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’ve reached deep into our customer success organization and offered myself up as a mentor to members of our younger generation of employees. A few have taken me up on it and (I think) they are receiving value from the things I have to say, the suggestions I’ve given, the network I’m introducing them into, and the challenges I’ve asked them to consider confronting. Has it helped me? Probably in a profound way it’s made my career even more gratifying.
What are one or two things you typically do during the first hour of your day that leads to a productive day?
Read. I have a set list of publications I review each day that ranges from US and Canadian daily online newspapers and magazines to random updates from MIT, Stanford, INSEAD, Kellogg, and the Rotman School of Business. And Twitter, of course. I’m a fanatic about curating my feed and so I have it down to a finely-tuned instrument of knowledge that flows my way.
What are one to three books, blogs, or thought leaders that have greatly influenced your career, and why?
For thought leaders I’d have to say, Alex Shootman, the current CEO of Workfront, and the former CRO of Eloqua. Catherine Blackmore, and not just because she’s been my boss for the last three years. Haha. And finally, Paul Teshima, the current CEO of Nudge.AI. Paul hired me at Eloqua and really demonstrated for me what it means to be an authentic CX leader. All three of these people are grounded, bright, and engaging individuals who seem to want to draw the best out of the people they’re interacting with and the situations in which they might find themselves.
Books – There have been so many but three come immediately to mind because they’ve each factored into some of the blog posts I’ve written in the last year for Oracle. Data for the People, by Andreas Weigend; Talent Wins by Dominic Barton, and Prediction Machines by Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans, and Avi Goldfarb.
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”?
I don’t think you can be successful unless you’ve failed at some point. Hopefully, with time we open ourselves up to understanding what went on and what we can learn. Favorite failure? I guess it was when I ran a bit too far ahead of my executive team in what I wanted to do around scaling of low touch customer success. This was about 6 years ago and I think I was pushing for too much change, too fast. The organizational and corporate cultures weren’t ready for it.
What do you find most fulfilling about being a CSM?
Making positive change happen for customers. Being able to align with key customers and enabling them, through expert guidance and assistance, to advance their business missions is very gratifying.
If you had to give one piece of advice to another CSM, what would you say and why?
Read, think, and speak up. While people will give you a chance, the CSMs who are most successful are those who grasp those chances and make the most of it by demonstrating competence, professionalism, and collaboration.
What is one customer success principle you try to live by?
I’m going to give you two. 1) Be respectful of, and considerate with, everyone you meet. And, 2) Bring something of value to every single conversation you have with a customer.
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