CSM from the Trenches: Frontline – Shannon Kenedy, Customer Success Manager, Game Plan
May 23, 2019
Welcome to our blog series CSM from the Trenches, a community for frontline Customer Success Managers (CSMs) that discusses trends, best practices, and advice for the frontline.
Being on the CSM frontline allows us to directly influence the success of our clients. I love that; as our clients are successful, we’re successful. Each day we learn from the trenches what it takes to make clients happy and successful.
Dedicated “Frontline” Segment
This post marks a change to the segment of the series known as “Mentors”, which has focused on 7 mentor questions for the frontline. We’ve adjust the“Mentors” questions to be geared more toward CSMs receiving mentorship directly from Director-level and above customer success leaders, in order to help them grow professionally in their own careers.
The “Frontline” segment will now focus on frontline CSMs answering 7 questions dedicated for those on the frontline. The goal is that by sharing our experiences we’ll be able to learn and apply more practical advice / practices to our careers.
Let’s get started with this week’s post!
What is one customer success best practice you’ve applied in the last few months that has had a positive impact on your success in your role? How has it helped you?
Since becoming a CSM nine months ago, I’ve been able to meet with our Customer Success Director on a weekly basis to review our ClientSuccess pulses. It’s been really helpful for me to hear what’s going on with other accounts, the problems other customers are facing, and learn about other use cases for our product. It also allows me to be accountable for my accounts at a deeper level than I perhaps do on a daily basis.
Before this weekly meeting I take the time to go through each of my accounts to identify any holes in my client communication like rescheduled calls or unanswered emails, as well as specific needs that may need to be addressed for my accounts. I also try to focus on some successes that happened with my customer interactions.
These weekly meetings allow me to think about the bigger picture and then cater my daily to-dos around it. Prioritizing in this way has enabled me to have a greater weekly focus on the on what’s most important with my accounts and what needs to be addressed.
Going through our ClientSuccess pulses is honestly the most important and valuable asset for me throughout the week. After I’ve had a customer interaction and take notes, I’m able to go back and see those notes, and keep track of where each of my accounts are and keep it organized in order to know where my priorities are.
What are one or two things you typically do during the first hour of your day (when you get into the office) that leads to a productive day?
What leads to more of a productive morning than others is when I take the time to look at my calendar, catch up on emails from the day before, and make a solid to-do list. I am very task-oriented, so knowing what generally needs to get done for the day helps me stay more focused with a clear mind around what my goals are.
Of course this list is likely to change throughout the day, but having list at least helps with what’s essential. And when I take the time to do that as I come into the office, I often have a more productive day.
I prioritize similarly to how I review my pulses. Where are my priority accounts? Who is in need? Who are the upcoming renewals? Are there any technical issues that have come up recently? If something more urgent comes up I’m able to rearrange my to-dos throughout the day.
What are one to three books, blogs, or thought leaders that have greatly influenced your career, and why?
- How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen.
I’ve read this book multiple times and I think the reason why it resonates so well is the idea that it connects business with life, especially for me post-graduation. Am I on the right career path? What makes me happy? What brings meaning in my life? Am I learning from my failures? Or am I dwelling on them instead? Where does “curb my career” play into my life? Does it take away from what’s most important? Or does it add to what’s most important?=
I’ve gone through quite a few career shifts, which have ultimately led me to customer success, and I feel it’s the best fit that I’ve had. It fulfills me in so many ways and. this book helped me understand that my career can be an extension of myself. I love customer success’ emphasis on relationships and helping others, working with them toward shared goals and objectives.
More or less, this book has helped me to understand what I’ve wanted a career to be. I’m so grateful because it’s ultimately led me to customer success!
How has a failure, or apparent failure, during your time as a CSM set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure”?
There was a time when I had a customer, with whom I was really close with, decide not to renew. For me, this felt like the ultimate customer success failure. As we work side-by-side with customers and are planning for the next year, we become close with them. And yet, when they decide to not renew, it can make us feel like a big failure.
One thing I hadn’t considered is that there are so many factors that come into play in the renewal process. While it makes me sad they’re no longer utilizing our software, I still keep in contact with the main contact because we became so close relationship-wise.
I’m grateful for this learning experience, because it’s helped me to be more conscientious in how I approach and nurture all of my accounts. I’ve also become more aware of other factors I hadn’t originally taken into account with why specific accounts don’t renew. While I wish every customer would stay and be successful with in our partnership, I’ve changed how I approach this role and have improved how I reach out to and nurture customers.
What do you find most fulfilling about being a CSM?
Definitely building relationships with my customers. Knowing I’m helping them achieve career goals, and in the case of our software, also indirectly helping student athletes is very satisfying. Getting to know the customers as people helps me feel like I’m a partner with them for the successes they have. I think it’s important to treat each customer as an individual. I try to make each customer feel comfortable around me so they’re more willing to ask for help.
If you had to give one piece of advice to another CSM, what would you say and why?
The importance of being authentic with your customers and not being afraid to let your personality shine. I’d also encourage other CSMs to build personal relationships with their customers. In my eyes, this should be an equal focus as solving their issues and planning their success.
What is one customer success principle you try to live by?
There are two things that come to mind: 1) the importance of honesty and 2) taking the time to see things from the customer’s perspective. If I were my customer, what would I want my customer success manager to do? Would I want them to beat around the bush or be up front with me?
I know I would appreciate a CSM to be honest and upfront, because it would allow me to better understand how and why things happen. So if there’s an issue, you can be rest assured that I’m going to try my best as a CSM to do everything on my end to get it resolved.
Careers and life are so much more rewarding if you look outside of yourself and are honest with others. Look to help others by putting yourself in their shoes.
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