The Customer Success Association (CSA) tells us that customer success management (CSM) has been around as a specific function in an organization since the mid-1990s. However, it’s an understatement to say that a lot has changed since then. Let’s take a look at where CSM has been, where it’s going, and what skills are needed to get there.

About 20 years ago, the customer relationship management (CRM) software industry was suffering from a bad reputation. That was due to high rates of implementation failure and customer churn. These letdowns not only endangered future sales, but they resulted in significant cuts in expected support and maintenance fees for CRM software developers.

It turns out that CRM sellers (and vendors of other kinds of software and technologies) were not tracking their customers’ perceptions of the value that the customers derived from the companies’ products. They had to learn to make customers as successful as possible in using the company’s product—and as quickly as possible.

Far More Than a 'Nice-to-Have,' Customer Success Management Is a 'Must-Have'

Now we find ourselves in the digital era, and the entire concept of customer success management takes on far more significance. Organizations whose business models are based on the subscription model must actively manage their customer relationships as strategic portfolio assets or risk long-term failure.

CSM, therefore, focuses on solving problems that crop up in customer portfolio development, retention, and expansion. It combines the functions and activities of marketing, sales, professional services, training, and support into an entirely new profession. This profession is set up to meet the needs of recurring-revenue model organizations.

cisco-customer-success-management.jpgSkills like flexibility, teamwork, and social savvy have become far more important. Think of them as life skills. You need them throughout your life, including in your work life—especially if you want to advance in your profession or field. Organizations need employees with life skills, too.

This is a huge departure in emphasis for all departments within the organization, but especially for IT, where technology skills have reigned supreme for decades. No longer.

In the digital era, a new set of skills focused on communication and business strategy will be required of the senior IT executive team, according to market research company IDC.

What does all this mean for you as an IT professional? The way to the executive suite—or just next-level career advancement—is to acquire or enhance your life skills. Doing so will help make you better and faster at your ever-changing job and, thus, more in demand and more promotable.

To help organizations and individuals excel at CSM, Cisco has recently released a white paper, "Customer Success Management: An Industry Analysis."

This white paper helps organizations and individuals prepare to deliver exceptional CSM. We've concentrated on the following in this paper:

  • Providing an overview of the CSM role
  • Examining how CSM has evolved to meet the needs of the digitized business
  • Reviewing the skills needed to help organizations gain the most ROI from their digitized infrastructure
  • Sharing how Cisco’s new Customer Success Manager Specialist certification and Cisco Business Specialist certifications help professionals master digital disruption and ensure customer success


If you are looking to navigate digitization and learn to build out a CSM program, download the "Customer Success Manager: An Industry Analysis" white paper. And to take further action, get familiar with the Cisco Customer Success Manager Specialist certification and Cisco Business Specialist certifications.


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Geoff Anderson.jpg

Geoff Anderson has 20+ years of experience in technology marketing and product management at many companies, most recently at Cisco. Across a diverse field of technology, from semiconductor equipment and industrial test and measurement instrumentation to enterprise communications software and nanotechnology, he has recently shifted to the training and certifications that are supporting and enabling the workforce of the future, and is now responsible for the Digital Transformation Specialist and Design certifications within the Product Strategy group of Learning@Cisco. In his spare time, Geoff plays guitar, hikes, bicycles, and dotes lovingly on his rescued greyhounds.