Compensation Overview for Customer Success Careers in 2022
How Much Will I Earn as a Customer Success Manager?
One of the top questions people ask when considering a pivot into customer success for a SaaS organization is, “how much will I make in my first year?”
It’s a complicated question. There are many factors that come into play with regard to compensation.
According to a recent survey completed by customer success software provider Totango, Customer Success Manager salaries range from $48,500 to $170,000 plus bonus and other forms of variable compensation, with the median CSM salary sitting at $94,000 plus bonus. These numbers have continued to trend upward in recent years.
How is Customer Success Compensation Structured?
Customer Success Manager compensation includes a base salary and may also have a bonus structure (68% of customer success professionals in the Totango survey cited the presence of a bonus of variable compensation as part of the overall compensation package).
These two components combine to create the OTE (on-target-earnings), a term used to describe the total expected compensation for the year when goals are achieved.
Types of Roles
Customer Success Manager
A Customer Success Manager (CSM) is one of the most in-demand roles in SaaS. Customer Success Managers are responsible for, you guessed it, the success of their customers! But what exactly does that mean? What do they do all day? Here’s a quick breakdown of the day-to-day responsibilities of a CSM.
- Onboarding new customers.
- Proactive outreach to their customers to help guide them along the customer journey.
- Educating customers on product features, best practices and use cases.
- Conducting business reviews, such as a Quarterly Business Review (QBR), Executive Business Reviews (EBR) or Customer Objectives Review (COR).
- Identifying opportunities to expand the customer relationship, such as expanding to other departments or gaining adoption of a new product.
Alternative titles for Customer Success Manager, that carry most of the same responsibilities but are designed for candidates with less experience, include Customer Success Specialist and Customer Success Associate.
The role, scope of responsibilities, success metrics and compensation can vary significantly from company to company, so you need to do your homework.
The #1 factor that impacts your potential salary and OTE is the value of each customer to the company. In other words, if the customers you will be guiding to success are worth significantly more money to Company A than at Company B, chances are the company will place greater emphasis on attracting the very best people to the customer success team and compensates the customer success team accordingly.
Progression Path: Customer Success Management, Leadership and Specialization
One of the most exciting things about becoming a Customer Success Manager is the opportunity for progression. While progressing on a traditional path as a CSM and potentially growing into a senior, mid-market or enterprise CSM, long-term can be rewarding and lucrative in of itself, especially as you increase your seniority and scope of responsibility, CSMs are afforded a wide range of exciting progression opportunities.
Senior, Strategic or Enterprise Customer Success Manager
One of the most straightforward paths for CSMs is to gain seniority, and begin serving larger customers with much higher LTV (lifetime value). As mentioned above, the more money a customer spends with a company, the more a CSM is typically compensated, making these the most lucrative CSM roles out there. As you might expect, strategic and enterprise roles typically go to candidates with at least a few years of experience as a Customer Success Manager, and are a great promotion path for existing CSMs at a company who become experts in their products and industry.
Management and Leadership
Those who are interested in leadership opportunities will find exciting possibilities ahead. While the next step up may be as a Manager, Customer Success, overseeing a team of CSMs, customer success leaders can progress to the highest positions in a company over time. These include Vice President of Customer Success, Chief Customer Officer and Chief Operating Officer, to mention a few. This path is by no means the most common for CSMs to follow, but has become more and more common due to the fact that Customer Success Managers work so cross-functionally within the organization and develop a deep understanding of what drives success for the customer and the company.
Specialization – Customer Success Operations
Last but not least, new specialized roles are emerging as the importance of customer success grows within technology companies. The most common specialty you’ll see is the Customer Success Operations Manager, a role that focuses on enabling the entire customer success organization with processes, technology and strategy to deliver on the organization’s objectives.
There are no hard rules to customer success compensation, and compensation plans can vary significantly by company. While the overview above is not intended to be a comprehensive view of every customer success role, it does cover the most common situations you are likely to encounter when pursuing your first role as a Customer Success Manager.