Getting started can be dreadful. Whether it's as an individual Customer Success Manager, or as a SaaS leader transitioning to a Customer-Centric Organizational model, it goes without saying there's a lot to learn.
We asked 10 Customer Success Leaders with proven track records of building and growing thriving Customer Success Organizations "what's one piece of advice you wish you'd been given when you started?" - here's what they said:
The customer needs to be at the center of absolutely everything you do. That’s true not only for Customer Success but also for business in general. If, as a Customer Success professional, you can remember that, then you’ll attack your job every day knowing that your experiences and your intelligence can make a big difference. Apply those to the processes you interact with, to the interactions you have with people, and to the way you plan for your continual evolution. Customers are the engine that feeds the processes, and even if you did not design them, the onus is on you – the one actually interacting with the customer – to facilitate and accelerate that engine moving forward. Customer Success is a great opportunity for young professionals looking to make a direct impact. If you stay true to the customer, your company will reap tremendous rewards, and so will you.
It’s never too early to start planning. Even if you are in a small business, planning for scale is something you should start right away. Starting from day one, sit down and map out -- in detail -- what your processes are, start finding out what your customers care about and what they need to do to be successful. Map out the different strategies and processes you need in place, including the onboarding processes, coaching processes, escalation processes, upsell processes, renewals processes, etc. Putting it all down on paper is a lot of work up front but it makes everything else run so much more smoothly down the road. Once those are in place, I would also say it’s never too early to implement a tool like Amity.
In many cases, when you plug a tool like Amity into your platform, it could take a bit of time to get the insights out of it to help you make informed decisions. So starting with a tool early on will give you so much more flexibility to scale your team, automate scalable processes, and ensure you’re able to keep people focused on what they should be focused on (adding value). It’s a no-brainer. If the budget’s there, do it.
What I would say to myself five years ago or others in a similar position is something along the lines of, “In order to be successful, you need to be really passionate about what you do.” It’s so much harder to go about achieving success and achieving your goals if you’re unhappy with your job. Steve Jobs once said, “The only way to do good work is to love what you do”, which is completely aligned with how I feel.
That goes for both personal and professional objectives because ultimately you need to be authentic, you need to be true to yourself. To be fake; maybe you can get away with it for a little while, but long-term it’s going to be a lot harder on yourself. Also, focus on those relationships, both internal and external, as those are going to be the keys to your success both in your current role and beyond as well. At the end of the day, everyone holds their own career path and trying to figure out what that looks like for you is a very unique experience.
As I’ve had the opportunity to grow my teams here at LinkedIn, I first identify the skill gaps someone new on the team could fill and add those skills to my must-have list. I can be hands-on with recruitment as I have a background in the industry so I then move quickly on the absolute best candidate defined by what we need both now and in the future.
Have a clear idea of how you’re going to measure success -- define metrics, set goals for yourself. Even if it means having to do some research or getting out there and asking other Customer Success teams to get more information, having an idea of how to measure success is really important.
Also, get yourself plugged into the Customer Success community because it’s such an important resource as you’re getting started to see what others are doing. It’s still such a new industry so it’s important to stay connected and see how it’s changing over time, so you can make sure you’re up-to-date with the changes too.
I recently gave a presentation in which I suggested the 3 following pieces of advice:
Focus on data. In order to solve a problem you really have to understand it first. You need to understand what features and/or behaviors are driving churn in order to understand where you need to focus.
Always deliver value. Everything you do should be focused on delivering value to your customers.
There is no silver bullet. Unfortunately, nothing you will do will reduce your churn rate by 90%. The only way to get there is persistence and a lot of hard work.
Be innovative, be creative. That would be my advice.
Don’t just think that the way things are now is the way things are always going to be. Read everything you can get your hands on and come up with some ways to improve. Get creative, talk to people in the industry, and find a mentor.
The first thing I think you should do is to have a look at what you are already doing, and what might already be aligned with Customer Success Management. I think this comes first. When we started doing interviews for Customer Success Managers, an applicant told me “Hey, you have a team of CSMs already, right there” and of course I said “No, they’re implementation managers,” to which the applicant replied, “Well, they’re doing x, y and z, and that’s Customer Success!” And she was right. I would suggest trying to find out what you are already doing in terms of Customer Success and it might be far more than you imagine.
Then, be clear on the differentiation between Customer Support and Customer Success. They are two very different things, even if both talk to the customers and make them happy, the approach is completely different.
Finally, we realized quickly that change is hard and you need to train your Customer Success team. Don’t make assumptions or take anything for granted. Every now and then, we’re in a meeting and I tell my team what I have in mind, and I can see in their eyes that they don’t get the picture. Just because you explain something doesn’t mean it makes sense right away, and you need to think like your team. For over a year I’ve been researching the field deeply, and everything is quite clear to me now but I have to remind myself that I might be a couple of steps ahead in thinking about Customer Success, and of course the team is dealing with real-world problems every day, so sometimes they see the trees but not the forest.
Customer Success is a discipline where everyone needs to see both the forest and the trees. Once you figure out how to do that, you’re on the right track.
Get technical. In my experience, our best CSMs have been the ones that know the product inside and out, and the ones that also have expertise outside of the product. Because at the end of the day, you need to deliver value in terms of helping your customer get set up on the product and using it in a way that helps their business. Any hand off you can prevent (because you know how the product works and can address advanced use cases) is an opportunity to build trust with that customer and help them be successful. Products are only getting more and more technical -- so learn your product and get as technical as you can.
It’s absolutely crucial to have a deep understanding of the product or service you support. It will help you establish yourself as a trusted adviser in the eyes of your customer very quickly. I would also suggest getting very familiar with your space and your competition. Lastly, it’s all about being proactive.
For more insights from Customer Success Leaders, head over to our Inside Customer Success interview series.
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