Key Accountmanager Vs. Customer Success Manager

Why isn’t the Key Account Manager in FMCG a Customer Success Manager? Or isn’t Customer Success Manager a nicer and better job title than KAM?

The person who maintains day-to-day commercial relationships with customers is given different titles. This strikes me from my experience in both the ‘old’ world of FMCG and the ‘new’ world of tech startups.

‘Old’ vs. ‘New’ sectors

In FMCG and other ‘older’ sectors, which by now include the media industry and telecoms, people have long used the title Key Account Manager (KAM) for the people who have customer relationships with key customers.

All tech start-ups use the title of Customer Success Manager (CSM) for this purpose.

Tradition aside, we have been calling the position ‘Key Account Manager’ for 40 years, I wonder why companies cling to this. Perhaps it is because of a lack of knowledge of what is happening in other worlds. Start-ups and traditional companies still often live side by side. They are 2 different dynamics; different worlds. Meanwhile, many thousands of, often very talented, young people work at startups. That talent used to be tapped by traditional companies. And those companies often need it today.

What does the title say?

All the title Key Account Manager tells me is that it is an important customer (read that it is important in terms of turnover).

‘Customer Success’ has a different connotation. Namely, that efforts are made by the supplier to make the customer successful with the product or service. It may be just a title but ‘Customer Success’ implies commitment. With ‘Key Account’, I just get the feeling of serving an important customer. Or better yet, letting the customer realise that he is one of the bigger customers. So what? The customer’s revenue and profit contribution are a result of efforts to make the product or service successful and not the other way around.


Time for action!
Perhaps classic companies should think about the title Customer Success Manager. New titles to replace the old ones have meanwhile become commonplace at C-level; CEO , CTO, CMO, CFO, … New roles have emerged with titles like Recruitment Manager, Inbound Sales Manager, Retention Manager, … Maybe KAM should also be shaken up soon then.

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Written by Jan De Lancker, Founder BrainTower

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