Levels & Progression of CSMs

Matt Myszkowski
Matt Myszkowski Member Posts: 143 Expert
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edited August 10 in CS Org Conversations

One area of thinking for me in the 2nd half of the year is how we structure our CSM team in terms of seniority and the relevant career progress within role.

I am thinking:

  • Entry/junior : Customer Success Manager
  • Mid : Senior Customer Success Manager
  • Experienced : Customer Success Director 

What does everyone else do or what suggestions do you have?


  • Brian Hartley
    Brian Hartley Member Posts: 185 Expert
    100 Comments First Anniversary
    edited July 2020

    Hey @Matt Myszkowski , I inherited a structure and have iterated it a little bit.  Probably a bit non-traditional but here is ours (team of 7, very small):


    • Entry/1-3 years: Customer Success Associate
    • Mid/3-5 years: Customer Success Consultant
    • Mid+/3-7 years: Customer Success Manager
    • Experienced: Senior Customer Success Manager
    • Experienced/10+: Customer Success Director
  • Sharmila Nandwani- Nigam
    Sharmila Nandwani- Nigam Member Posts: 6 Seeker
    edited July 2020

    This is great to know, I would be in the category of Senior CSM- but would this role be a management role- managing the team of Entry till Mid+3-7?  I am in questioning phase of my career and opening my options and looking for a management role to advance my career. In my search, it is hard to determine the difference between CSM and SCSM as I want a team leading manager role, not be a Senior CSM what handles the large revenue accounts. 

  • Matt Myszkowski
    Matt Myszkowski Member Posts: 143 Expert
    100 Comments Second Anniversary Photogenic
    edited July 2020

    Thanks @Brian Hartley - is setting by experience (years) your preference over competency/skills/results?

  • Marco Innocenti
    Marco Innocenti Member Posts: 18 Thought Leader
    Second Anniversary
    edited July 2020

    Customer Success Advisor - New to CS as a whole, focused on our tech touch accounts

    Customer Success Manager - 3-7 years experience

    Experienced: Senior Customer Success Manager

    Experienced with growth:  Customer Success Manager, Lead

    Leadership: Manager, Customer Success

  • Travis Wheeler
    Travis Wheeler Member Posts: 18 Thought Leader
    edited July 2020

    Our structure is split between three main groups (Corporate vs Mid-Market vs Enterprise) which each have their own title distinctions:

    Corporate: Companies up to $250M in revenue

    Customer Value Manager: All roles currently 


    Mid Market: Managing companies with revenue from $250M to $1B approx.

    Customer Value Manager: Entry 

    Senior Manager, Customer Value: 2-3 years in CVM role with the company, or may be attained quicker if the person comes from a customer focused background such as Account Management or Sales. Mainly looking for product competency and EQ. 

    Director, Customer Value: Idea would be that this person would have a team of 4-6 CVMs. (we are not quite here yet, but is the title plan to scale. 


    Enterprise: Managing companies with revenue over $1B 

    Director of Customer Value: Entry, but In order to get this role you have to have had 8+ years of direct CSM/AM experience. Normally at least 2-3 with companies over $1B unless promoted internally from Mid Market Group. 

    Senior Director, Customer Value: Team lead of 3-5 Enterprise CVMs


    -We notice that in our Mid Market group the background of the entry level varies much more. Some from support, account management, Project management, sales, etc. Thus, it can take more time to get folks the "soft skills" to handle the role, as well as build the ability to handle the demand from customers. 

    -We notice that in our enterprise group we actually get a fair amount of CVMs/CSMs that come from consulting where they led our deployments or they were Engagement managers helping to oversee multiple deployments of our solution. Otherwise, they come from our competitors where they were CSMs/AMs.


  • Clint Kelson
    Clint Kelson Member Posts: 8 Seeker
    edited July 2020

    From what I've seen in my experience, it can depend on your customer base and teams you create. 

    Early on we had all new hires as CSM's (back in 2013). We then built out two different teams, SMB CSM team called Priority Services CSM and another called Enterprise CSM's. We then moved on to create a role for our largest customers and instead of Senior - we went with Strategic CSM. 

    In addition - I built an onboarding CSM team that focused on the onboarding, rollout and adoption of the customers during their 1st year, that's what they specialized in so they were Onboarding Specialist CSM's. They would then transition the account to our SMB CSM team (Priority Services) who managed large amounts of customers as a team for the life of their contract after they had been successfully set up.  

    I think you can get creative with job opportunities - it just depends on your company, your product, the needs of the CSM and how it pertains to the customer and how you can get the most out of that role. 

    Hope that helps to some degree :) 

  • Brian Hartley
    Brian Hartley Member Posts: 185 Expert
    100 Comments First Anniversary
    edited July 2020

    Great question @Matt Myszkowski .  I would prefer competency/skills over years but sometimes the two are tied together.  I am not opposed to hiring someone with 1-3 years but is an absolute talent and plugging them in at the appropriate level, i.e. CSM.  However, once folks on my team are in the door I don't use "years" at the company as a proxy to promote - always go back to skills/competency/etc.  I feel like all to often people translate years at company into automatic promotions....not so much.

  • Ronald Krisak
    Ronald Krisak Member Posts: 48 Expert
    Second Anniversary
    edited July 2020

    Does anyone factor CSM certification programs or other educational requirements as one progresses up the levels within a Customer Success Org?

  • Elizabeth Doherty
    Elizabeth Doherty Member Posts: 1 Navigator
    Second Anniversary
    edited July 2020

    I love this question, I'm always looking for new ways to establish a career path for my team. I've found success in using the below, with each level requiring a specific set of achievements. I loosely gauge it on years, but mostly focus on competency/skills/results:

    1 year: CSM I

    1-3 years: CSM II

    3-5 years: CSM III

    5-7 years: CSM IV

    7-10 years: Manager/Team Lead

    10+ years: Director

  • Travis Wheeler
    Travis Wheeler Member Posts: 18 Thought Leader
    edited July 2020

    We have a product certification that all CSMs go through, but nothing formal beyond that. I think it would be great to include though!

