What Is The Difference Between Customer Success Management And Product Management?


10 February 2022

Customer Success

Product Success


Two job roles that are growing in demand in the tech industry today are Product Manager (PM) and Customer Success Manager (CSM). While a Product Manager is someone who takes care of the product roadmap and its success, a Customer Success Manager is responsible for ensuring that the product is contributing to the customer’s success.

In this blog, we will discover the responsibilities each role comes with, their importance, and find out if there are any similarities (or not). So here we go:

Customer Success Manager

Customer success management is driven by the motivation that the customer must be able to derive maximum value from your product or service. The focus of a customer success manager is to ensure that the customer’s association with your company is successful.

More recently, CSM is being identified as critical to generating repeat business from the clients. While the Account Manager is the first point of contact for the client they are not focused on the right adoption of the product by the client’s team. Once the client has purchased the product or service, it is particularly important that the users from the customer’s team are able to extract the right value from the product. This is where CSM’s role comes into play.

A CSM should be able to:

  • Analyse the exact needs of the customer’s team and educate them on how to obtain the real benefit from the product
  • Empathise with the customer and act as a guide that influences and builds trust between the two organisations

By now, the importance of the CSM role would be clear. Think of them as the client’s trusted partner in your organisation whose main objective is not to get business from the customer but to ensure the customer is happy. As the customer is satisfied with the return on their investments into your product, they should return to you for repeat business.

Product Manager

A product manager is someone who not only understands the users’ needs but also the larger business objective, translates these needs to their team of developers, and then ensures that these features get built into the product by coordinating the development.

Ben Horowitz, CEO of Opsware, once defined the PM as the CEO of the product. Their responsibility is to capture pain-points, prepare the product roadmap and ensure the developers understand the vision. Once the development team is onboard, a product manager’s role is to ensure the timeline is met. They have the final authority on the product.

Martin Eriksson, a veteran product manager and co-founder of the world’s largest product conference, ProductTank, defined the role as an intersection of Tech, UX, and Business in his blog, and represented it with a simple Venn diagram below.

Both definitions are helpful in understanding the importance of a good Product Manager for the success of the product. They are critical to leading the product’s evolution and growth and hence directly influence the success of a tech product company. A well-built product is also important for the customer’s success.

How are they different?

A CSM’s role is to ensure customers are getting the return on their investment. They will take a structured approach, measure individual client satisfaction, and ensure client’s issues are resolved. A PM on the other hand makes decisions on the product. While they should keep customers’ success in mind they will not focus on every individual customer. Their focus is on the product features that are most desired and would be used by the general target audience.

Another major difference, you would have identified already is that the PM plays a larger role while the product is being conceptualised, developed, and enhanced, whereas a CSM’s role becomes important when the product is being implemented and utilised by the customer.

Do these two roles interact?

Now you might be wondering, does a tech company need both the roles, and if these roles ever interact with each other? The short answer is yes, tech companies today need both positions as they play distinct functions. There is also sometimes an overlap where a PM and CSM might work together to ensure the customer expectations are fulfilled.

A CSM is uniquely positioned to help the PM to develop and improve the products by capturing customer feedback. When a PM narrows their focus on the product, they can sometimes lose sight of the customer’s needs, and this is where CSM can help. After they have gathered customer feedback and requirement for new features from the customer, they can work with the PM on executing the ideas. A CSM would act as the voice of the customer and the PM would ensure that the business objectives are kept in mind while taking the decision on these features or changes.

Thus, it is critical that the PM and CSM teams maintain a healthy channel of communication as well as a strong working relationship to ensure continual growth of the product, ongoing customer satisfaction, and the health of the business.

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