20 Customer Success Skills for 2024 (& How to Master Them)

Download Now: Free Customer Support Training Template
Precious Oboidhe
Precious Oboidhe



If you're in a customer-facing role, the best thing you can do is arm yourself with customer success skills. These skills will help you respond well to customer inquiries in person, over the phone, or through digital channels. Plus, they'll ensure that you provide a consistently seamless experience for every customer you interact with.

Image shows customer success skills at work, as a Customer Success Manager shakes hands with a customer

→ Download Now: Customer Support Training Template [Free Template]

To help you attain customer success, we'll list out 20 of the most important skills for a customer success rep and how to master them.

What does a customer success manager do?

A customer success manager, or CSM, is someone who knows what customers want, thanks to interactions with them. They also figure out how to improve the customer experience and boost loyalty. As you can infer, there are particular skills that individuals need to have in order to excel in this role, which is what we'll discuss.

20 Essential Customer Success Skills

Ready to learn more about the 20 essential customer success skills you need to excel? Let's dive right in.

 Essential Customer Success Skills. Communication. Reading and Writing. Empathy Perception. Self-Control. Patience. Responsibility. Active Listening. Time Management. Customer Onboarding. Identify & Prevent Churn. Regularly Doing Check-ins. Upselling and Cross-Selling. Technical Skills. Learning. Initiative. Teamwork. Confidence. Critical-Thinking. Relationship Building

1. Communication

When interacting with unhappy customers, communication is number one. A breakdown in communication causes frustration and disappointment for customers. The result? Customers who feel isolated. And customers who feel isolated can go on to publish negative online reviews about their experience.

For instance, let's say a customer success manager can't solve a customer's problem and doesn't explain why to the customer. The customer will be unsatisfied because of the unresolved issue. They may also be angry because they didn't get an explanation about why the manager couldn't fix the problem. This scenario often plays out when managers or reps have limited information about the product or service their company sells.

As a customer success manager, knowing your product will help you have a better comprehension of the problems your customers face. Then, you can articulate them to the internal teams that fix them. That means the more you know about your product, the better and faster you can communicate solutions.

Pro tip: Sharpen your active listening skills; it builds trust and provides insights for effective solutions. Avoid interruptions, paraphrase customer concerns, and use reflective statements like, "If I understand correctly..." to show empathy.

2. Reading and Writing

While you don't need to be a published writer to work in customer success, basic reading and writing skills are a must-have.

Your speech and writing should be free of grammatical errors, and you should approach customers using an assuring, professional tone. This will make your customer service interactions flow better and make communication more delightful.

Some customers will get irritated if you make grammatical errors, write incoherent sentences, or misspell words. To prevent this, always slow down and think about what you're writing or saying to the customer.

Pro tip: Practice articulating your responses out loud before sending them, ensuring a professional and coherent tone in all customer interactions. Then, edit out any confusing or irrelevant parts. If you're emailing or responding to an SMS, check your writing for grammatical errors with tools like Grammarly or ProWritingAid.

3. Patience

Expect some people to get upset or angry when you or your customer success team can't meet their needs. No matter how hard it may be, always be patient with such customers when you're supporting them. Try to put yourself in the customer's shoes to approach the situation with greater empathy — but more on that later.

Listen to their feedback while remaining composed and offer a solution that calms them. Assure the customer that you have their back and that everything will be okay.

The tone of an angry customer could also upset you when they lash out. However, avoid getting upset because you'll likely make more mistakes when angry. It's better to stay calm, composed, and confident that you'll come to a resolution. You can even ask the customer what they think you should do to help reduce their frustration and align your solution to their needs.

Pro tip: Try a "breathing space" technique – when confronted with an upset customer, take a moment to collect your thoughts before responding. This brief pause helps you maintain composure and respond more effectively, demonstrating patience and a commitment to finding solutions.

4. Empathy

Empathy is necessary in nearly every customer-facing role — and even non-customer-facing roles, such as UX or marketing. If you want to provide excellent customer service, you need to recognize the customer's problem and understand why the problem is significant. This helps you learn more about the customer's needs and what they expect from you during the interaction.

