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CSM from the Trenches: Mentors – Aaron Thompson, General Partner, SuccessHACKER

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.

Mentor Questions

This segment of the series focuses on 7 mentor questions for 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!

From: Aaron Thompson
Company: SuccessHACKER
: Portland, Oregon

Question 1

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?

Helping my clients identify MULTIPLE Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) has been an emerging trend lately. So often we think every customer should be considered against all of the other customers in our base. We believe if we’re executing an effective Customer Success strategy that we should keep them all renewing forever. But that’s just not the case with some products, industries and use cases.

A more accurate litmus test for the efficacy of your strategy is, “Did the customer perform according to their proximity to ICP? And did you service that customer in an intelligent manner to prevent overhead bloat (CAC, service, maintenance, etc.) from surpassing Lifetime Value (LTV)?” If the answer to question 1 is “yes” and the answer to question 2 is “no” then that was a good customer.

Even if they left, you were profitable on their lifecycle. Managing at least 3 separate ICPs for your 3 segmentation tiers is critical to understanding profitability in a subscription pricing model. I’ve been walking our clients through this exercise lately and it’s been quite eye opening for them to say the least.

Question 2

What are one or two things you typically do during the first hour of your day that leads to a productive day?

Meditate. I began practicing mindfulness about 2 years ago and it’s been game-changing. Taking that time in the AM to center myself and just “be” makes all the difference. When I do log on and dial in I’m ready to rock and roll. I work A LOT, like most people, and being diligent about that 10-minute window each morning has completely changed my performance, attitude and success.

Question 3

What are one to three books, blogs, or thought leaders that have greatly influenced your career, and why?

I absolutely LOVE Jeanne Bliss and Chief Customer Officer 2.0. It shaped my perspective of how to be a CS leader, what we should focus on, and be judged by. I often quote her book in class when referring to storytelling and it’s VITAL importance in Customer Success. Our best way to bring our organizations closer to our customers is through storytelling. How have we made that person’s LIFE better? Not job, day, revenue…LIFE. I love that concept and it really helps teach newer CSMs the empathetic side of CS.

Nicolle Paradise and Ari Hoffman have been amazing at sharing their stories and helping me begin to hone my public speaking and community building skillset. I love to speak publicly and bring people together, especially when it’s about Customer Success and to use the platform provided to help move our amazing domain forward one talk or event at a time. Nicolle and Ari are incredible at just that and luckily they (like most in Customer Success) are amazing humans looking to serve others and make each other better. I’m very fortunate to be able to call them friends (met both at the CS100 Summit last year!) so I have Dave and everyone at ClientSuccess to thank for that as well (speaking of amazing humans).

Question 4

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”?

Ha! Absolutely! A failure I tell classes all the time: “So why did you choose us over our competitor?”

What a great question to ask a new customer in an on-boarding call, right? I use this failure as a perfect example why a deliberate SuccessPLAN Canvas should be used. Had I had one implemented, I would have known everything sales knew during the acquisition part of the lifecycle…and would have CONFIRMED what the desired outcome was…not ASKED it.

I think often of those days getting started and this is by FAR my favorite failure as a CSM. It’s a good thing people can’t jump through phone lines because that customer wanted my head!

Question 5

What do you find most fulfilling about being a CSM?

The Person-to-Person (P2P) nature of the position. We’re not Account Managers (a vitally important role in Enterprise B2B business) where the allegiance aligns with growing the account. We’re Customer Success Managers…making that PERSON better at their job and improving their LIVES. I love the inherent EQ needed to be great as a CSM and take great pride in making people’s lives better through the usage of our goods, products and services.

Question 6

If you had to give one piece of advice to another CSM, what would you say and why?

Connect with the Customer Success Family all over the world. The people that are attracted to this amazing disciple are “people people” – They like other people, that’s why they’re called to it. Leverage that. Get out there. Not because it’s going to make you a better CSM (although it WILL) but because it’ll make your LIFE better. The people I’ve met since dedicating my career to CS are the best I’ve ever met in my career. I’ve combined my personal and professional lives and am proud to help advance Customer Success because I love the people in it. Get out there and extend your CS Fam!

Question 7

What is one customer success principle you try to live by?

Human connection. Customer Success attracts “people people” and we’re tasked with making our customer’s lives better. What better organization within the enterprise to be the one that brings us all together? Externally and internally we make business decisions based on personal connections. We can literally make the world a better place on the daily and we do that through human connection.

In a splintered world politically and socially we can create a united one professionally. That’s what the “CS Fam” is all about and I couldn’t love it more.


Want to share your mentor advice? Submit your answers here.

Join the conversation on our LinkedIn CSM from the Trenches group page.


Here are other customer success resources:

Customer Success eBooks:

Customer Success as a Culture: Customer Success Leaders Edition

Ultimate Guide to SaaS Customer Success Metrics

Other CSM from the Trenches Posts:

Sam Feil, ClientSuccess – Why User Adoption & Change Management Might Be Equally as Important as Achieving Objectives

Cole Sanders, ClientSuccess – 3 Principles I Learned in My First Year as a CSM

Erica Newell, EveryoneSocial – 5 LinkedIn Best Practices to Build, Grow, and Improve Client Relationships

Mieke Maes – 5 Keys to an Effective Customer Apology

SoapBox Team Shout-Out

Learn more about how ClientSuccess can help your company develop a strong customer success methodology and strategy with easy-to-use customer success software by requesting a 30-minute demo.

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