The CSM Competency Standard

The first-level CSM Competency Standard is a statement of the skills and knowledge expectations for members of the first level of a Customer Success team in two directions: to their Customers, and to their Company.  The Standard is based on a very specific definition of the role and profession:  Customer Success is a long-term, scientifically designed, and professionally directed business strategy for maximizing customer and company sustainable proven profitability.   Competency specifications for more senior members of the CS team are being developed and will be published later.  The intent for the first level CSM Competency Standard is to create a resource that individuals can use for professional development, and that companies can use for accurate and authentic recruiting and staffing.

The Customer Success Challenge

Four business people standing in front of a mercator world projectionAs a worldwide profession and community, Customer Success has long faced a very substantial challenge: to make who we are and what we do clearly understandable throughout the Company and to our Customers.  Perceptions matter.  If your company thinks that your primary function is reducing churn, then your ability to effectively identify and address the root causes of that churn is necessarily limited while your work largely becomes an endless stream of “Code-Red” exercises.  “Encouraging adoption” is another example of a constricting label despite its fuzziness.  It’s entirely possible for a customer to be using a great deal of an application’s feature set without getting a lot of measurable value — and a customer that is not getting increasing value is very definitely At-Risk of churning.

The beginnings of such misperceptions of the Customer Success profession are often found in the published job descriptions used to attract candidates.  Copying some other company’s job description from LinkedIn and using it for your own is a classic example of the blind leading the blind.  The inevitable result is high turnover and wasted time and money.  As a profession, we can, and must, do better.  As a foundation for accurate role perceptions, career development, and authentic recruiting practices, The Customer Success Association has developed an initial CSM Competency Standard for First Level Customer Success Managers.

To Serve the Customer

The first section of the CSM Competency Standard describes the basic skills and knowledge that are expected of a first level CSM in their work with the customers.  The Skill categories include communication, research, project & time management, data management, account management, and professional development.    The Knowledge categories are concepts and terminology.

To Serve the Company

Working to ensure the customers’ success is only a part of the CSM’s job.  The other part is working for the company’s success.  This may including involvement with various departments such as Marketing, Sales, Professional Services/On-boarding, Development, Product Management, Finance, Support/Service, Training, and Senior Management.  Skills include communication, research, and data management.  The knowledge section includes details about concepts and terminology.

5 golden stars on dark backgroundUsing the CSM Competency Standard

The CSM Competency Standard is freely available to all members of the Customer Success Association and their companies.  Individuals may use it for professional development and preparing job application materials.  Companies are encouraged to use the Standard to create accurate job descriptions for open position announcements and training for their Customer Success team members.  Training companies are welcome to use it for development of training courses.  Companies seeking to create certification programs based on the Standard should contact the Association regarding accreditation policies.

Recommended Reading

The CSM Competency Standard

(You must be logged in as at least an Associate/free CSA member to fully access the Standard.)

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