There will be times when you don't have an immediate solution. In these cases, be empathetic and try to align yourself with the customer's concerns. Even though you don't have an answer for them, they'll still appreciate your genuine interest in their problem.

Most customers know you can't solve their problem with a magic wand. However, they'll expect you to be considerate when you can't provide an instant solution to their problem.

Pro tip: Practice using empathetic language in your responses. Try to acknowledge the customer's feelings and concerns explicitly, demonstrating your understanding of their perspective. Phrases like "I can imagine that must be frustrating" or "I understand this is important to you" convey empathy, fostering a stronger connection with your customers.

5. Perception

Customer Experience Coach Dan Gingiss says, "If you want to know what your customers think of your product or service, just ask them."

While you'll usually get feedback from your vocal and outgoing customers, you may neglect those who don't speak up. Even though they don't respond to every survey or review your brand online, their opinions matter, too.

How you respond to feedback will also influence the customer's perception of your brand.

"Most people are more than willing to share their feedback," says Gingiss. "Just be ready to take constructive criticism with the compliments, and remember that people who complain do so because they care."

Pro tip: Mix up how you ask for feedback—try emails, social media polls, and just chat with customers. Make it easy for everyone, not just the talkative ones, to share their thoughts. This way, you get a more holistic picture of what all your customers are thinking.

6. Self-Control

Social media lets businesses engage customers anytime and anywhere. But social media is a two-way street, and people have the power to voice their criticisms on your pages. When customers are disappointed, social media is an outlet to voice their frustration.

If your customers speak negatively, exercise self-control and think before responding to their messages. It can be tempting to defend your brand but keep in mind that the people watching aren't just passive bystanders, either. They can join the conversation whenever they want, creating uneven odds for your support reps since they have to engage with more than one person.

Pro tip: A more effective approach is encouraging the customer to message you directly, either on social media or through your ticketing system. If you can't provide an immediate solution, you'll want to shift the conversation to a communication medium that's ideal for troubleshooting.

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have in-app live chat features where customers can communicate with brands one-on-one. They're free for businesses to use, and they don't force the customer to switch platforms when getting help from your success team.

7. Responsibility

As a customer service employee, you should always take responsibility for the issue at hand. Even if you didn't cause the problem, you're representing the company, so take ownership of the customer experience — whether it's positive or negative.

Taking responsibility for the situation shows the customer you have their best interest at heart. This makes it easier to work on the problem collaboratively since blame can now be put aside, and you and the customer can focus on fixing the issue.

Pro tip: Try to handle customer requests without escalations or transferring the task to someone else. When you meet the customer's needs in a single interaction, they gain confidence in your customer success team and remain loyal to your business.

8. Active Listening

Customer care revolves around your customers' needs. After all, you can't solve their problems if you don't understand what they want or what their goals are. If you want to understand customer needs, active listening is a must.

Active listening isn't just plugging in a headset and cranking up the volume when you're talking on the phone. It's about getting an in-depth understanding of the customer's message by paying attention to what they're saying. Repeating key details when you respond to confirm your comprehension is another way to practice active listening.

When you do this, customers know you understand their issue, and they also appreciate not having to repeat or correct information.

Pro tip: If you're working with customers in person, you'll also want to listen to their body language and non-verbal cues, too. According to Jeremy Wien, a former portfolio manager at a U.S.-based hedge fund, learning how to read customers was an important skill in his job.

He explains, "In customer support, you want to be able to read [customers] to understand what it'll take to make them happy."

customer success skills, In customer support, you want to be able to read [customers] to understand what it'll take to make them happy.

9. Time Management

A customer success manager is always moving from one activity to another. That activity varies and can range from chatting with customers, answering phone calls, replying to emails, or responding to social media comments. Whatever it is, customer success teams have a busy workday.

No one can handle these tasks without managing their time properly. To be successful, you need to plan your day effectively and create a schedule that lets you complete each task on time. That being said, build in some room for unexpected issues that pop up or customer requests that take more time to complete than you initially expected.

Time management improves your team's productivity, which helps you keep pace with customer demand and increases the overall growth of your business.

Pro tip: Prioritize tasks by urgency and importance. Use tools like calendars and task management apps to organize your day efficiently. Set specific time blocks for different activities, ensuring a well-balanced and productive workday in customer success.

