One of the most common questions submitted by newcomers to The Customer Success Forum on LinkedIn is: “What are the best certifications for an aspiring customer success manager?” The intent of the question is very clear: What will help me in getting a new/better job in Customer Success? The reality is that there are no Customer Success certifications that will help you in your job search, easily proven by a quick review of open CS position announcements on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, or other job sites. There are no listings that mention, favor, or require any certifications.
What is a certification? It’s a non-degree award given to those who meet qualifications established by a certifying authority that testifies as to the knowledge, expertise, and/or skills of an individual in a given role or activity. It indicates that the holder is technically qualified for certain positions within the professional field. Certifications may be valid for a certain period or for the life of the holder. There is generally a cost involved in taking the courses required for a certification and/or for taking the test to demonstrate knowledge and competence.
Who are the Certifying Authorities for Customer Success Certifications?
At present, all of the certifying authorities are vendors of training programs who couple the certifications to the completion of their courses.
Two universities are beginning to offer classes in Customer Success and are considering offering degrees in Customer Success. Others are likely to follow. The University of San Francisco and the University of Alabama were the first in the academic world to initiate such instructional programs. USF offers a Career Accelerator Platform in Customer Success Management as part of its MBA program.
What is the Value of a Customer Success Certification?
First, it’s important to make a clear distinction between the training and the certification. The training in Customer Success knowledge and skills has easily recognizable value in increasing the potential effectiveness of the individual. There are a good number of firms offering CS training resources. The Customer Success Association maintains a complete list of all established CS training vendors, see: The Customer Success Training Registry
The certification, however, is focused on impressing a hiring manager. The problem with this scenario is that the hiring managers that the certifying authorities hope to impress have no idea what the various certifications mean other than the completion of a paid training course from vendors whose credibility they may not know well if at all. The universities may come to fare better in this regard, relying as they do on the established reputation of their institutions, but the real test will be in getting the certification listed in announcements of open customer success jobs.
The CSM Competency Standard
The Customer Success Association has published a CSM Competency Standard as a statement of the skills and knowledge expectations of members of a Customer Success team in two directions: to the Customers, and to their Company/ The Standard was developed by a team of senior CS executives, practitioners, trainers, and consultants, and 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 value. 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. Access to the Standard is free to all Associate/free members of the CSA. For more information, click here. For access to the Standard, click here.
Who offers Customer Success Certifications?
The following is a list of vendors of CS certifications. Most are training vendors, two are software or hardware vendors. Some indicate costs and the duration of their certification, others do not. None publish the specifications for their certifications other than completion of the courses. All of the courses are available online. Inclusion in this list does not constitute an endorsement of any vendor, course, or certification by the Customer Success Association.
Cost: $490 Online training. Certification valid for 2 years.
Cost not disclosed. Online courses. Certificate is valid for 3 years, then re-examination is required for renewal
Cost: $75 per month. Online courses. Two levels of certification: CSM and CSM Advanced.
Practical CSM. CCSMP Levels 1-4
Cost: $797 + 20% VAT per year. Online courses. Four levels of certification.
Cost: Not disclosed. Online courses.
Cost: Not disclosed. Online courses.
Cost: Not disclosed. Online courses. 3 levels of certification