Do I Really Need to Train & Certify My CSMs? (Spoiler Alert – YES!)

August 17, 2021

Marley Wagner

Category: Customer Experience, Customer Retention, Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Maturity, Customer Success Strategy

Ah, shoot, I put the answer right there in the headline. Do you really (really?!) need to train and certify your CSMs? Even though we’re not training providers, per se, our team gets this question all the time.

In our sort of, but not really, humble opinion, yes, you really, really do.


Because there are oh so many benefits to training and certifying your CS team. While the term “Customer Success” is all about the customer, you can’t have Customer Success without CSM success. That means giving your CSMs the best training possible so their performance is at its peak. Take care of them, and they’ll take the same world class care of your customers.

But it’s actually more than just making sure your CSMs know the ABCs of CS (gotta love those acronyms). Training and certification mean getting your entire team on the same page, advancing their skillsets to achieve greater CS maturity, and helping your CSMs function at a big-picture level. Drop a new CSM into an open spot on your team and they’ll be reacting to customer needs as well as they can. Educate that same CSM with deeper understanding of Customer Success and best practices and they’ll be a proactive, efficiency generating maniac! Invest in educational resources for your entire team and you’ll have a more confident, sophisticated Customer Success organization that can take on even the most complex challenges.

Still not fully convinced?

Let’s take a closer look at what investing in quality training for your CSMs can do for your organization.

CSM backgrounds may vary

CSMs come from all walks of life – account management, sales, support, project management, marketing, or another Customer Success function or organization. This means that the all-star team you are putting together may not all be playing on the same field from day one. Experience levels vary, areas of focus are mixed, and what worked for one CS team might not work the same way for another. A CSM’s background influences how they view processes and procedures. When everyone is on a different page, it can make it more difficult to develop advanced CS capabilities that mean a more mature, operationalized CS organization. And, while having a variety of experiences can bring a ton of value to the table, you’ll still want to make sure everybody is working from the same playbook. That’s where training can help tremendously.

“When your team comes from different areas of development, each one brings with them a set of preconceived notions,” explains Todd Eby, CEO and Co-Founder of SuccessHACKER and SuccessCOACHING. “So, the way they practice Customer Success is influenced by their past experiences more than you would expect. Training and certifying your CSMs establishes a commonality of language and understanding. When you train your team to a standard that is consistent across the board, then they all understand what Customer Success means from your company’s perspective.”

Not only will all your CSMs become more organized and be enabled to operate on the same wavelength, your team will have a better understanding of what Customer Success means to you, your business, and your customers.

New CSM, who dis?

Once you’ve established this baseline for your whole CS team, the heavy lift of hiring and onboarding gets easier. You can look at new candidates from a more informed perspective. Who will fit into your team’s newly operationalized dynamic the best? Do they have similar qualities that worked well in your CSM training? You can also rest easy that, should a new addition lack a specific skill you know they’ll need, you have the training process already in place to help them acquire that skill. This training standard also speeds up new employee onboarding. A new CSM gets to know you and your processes fast and without a hitch.

It helps to make sure everyone, including CS leaders and managers, actively participate in the training. That way, the whole CS organization gains a deeper level of understanding and commitment to your CS best practices, and everyone benefits. As new CS team members are trained, they will easily fit into your team’s dynamic. At ESG, we’re training and certifying our entire company through SuccessCOACHING. This CS-specific education will benefit everyone, not just CSMs.

Are your CSMs thriving…or looking elsewhere for help?

We’ve talked about the role of human capital management in Customer Success before. It’s the idea that engaged and happy CS employees make for engaged and happy customers. One ingredient in the recipe for thriving employees is investing in their development. With formal education and certification, your CSMs have the tools to flourish and continue to grow in their careers.

“Ultimately, it’s about investing in your employees, driving their career progression, and expanding their knowledge of Customer Success,” explains Todd. “When they are better at doing their jobs and understand what’s expected of them, [your CSMs] are less stressed. Training clarifies everything. It also demonstrates that leadership is vested in furthering their career. From a leader’s perspective, you’re getting better employee engagement and you’re able to retain your top talent.”

As the leader of an organization focused solely on CS training and certification, Todd has found that CSMs who aren’t getting educational support from their employers are reaching out for training and certification on their own. When CS leaders ignore this aspect of human capital management, they’re in danger of losing their best and brightest. “Customer Success is comprised of four elements – people, process, tools, and strategy,” says Todd. “Unfortunately, CS leaders can sometimes forget about the people piece, focusing on process, tools, and strategy. If you ask them, what are your core goals? They’ll say, ‘I want to increase adoption. I want to reduce churn. I want to increase expansions. I want to drive more renewals.’ They forget that what they are really saying is, ‘I want my people to be able to do all of these things.’ This is why we are seeing CSMs signing up for courses to further their education individually.”

A roadmap for CSM success

Whether you’ve already got a fantastic Customer Success team or you’re still figuring out who fits where, training and certifying your CSMs is a good idea. As your CSMs grow and become the butt-kicking, awesome CSMs they were meant to be, your overall CS capabilities will grow too. No matter if you decide to work with a company like SuccessHACKER or build educational resources in-house, you can’t go wrong when you make an investment in your people.