10. Customer Onboarding

Customer onboarding is a crucial part of the user journey, but studies reveal that brands often fall flat here. According to a Wyzowl study, 55% of respondents returned a product because they didn't understand how to use it. It's the CSM's job to avert this outcome.

A customer success manager typically manages customer accounts from the onboarding stage. As such, you're responsible for educating customers on how to use your product and get maximum value from it.

This involves creating an onboarding process that's tailored to the needs of each user segment or customer, answering customers' questions, and addressing their concerns.

Pro tip: Your goal is to ensure quick user activation — i.e., users quickly experience the value of your product, and as a result, the risk of them churning is less.

11. Identify and Prevent Customer Churn

The risk of churn never disappears, so CSMs must continue monitoring customer satisfaction and preempt churn. One way to gauge customer satisfaction is to monitor your customer health score.

Monitoring customer health lets you catch problems quickly and provide solutions before they cause customers to lose interest in your product.

Miki Lager, the former Director of Customer Success at Tackle, also recommends tracking customer pain points by building a solid relationship with your support team.

"They're the ones managing all the tickets and the technical assistance. So if they know your customers' current health state or any other issues that they've been encountering, they can help expedite and understand urgency and prioritization,"says Lager.

Pro tip: When customers do churn, diagnose and address the reasons for churn. Over time, you develop a deep understanding of churn precursors, figure out how to quell them, and prevent future churn.

12. Regularly Doing Customer Check-ins

Don't assume your customers will reach out when there's a problem. A CSM should regularly check in with customers to ensure they're still achieving their intended goals with the product and provide any assistance the customer might need.

Pro tip: To establish regular communication without becoming overbearing, Richard Harris, founder of Harris Consulting Group, recommends a touchpoint doesn't have to be a chat request.

"It might be, 'Hey, I saw this great article that made me think of you. I hope you find it useful… [Or] 'By the way, we do have this new use case. It's about this and this. If you want to talk about it, let me know,'"says Richard.

Regular check-ins of this nature — where you offer value to customers and do not upsell or expect nothing in return — show your customers they're top of mind and that you care about their satisfaction.

This feeling strengthens the relationship, fosters loyalty, and makes customers more likely to contact you when they need help, as they'll know how to reach out. It also makes it easier for you to have uncomfortable conversations, such as conversations about price increases or product plan renewals.

13. Initiative

Ryan Farley, co-founder of LawnStarter Lawn Care, narrates an experience that proves the rarity of initiative among customer service people.

His company bought a product that was great in theory but was often buggy. The bugs hurt his business, and customer service was always lackadaisical. Eventually, he accepted his loss and decided not to renew.

" Of course, when it came time for renewal, and I explained why we didn't want to renew, they started blowing up my inbox, trying to help. It felt so disingenuous. Had they expressed that sort of proactive care for us as a client earlier, we might still be happy customers,"he says.

Earlier, we emphasized the importance of regular customer check-ins and monitoring customer health scores to strengthen customer relationships, gauge customer satisfaction, and preempt churn. The ability and willingness to take initiative is the underlying skill that enables both activities.

Pro tip: Proactively identifying customer needs and acting independently to provide solutions shows your commitment to them and leads to happier customers and a more successful business.

14. Partnering with the Sales Team to Find Upsell and Cross-Sell Opportunities

If you consider selling a dirty word or you are uncomfortable performing sales functions, this reframe might help:

"Anytime you're tempted to upsell someone else, stop what you're doing and upserve instead. Don't try to increase what they can do for you. Elevate what you can do for them," writes Daniel Pink in his bestselling book, Drive.

The point? Ethical selling involves serving your customers and helping them achieve their goals. Selling is easier when you think of it as a service rather than a ploy to take other people's money.

Pro tip: Richard advises leading with the question, "What are you [the customer] trying to accomplish here?" When you become obsessed with helping your customers achieve their goals, opportunities for upselling and cross-selling naturally open up.

The feedback and feature requests you collect from clients can also be invaluable for product development, leading to business expansion.

 customer success skills, Anytime you’re tempted to upsell someone else, stop what you’re doing and upserve instead. Don’t try to increase what they can do for you. Elevate what you can do for them.

