A Guide to Using Customer Success Core Competencies

core competencies

As the creator of the Customer Success Competency Model (CSCM), we are often asked what is it, how to use it, and what benefits are gained from using it. Using a competency model helps you identify disciplines and key skills of your organization and the Customer Success Managers on your team.

In this article, we’re going to look at:

  • The difference between skills and competencies, and an example of each

  • What a competency model is and how to use it in your company

  • The benefits of using our Customer Success Competency Model

The Difference Between Skill & Competency

Skills and competencies are often confused as the same thing, and while they share similarities, the two concepts have different definitions. Skills and competencies function differently and should be looked at separately in the workplace.

  • A skill is a specific task you can get better at with intentional practice. Skills can be thought of as the ‘what;’ as in what abilities someone needs to perform a task.

  • A competency is the capability to perform certain tasks, which may require one or more individual skills. A competency is more like the ‘how’, as in how someone behaves to perform a task.

The difference between a skill and competency is subtle but important. A competency is a combination of skill, ability, and knowledge. Competencies are also behavior-based, so you have to look at an individual’s behaviors to get an idea of their competency levels.

Let’s take handling a customer complaint, for example:

  • A Customer Success Manager who is skilled will be able to handle the conversation with the customer, ask probing questions, come up with a solution, and follow up with the customer.

  • A Customer Success Manager who is competent will be able to confidently handle the conversation, discover the true cause of the complaint, come up with multiple solutions, follow up with the customer, proactively ensure the same thing is not happening with other customers, and work with other teams in the company to prevent the issue in the future.

What Is a Competency Model?

A competency model (CM) is a framework defining the key skills, disciplines, and behaviors needed for effective performance in a specific job.

Competency models are gaining popularity in business organizations, especially within human resource departments. A CM takes the complications out of defining job roles, assessing performance, and developing training plans.

Our competency model lists a set of competencies which are then broken down into behaviors and skills. There are different proficiency standards focused on creating the desired outcome at good, better, and best levels.

How Are Competency Models Used?

The Customer Success Competency Model we have created consists of five major disciplines, which are further broken down into 18 specific skills. Using this CSCM will give you a better understanding of what it takes to succeed in post-sales, customer-facing support, and Customer Success roles.

Create an Accurate Job Profile

Starting from the beginning of the hiring process, use the CSCM to accurately outline the job profile of the position you are hiring for. Use the disciplines and skills to create an accurate description of the role and responsibilities.

Hire Stronger Candidates

Human resource personnel and hiring managers can use the CSCM in the screening and interviewing process to find the best candidates. The CSCM shows them exactly what skills to look for.

Hold Your Existing Team to a Well-Defined Standard

Assessing the team you have in place is easier when the CSCM shows you what to look for. A clear standard helps you create consistency across your entire team, regardless of their experience or tenure.

Create a Targeted Learning & Development Plan

The CSCM can act as a roadmap for your team and their success. Using the three different proficiency standards—Contributor, Senior Individual Contributor, and Leader—you can assess strengths and weaknesses to create a specific training plan for everyone.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Competency Model?

Introducing the CSCM can benefit your company, team, and employees in several ways. With regular use of the model, you’ll see both short-term and long-term gains.

Improved Hiring Process

You can refer to the CSCM for every step of your hiring process, from creating job postings to selecting final candidates. Thanks to a competency-based job profile, targeting and evaluating candidates is much more effective which will save you time and money.

Addressing Skill Gaps

Skill gaps and knowledge-based issues among your existing team are easier to spot when you know the 18 key skills of the CSCM. Spotting these gaps means you can develop your human capital and create a positive impact on the business.

Defining Roles & Responsibilities

The well-defined job profiles as a result of using the CSCM means managers can set expectations for everyone. Take it one step further and it’s easier to evaluate performance against clear expectations.

Do’s & Don’ts of Using a Competency Model

  • DO encourage your Customer Success Managers to become familiar with the CSCM and the skills it outlines. They can use it as a tool for assessment, self-improvement, and training.

  • DON’T limit yourself to using the CSCM with Customer Success teams. Our model breaks down disciplines and skills that are useful in any post-sales or customer-facing role.

  • DO share the CSCM with your human resources team. Become familiar with the model together and implement it in every step from hiring to ongoing training.

  • DON’T forget about the three proficiency standards within the CSCM: Individual Contributor, Senior Individual Contributor, and Leader. Following set standards ensures consistency in performance and evaluations within your team.

Robyn Petrik

SuccessCOACHING contributor Robyn Petrik is a freelance copywriter originally from Vancouver, Canada, who specializes in blogging, website copy, and social media content. While she happily spends most of her time writing, you’ll also find her reading, hiking, and eating too much peanut butter.