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.
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!
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’m a fan of the the 5 Whys technique. This iterative questioning process ensures that I’m focusing on the root cause of a problem rather than on a symptom. CSMs are problem solvers, but in order to solve a problem you need to make sure you truly understand the root cause.
What are one or two things you typically do during the first hour of your day that leads to a productive day?
My mornings tend to begin with a little exercise and a lot of coffee. I find that I’m most alert in the morning, so unless I have client meetings, I try to start with the tasks that require the most brain power. It’s a win if I can get those out of the way first.
What are one to three books, blogs, or thought leaders that have greatly influenced your career, and why?
- The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu Goldratt. How is a book about manufacturing from the 1980’s relevant to a career in customer success? It’s by far the best book I’ve read on how to identify the one thing you need to achieve and how to think analytically to achieve it.
- StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. The personality test that comes with this book is the most insightful personality test I’ve ever taken. If you can build a team with a diversity of strengths as measured by this book, you have the potential for a very high-performing team.
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”?
Some years ago, I was responsible for the rollout of a new tool and process that was not as successful as it could have been. The process and tool were phenomenal, and the management was excited, but that wasn’t enough to drive adoption.
I learned the hard way that there are no shortcuts in change management. If the stakeholders do not understand the need for change, know how to change, and want to change, then the project will fail. Period.
What do you find most fulfilling about being a CSM?
Helping a client solve a business problem that’s been keeping them up at night is the most rewarding part of my job.
If you had to give one piece of advice to another CSM, what would you say and why?
A CSM has to have a broad range of skills — product expertise, industry knowledge, sales acumen, training delivery, executive-level presentation skills, etc., etc.
I tell CSMs that they can’t be perfect in every area, so they should figure out where they have gaps and create a plan to address or mitigate them. Do you need more industry knowledge? Find someone in product marketing who has that knowledge and take them out to lunch. Concerned about your sales ability? Don’t hesitate to lean on your sales reps. People are willing to help you; you just need to ask.
What is one customer success principle you try to live by?
I always try to look for ways I can help. Sometimes, it’s not obvious. In those cases, I simply ask, “How can I help you?”
Want to share your mentor advice? Submit your answers here.
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