15. Technical Skills

The technical skills required for a role vary from one job to the other. However, familiarity with CRM tools such as HubSpot is essential as you'll likely use them to communicate with customers and analyze data.

Also, understand your company's product features so you can guide customers on how to derive optimum value from its use.

Pro tip: Subscribe to newsletters, join user communities, and attend webinars. Apply your learning directly by experimenting with the tools in a safe environment, such as a sandbox or demo account, which can solidify your technical skills.

16. Learning

Customer success is a constantly evolving field. New methodologies, frameworks, and practices emerge regularly.

CSMs who stay informed about these changes can adapt their strategies to align with the latest industry best practices, including onboarding techniques, customer engagement tactics, and methods for measuring and demonstrating value. This knowledge gives you an edge over competitors delivering inferior customer experiences.

Pro tip: Dedicate a specific time each week to explore resources, such as watching a webinar on effective onboarding or listening to a podcast discussing innovative engagement tactics. Document and share key learnings with your team, reinforcing a culture of continuous improvement.

17. Teamwork

Cross-team collaboration is necessary for customer success managers who aim to provide the best customer experience.

You may have to communicate popular feature requests to the product development team and work with peers to ensure bugs are resolved quickly. Or, you might gather customer insights from different departments to get a deeper understanding of the customer's journey, preferences, and pain points.

Customer success managers with a silo mentality will hurt team morale and hamper growth for the company and its customers.

Pro tip: Work closely with other teams, like product development and software, to share customer insights and resolve issues faster. Break down barriers by asking for input from different departments, creating a collaborative environment that benefits both the team and customers.

18. Confidence

A confident customer success manager serves as a guide who helps customers make the best choices. The challenge? Much of the customer success work is subjective.

So, customer success managers and their customers will sometimes have different opinions on how to solve a problem. In such cases, customer success managers must voice their opinions firmly but politely.

Passively giving in to customer's demands is bad for customer success. But if you come off as aggressive when communicating, you will be perceived as rude, which could create tension in the relationship.

Difficult conversations will often come up in your role, and you must learn to communicate assertively and tactfully to navigate them.

Pro tip: When faced with differing opinions, use "I" statements to express your perspective without sounding confrontational. For example, say, "I understand your perspective, and here's another angle to consider."

Role-play challenging scenarios to refine your approach, and seek feedback from peers to continually improve your confidence in navigating subjective customer success situations.

19. Critical-Thinking

You'll encounter various unique challenges when working with customers. You need well-developed critical thinking abilities to analyze complex situations, identify the root causes of issues, and devise effective, outside-of-the-box solutions.

Unfortunately, despite the huge demand for critical thinking across several disciplines, the skill is rare.

The 2020 Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum revealed over 60% of surveyed companies say critical thinking and problem-solving will be the most independent soft skills by 2025. The data emphasizes the rareness and importance of developing your critical thinking ability.

Pro tip: Not sure where to begin? Start by taking our free 2-hour course on critical thinking and problem-solving.

20. Relationship Building

Establishing long-term customer relationships and promoting loyalty is the core role of a CSM. You achieve this goal by being customer-obsessed — i.e., you develop a genuine interest in your customers' success.

Shortcuts won't cut it. Know each customer's missions, challenges, and competitors, as this information will help you serve them better. And yes, developing authentic customer relationships takes effort — that's why only a few people do it. However, the effort is well worth it.

Customers who trust you will likely be loyal to your business. Those delighted by you will become advocates, telling others about you. The result? You get to maximize customer LTV and increase your MRR.

Pro tip: Seek opportunities to create wow moments that surprise and delight your customers. As Daniel Pink puts it, do "more for the other person than they expect, or you initially intended, taking the extra steps that transform a mundane interaction into a memorable experience."

For more tips, learn how to build a customer success team.

Start Building Customer Success Skills

If you're looking to solidify your spot in the world of customer success, mastering these skills will go a long way. Use a tiering system and rank yourself on these qualities. What are you already great at? Where could you improve? And then, level up from there.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in January 2021 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

New Call-to-action


Related Articles

Train and onboard your new customer support hires with this downloadable template.

    Service Hub provides everything you need to delight and retain customers while supporting the success of your whole front office