Product Manager Relationships: Customer Success

Product Manager Relationships: Customer Success

This post is one in a series about the different relationships that a product manager has within their organization, whether it be working alongside the product designer or engineer, or liaising with customer success and feeding information to the marketing team. This post looks at the relationship between a product manager and the customer success team.

Customer Success

By Customer Success we mean the people who are the first line of contact between your organization and the end users of your products.  This could be termed Customer Support, First Line Support, or Aftersales, but they're the people who pick up the phone, or respond to emails, when customers have questions or problems.

Relationship between customer success and a product manager

If the role of the product manager is to understand the customer's needs, then relationships with the customer success team are a direct route to the source of valuable information that can be used to understand these needs.

Customer success teams are the first line of customer support, and as such they come face to face with customer challenges day in, day out.  They know the pain points that customers are facing, they know the workarounds that need to be followed to achieve certain goals, and they understand how to use your product better than anyone, probably even better than you.

They also play a strong role in maximizing revenue from customers, by developing loyalty, collecting reviews and providing advocates.

How a product manager can make the customer success team happy

If you start with the question of "how can a product manager make the end user happy", then you'll be part of the way to understanding what your customer success team needs from you.

If you're a user of a product, chances are you only get in touch with the support team when you have an issue.  You're unable to do the task you want to, or something has gone wrong and you need to correct it.  Your customer success team will be gathering all the instances where this is the case, and if you can start to solve some of these problems so that the end users can either avoid the problem or solve it themselves, then you'll be making them happy.

The customer success team will want you to listen to their thoughts, ideas, and frustrations, and provide them with solutions, explanations, or plans on how things will be better.  Customer success people strive to make life easier for end users and need to be armed with ammunition when customer's come calling.

Provide clear information on how new features work and how they can deliver value.  Give clear roadmap information so the CS team can inform customers if they're currently experiencing issues that will be resolved in the future.

What product managers want from a customer success team

It's all about the feedback when it comes to what the customer success team can provide.

They are the hotline to customer frustrations, and they are a mine of information on how people really use your product, which is why product managers should be desperate for the team to be talking to them regularly and supplying them with valuable information on how your product can deliver more value.

PMs want open, honest feedback, with suggestions for improvements, and not moaning frustrations.  CS teams should be giving the PM information that can be turned into actions.  If they can back it up with data, then this becomes even more powerful than anecdotal evidence.

"We've had 25 customers this month who have been unable to reset their password effectively" is good feedback.  "We've had 25 customers this month who have been unable to rese their password effectively, because they couldn't find the reset password link on the sign in page" is great feedback.  That's a nice easy win for the product team.

Further Reading

Future of SaaS: Customer success and product management: How they make the new SaaS dream team

Product Plan: Why Your Next Coffee Date Should Be with Your Director of Customer Success


This post is a short summary of the roles and relationships mentioned. It does not cover every element involved in product development and is intended to give an indication of how the roles might interact.