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?
More of a tactic, but my team has started to pick up the phone more instead of shooting off so many emails. I think it’s really easy to resort to sending off a bunch of emails as you work through your to-do list, but there are some conversations that merit a phone call. It’s harder to really “reach” customers through email when you need to convey an important message.
We’ve also started using a product called Loom to send videos/screen recordings over email for certain questions (e.g., if a customer asks a specific question about a specific feature, we just record a quick screen recording to email back instead of just writing out a description).
What are one or two things you typically do during the first hour of your day that leads to a productive day?
I love to exercise first thing in the morning. I’m like 1,000% more productive, energized, and happy throughout the day when I workout in the morning (while listening to rap music, of course).
What are one to three books, blogs, or thought leaders that have greatly influenced your career, and why?
Limiting it to 3 is painful. I’m obsessed with learning and try to read as much as I can.
Here are a few:
- “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott. If I could only recommend one book to new managers, it would be Radical Candor; Transformative principles that have greatly influenced how I approach managing people. Care personally + Challenge directly.
- “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. This is probably my all-time favorite business book. I was fortunate enough to find this book early in my career, and have internalized and greatly benefited from many of its principles, e.g., “good is the enemy of great,” “face the brutal facts,” “get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.”
- “The Tim Ferriss Show” (podcast). I’m a podcast junkie, and this is probably my top pick. Really long and not overly produced episodes, but I’ve discovered countless gems from listening regularly over the years.
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 subscribe to Marc Andreessen’s take on failure, “The idea of fail-fast is catastrophic if it is applied to strategy and goals”, but is appropriate if applied to tactics. I think over-celebrating failure is dicey and a bit of a trend. It’s important to tolerate some types of failures so people will be innovative and try new things, especially new tactics, but the negative impact of strategic failures can be too costly.
I try really hard to get the strategic things right (and not fail), but am much more experimental with tactics. That being said, I’ve failed plenty. With customers, I have learned the hard way about the negative effects of not spending enough time in discovery mode and not getting clarity around their expectations, objectives, and processes.
What do you find most fulfilling about being a CSM?
I think there are a lot of things about working in customer success that are incredibly compelling and fulfilling. In general, being able to help businesses achieve results that they could not otherwise achieve without your product and services is very rewarding. A lot of the time, the success of the key contacts and individual people you work with will hinge on their effectiveness in implementing your product and delivering value to their organization. Helping them to look like a rock star is a win-win situation and a ton of fun.
If you had to give one piece of advice to another CSM, what would you say and why?
Invest time in becoming a masterfully persuasive communicator and learn to ask really great questions. Persuasion is the ability to influence. Your ideas won’t get any traction if you can’t persuade and influence other people, especially your customers.
What is one customer success principle you try to live by?
Strive to communicate, demonstrate, and deliver value in every client interaction.
Want to share your mentor advice? Submit your answers here.
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Other CSM from the Trenches Posts:
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