CSM from the Trenches: Mentors – Adam Kuznia, Chief Customer Officer, DataCamp

April 11, 2018

Sam Feil

Customer Success Manager

For those just joining our blog series CSM from the Trenches, welcome. This series, now a community for frontline Customer Success Managers (CSMs), discusses trends, best practices, and advice that can help 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

We recently launched a new segment of the series that 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: Adam Kuznia, Chief Customer Officer
Company: DataCamp
Location: New York City

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?

I’ve stopped focusing on renewals (even though my team is responsible for them). Value must be the area of focus, and renewal is a byproduct of that. If your customers are truly finding the value and path to success they desire, the renewal will come naturally.

Question 2

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

This actually starts the day prior. About 15-20 minutes before the close of reach day, I make a ‘do’ and ‘don’t’ list for the next day. It helps me bring closure to the current day, ensure nothing is falling off my radar, and clears my head for the evening when I disconnect and spend time with my family.

Then at the start of teach day, I review my ‘do’ and ‘don’t’ list. I believe that it’s just as important to know what you shouldn’t be working on, as it is to know what you should be working on.

The ‘don’t’ list is made up of high effort / low impact tasks, distractions, low value producing tasks, etc. Sometimes I find myself mid-sentence in an email that falls on the ‘don’t’ list, so I actually stop dead in my tracks and re-focus on the ‘to do’ list.

Question 3

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

Never Split the Difference, by Chris Voss. This is a book on negotiating and has implications not only on your career as you navigate renewals, job offers, etc., but any time you need to negotiate in life.

Linchpin, by Seth Godin. This book unpacks the importance of sharing information around the organization in a healthy way that increases your value to everyone you interact with.

Shortcut: How Analogies Review Connections, Spark Innovations, and Sell our Greatest Ideas, by John Pollack. I’ve always been fascinated by communication and those that are incredibly effective at it. This applies both in the workplace, as well as daily life. This book breaks down the importance of relatable analogies and lowering communication barriers.

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”?

Early on, I didn’t understand the difference between happiness and success. All of my customers were happy; the problem was they all weren’t successful. I was blindsided by a few non-renewals from customers that I had a strong relationship with, but they weren’t successful. It was a tough quarter, but probably the one I am most thankful for.

Question 5

What do you find most fulfilling about being a CSM?

The ability to impact the lives of hundreds / thousands / tens of thousands (you get it) users. Given that we spend the majority of each day at work, and the majority of that time interacting with software, that software has a meaningful impact of our happiness at work. If it’s effective, helps guide us towards our goals, etc., it adds to our happiness. With that, it’s our duty within CS to ensure that we are guiding our companies to build the best solution, and guiding our customers to deploy the best solution.

Question 6

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

Don’t focus on making your customers happy. Focus on making them successful. And understand the difference.

Question 7

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

There are actually three, and it’s a framework that allows decision making to be done freely and ensure it works for all constituents. That is to ask yourself three simple questions before you make a decision:

  1. Is this good for the Customer?
  2. Is this good for the Company?
  3. Is this good for the Culture?

If the answer is yes to all three, the decision / approach is sound. If it’s yes to just two of them, you may try tweaking your approach to see if you can solve for the third as well. If the answer is yes to just one, you’ve got some wood to chop. And if there isn’t a yes anywhere in there – you’ve got to start from square one.



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


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 – 3 Best Practices that Drive Powerful Customer Experiences (How to Avoid the Dreaded Car Dealership Experience)

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

Mieke Maes, Intuo – 5 Keys to an Effective Customer Apology

Priscilla Zorrilla, 15Five – Asking the Right Questions to Challenge Customers

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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