  • Ashton Liu
    Ashton Liu Member Posts: 30 Expert
    Second Anniversary 10 Comments
    edited July 2020

    While my organization uses a similar structure to what many are using (analyst > manager > senior manager > director etc.), our field is highly dependent upon domain expertise. In practice, it's very difficult to go from an entry level position to a director level due to this reason. Realistically, in order to go from a manager to a director I would have to leave, get several years of experience in the industry, then come back. Industry certifications are fine, but they're far from sufficient. It can be frustrating for junior members of the team. Have others encountered similar challenges? 

  • Alex Farmer
    Alex Farmer Member Posts: 63 Expert
    Third Anniversary 10 Comments Photogenic GGR Blogger 2021
    edited July 2020

    Depends how valuable the customers are.  For high-touch I get Director is the right fit for most senior folks.  But for mid and low touch, I've seen:

    • Junior: Customer Success Specialist/Associate
    • Mid: Customer Success Manager
    • Senior: Sr or Strategic Customer Success Manager
  • Paul Mason
    Paul Mason Member Posts: 9 Seeker
    Third Anniversary Photogenic
    edited July 2020

    In my experience, most companies do not do a good job differentiating the CSM role based on experience, and often times the title has more so with how long someone has been at that company vs total experience. 

    If I was starting a team I would do it (with the roles below), however, I see many companies where everyone on the team is just a CSM because the company hires only CSM's with 7+ years experience. Having been everything from a CSM to Sr Customer Success Director in the past (all of which are essentially the same role with a different book of business) I would stay away from the Customer Success Director title (unless they are leading the team) since it is confusing for many.

    • Junior: Customer Success Associate
    • Mid: Customer Success Manager
    • Experienced: Senior/Enterprise Customer Success Manager


  • Joseph Beker
    Joseph Beker Member Posts: 5 Seeker
    Second Anniversary
    edited July 2020

    We use this model:

    • Junior: Associate Customer Success Manager
    • Entry: Customer Success Manager
    • Mid: Senior Customer Success Manager
    • Experienced: Principal Customer Success Manager 
  • Jeremy Donaldson
    Jeremy Donaldson Member Posts: 71 Expert
    Second Anniversary 5 Comments Office Hours Host 2022
    edited July 2020

    @Matt Myszkowski We use the following structure:

    • Entry "tech touch": Customer Success Associate
    • Mid-market: Customer Success Manager
    • Enterprise: Sr. Customer Success Manager
    • Strategic / Major Accounts: Principle Customer Success Manager

    The next step for us is to create a formal Team Lead position that is hybrid accounts and people management. No official timeline yet.

  • Kath Reuben
    Kath Reuben Member Posts: 4 Navigator
    edited July 2020

    I'm in a scaling SAAS company and we have the following structure:

    Customer Success Team  (low touch or non Corporate Accounts) 

    • Entry-Mid Market: Customer Success Manager
      High value, non Corporate: Senior Customer Success Manager

    Key Accounts Team (Corporate/Enterprise/Major Accounts)

    • Senior Customer Success Manager

    I'm the Team Lead for the Key Accounts team and I manage the team and hold a small portfolio (to keep across product updates). I report into the Head of Customer Experience


  • Kristi Faltorusso
    Kristi Faltorusso Member Posts: 45 Expert
    Second Anniversary
    edited July 2020

    I have CSMs and Sr. CSMs in each segment. A CSM professional journey on my team would look like this.

    IC Career Path:

    CSA, SMB > CSM, Corporate > Sr. CSM Corporate > CSM, Enterprise > Sr. CSM, Enterprise > CSD, Strategic Accounts 


    Team Lead (Player Coach) > Manager, Customer Success (Manager) > Sr. Manager. Customer Success > Director of Customer Success > Sr. Director of Customer Success > VP of Customer Success

  • ianwelles
    ianwelles Member Posts: 18 Navigator
    10 Comments First Anniversary Name Dropper Photogenic

    I am in my third month of looking for a new CS leadership role. The job titles publicly advertised are a mess. You cannot tell if the role is individual contributor or people management. The descriptions leave you wondering if the roles or sales , professional services, support or other. After my second coffee this morning I sat down to diagram the titles I have seen in job postings in a hierarchy to try and get some clarity from the community here. I see I do not need to try and flex my org chart skills today. : )

    @Kristi Faltorusso - your post here already documents exactly the progression I had in mind as logical. I still have not seen these represented consistently in job postings in 2023, three years later!

    Now that this is getting bumped up in recent discussions, what are other leaders' thoughts on this leadership progression?

    Another common title, especially here in Europe, is Head of Customer Success. Where does that fit in - before or after Director?


    Team Lead (Player Coach) > Manager, Customer Success (Manager) > Sr. Manager. Customer Success > Director of Customer Success > Sr. Director of Customer Success > VP of Customer Success

  • christtchurch
    christtchurch Member Posts: 2 Navigator
    Photogenic First Comment

    I would say an Customer Support, Customer technical support and Customer success manager.

  • Brian O'Keeffe
    Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 163 Expert
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    Got to disagree here. Tech Touch is not entry level. It requires a skill set that combines digital engagement management and customer consultation skills. This is a senior role, not a junior role. Your stronger CSMs are needed for Tech Touch, not entry level or weaker ones.

  • Brian O'Keeffe
    Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 163 Expert
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    Do not conflate support with success. It devalues the role and industry. It is so common and I even see where it is one and the same. <sigh>