If you enjoy a mix of technical and client work, being a technical customer success manager might be the job for you. James Harding MBCS explores what a TCSM is and how to become one.

In recent years, with the advancement of cloud based software-as-a-services (SaaS), customer success as a discipline has seen substantial growth. A department whose North Star metric is net retention and thrives on building successful customer relationships.

In 2005, Salesforce was seeing exceptional growth, however, tucked behind the impressive graphs of new customers, was the graph showing customer retention. To use an analogy, the sales team was filling a bucket with a big hole in the bottom.

Salesforce recognised this wasn't a sustainable model and needed to do something to address the issue. Enter the 'customers for life' team, Salesforces' very own customer success team. Although often credited for the birth of customer success, they weren't responsible for its birth, but they are, arguably, responsible for making the practice mainstream.

Customer success specialist

In 2020, the customer success specialist job role came in sixth place in the LinkedIn 2020 Emerging Jobs Report. A customer success manager (CSM), is primarily responsible for customer retention. However, a CSM will typically be responsible for a number of KPIs relating to their customers. These often include metrics such as:

  • Net revenue retention (NRR) - Keeping the revenue that comes from existing customers the same or higher.
  • Net promoter score (NPS) - How customers rate their likelihood to recommend your business on a scale out of 10.
  • Annual recurring revenue (ARR) - The revenue generated from each customer per year.
  • Customer satisfaction score (CSAT) - How satisfied are they as a customer of yours?

The boundary of the role often varies, with some CSMs responsible for renewals and others passing this responsibility over to sales or an account manager.

Technical customer success manager

With the vast growth of customer success, topped with the additional statistic that 72% of customer success specialists work in the software & IT industry, it is not surprising that the role of technical customer success manager has surfaced. Add into the mix PaaS (platform-as-a-service) and IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service), you can see why some businesses have a requirement for technical customer success managers.

For you

Be part of something bigger, join the Chartered Institute for IT.

Similar to a traditional customer success manager, a technical customer success manager's main objective is to retain customers. However, the additional technical depth that they possess enables them to have more technical conversations with clients.

It means they might be able to answer more technical questions on customer calls and potentially identify more technical add-on sales opportunities. This is especially the case with more technical products, demanding customer configurations, or bespoke integrations.

Technical customer success managers can be particularly effective if they are working in different regions or time zones to the main technical resource or support teams. The ability to provide a customer with an interim resolution or workaround while waiting for an office on the other side of the world to respond to the customer can be worth its weight in gold come time for renewal.

What does the technical aspect of the role involve?

From personal experience, the technical aspect of the role is usually around 20%. This is very role dependent, but can include writing technical scopes, configuring or adjusting customer configurations / integrations, advising on APIs, authentication methods, security, or system architecture.

It typically depends on the needs of the business and the scope of your technical skillset. Some companies have both CSMs and TPS (technical product specialists) so there is less of a need. If a business just has CSMs and some support resource, there is often the need to bridge that potential technical gap.

Summary

If you enjoy a mixture of technical work and building strong customer relationships, then I would thoroughly recommend pursuing a career as a technical customer success manager. It took me a while to find the career path that allowed me to have the right balance and challenges in relationship building and solving customer problems through tech.

About the author

James Harding’s passion is customer success and he is involved in a number of UK and US CS communities. He enjoys building strong relationships with clients and working with them to achieve their outcomes.