We hear you -- working in Customer Success is no small task. There is always plenty (and then some) to account for: Various customers to build relationships with -- resulting in various concerns to be addressed -- resulting in various solutions to offer (as each customer is unique and should be treated as such). With that being said, serving as a leader in Customer Success means double the management: You are helping not only your customers but your own team as well.
As rewarding as it is, we understand that Customer Success Leadership is multifaceted and can be challenging -- thus, we asked 14 Customer Success Leaders: “What does it take to be successful in Customer Success Leadership?”
“Great customer success leadership means setting an example for your team. Even when managing takes up most of your schedule, block off time to talk to customers and show your team what you mean when you hand down directives. It's so much more powerful -- and action-inspiring -- to see a leader actually do something, than to just hear them tell you to do it.”
CEO - Groove
“To be a successful leader in CS, you need to step into the shoes of your customer and look at the world from their perspective. These are the questions that you should ask yourself: What type of experience do your customers need to help them achieve their desired result? What type of training does your team need to help your customers along that journey?”
VP of Customer Success - Bluecore
“To succeed in customer success leadership, I think you need four customer success superpowers: courage, creativity, concentration and clairvoyance.
As a customer success leader, you need courage to advocate for both customers and your customer success team. It takes strength to speak up about what's not working or what could be better. Sometimes, you'll encounter conflict. But you owe it to your team and to customers to push for improvement.
Success in customer success leadership also requires creativity. Even if you're an expert in best practices, you'll never be able to know what works best for your team or customers without experimenting and optimizing. Rely on your creativity to design experiments that produce data, then use those results to develop unique solutions.
With concentration, you can maintain the focus you need as a customer success leader. In an experimental environment, it can be easy to get sidetracked from the main goal you want to achieve. Having concentration will help you move fast with purpose.
Finally, I think it takes clairvoyance to succeed in customer success leadership. You don't have to see the future, but having the ability to anticipate the needs of your customers and team members helps you provide personalized and exceptional service. With a clear vision, you can also predict potential problems and keep the big picture in mind when plotting a course to achieve your goals.”
Customer Success Lead - Moz
“Customer success in a SaaS or subscription business is all about teamwork, coordination and collaboration. A CS leader must translate what they hear from customers into actionable information that other functions of the business can use. Feedback touches a variety of areas of the business.
The leaders of the customer success team should be able to interface with sales, marketing, product, engineering, support, services, finance, etc. to establish customer-friendly processes that help clear hurdles to revenue retention.
CS leaders should also be able to provide input on strategy of the business given their proximity to and regular interactions with the market. They should serve as the eyes and ears of the market for the executive team and be able to massage massive amounts of data into useful information the company can use to make decisions.”
SVP of Customer Success - PeopleMatter
“There are a few key ingredients needed to be successful in a customer success leadership role.
First, you need to be a strong internal networker. I really like the idea of having internal customers as well as external customers. Being in a CS role requires constant communication and partnering with internal teams in Marketing, Product, Sales and Operations. To be truly effective in acting on customer feedback and channeling the voice of the customer you need to influence these roles as well as support them just as you would a customer. Its truly a symbiotic relationship. We have really great internal partnerships here at Sysomos and our customers are the benefactors of this.
Second is data! Having a 1:1 relationship with all of our customers is a critical component to the Sysomos approach. It’s fundamental in offering the right guidance to our customers based on their stage in our lifecycle and keeping them on track with their goals. That said, any SaaS CS leader also needs to be a technologist at heart. There is an incredible amount to learn from customers outside of that 1:1 opportunity that you have a responsibility to know. Product usage behaviors, areas of your application customers may have challenges with, NPS, the frequency of support requests. All of this information is critical to understanding the health and success of your customers and you owe it to them to be diligent with how you not only learn from it but act on it.”
“To be a successful customer success leader you have to see everything as a journey. Customers will not do what you need right away; they will always have questions and areas for improvement. A CS team will never be smoothly running; there will always be another hurdle to overcome or new thing you can be doing to improve. As a customer success leader, you therefore have to guide your customers and team through a journey, step by step, to achieve your goals.”
Chief Client Officer - Soapbox
“Curiosity. I believe that the real job of customer success is to know the customer. Being genuinely interested in their business, in their goals, in their challenges, and in their aspirations is the best way to learn how to help them. I have always applied that philosophy internally as well. The more I know about what each department is working on the better I can identify opportunities to serve my customer. I guess you could say that I am a perpetual student and my customers are my best teachers.”
VP Customer Success - Allocadia
“In my experience, the most successful customer success leaders are able to focus and communicate, not only with their customers but also with their teams. They grow and invest in their colleagues and the customer success field similar to how they help and nurture their customers. Their leadership pushes everyone forward, not just themselves.”
Customer Success Manager - Sparkcentral
“Besides the obvious focus on customers, customer success leaders have to embrace the tension they create when their team is successful. CSMs are firefighters because they can put out fires, they are stretched thin, because they know the customer better than anyone else. If you are not running around like mad, you are not pushing hard enough for your customers.”
CEO - Nudge Software
“Successfully leading a customer success organization requires leaders to recognize that the ultimate success or failure of customers is more than just the responsibility of the customer success team.
Of course, it's the customer success leader's job to ensure that they have properly equipped their onboarding, coaching, and support teams with the tools and processes that drive value for customers, but true customer success leadership means making sure the voice of the customer, and the customer success team, is heard in every department.
It's the customer success leader's responsibility to ensure that the marketing team is producing content that drives the right sort of conversations, that the engineering team is building a product or platform that meets every need of your ideal customers, and that the sales team is setting the right expectations with prospects before they ever become customers.”
Director of Customer Success - Uberflip
“Customer success is solely about how you can help the customer. Achieving customer success means being data-driven. It’s critically important to look at the right metrics and build the right team. Taking time to build the best processes and procedures for the client, is a must.”
VP of Client Success - BizLibrary
“The biggest challenge in customer success is creating momentum. Everyday I have to make sure that our customers are using our platform, and my team feels empowered to help customers do that. Customers will come back when they achieve success right out of the gate. If they don’t, there is no usage, and no renewal. To succeed as a strong CS team, CSMs need to jump on accounts and help customers solve their problems. By failing to jump, they will stay on the sidelines for too long and lose clients. Focus your team on your customers, and tune out everything else.”
Director, Customer Success - PostBeyond
“Customer success leadership not only requires the obvious (empathy, leadership skills, and ability to understand motives and behavior), it requires the ability to analyze customer data, find the gaps, and develop strategies to fill them in.
A background in supporting your SaaS product is incredibly helpful in understanding your customers pain points, organization, and current processes. Being on the receiving end of every-day issues and complaints will give you valuable insight into what makes your customers unhappy, what you can do to improve overall satisfaction, and what ultimately allows them to become successful with your product.
From there, identifying red flag metrics, establishing customer success playbooks, and implementing the changes necessary to improve retention and increase revenue, which is what we all strive for, will become second nature.”
Director of Customer Success - Chargify
“To be successful in customer success leadership you need to have the correct systems and automation in place so you can grow your customer base at a faster rate than your team.
What that means is using technology to achieve efficiency so that your customer success reps can ensure customers are receiving everything they need for a great experience, every time, and you are well on your way to enabling your team for success at customer success.”
CEO - Process Street