base as a whole. The CEO has the responsibility of ensuring the company is lead with integrity, revenue is growing, and they’re fiscally responsible, and must have the foresight of vision to listen and execute effectively. Similarly, CSMs have to treat each customer as if they are their own mini-company, and assess their success with the product individually.

Unlikely Allies

When the CEO needs to present to his board, his main ally should be the head of CS because they have access to and clarity about customer data, as well as compelling stories to back up the growth numbers. With the CFO on board as well to verify the facts and figures, they will have all bases covered. It’s one thing to acquire new logos, but it’s another endeavor entirely to retain existing customers and expand them productively.

Much like a CEO of any company, the Customer Success Manager is the CEO of their accounts. The same level of attention, focus and execution must happen at the CSM level for their set of accounts as must occur at the CEO level when overseeing, not only the customer base and investors, but also the various internal departments of the company like Marketing, Engineering, Product and more. A 360 degree view of all the moving parts is critical for both the CEO and CSM and can be useful to keep up to date on progress on all fronts.

CEO vs. CSM

CSMs are responsible for much of the same activities and have interactions across several customer business units internally and externally. These fundamental traits of a successful CEO are true in the CSM role – much as the CEO is the conductor of the orchestra, so is the Customer Success Manager for their accounts.

CEOs are leaders of the Company and CSMs are CEOs of their account. Just like CEOs are responsible for ensuring the enduring health and growth of their company, so are CSMs responsible for the health and expansion of their accounts. If CSMs truly engage with their customers, understand their role, drive issues, listen, influence and execute like a CEO for the accounts they own – they will be a successful CEO for their customers.

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