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.
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!
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?
Something we’ve recently implemented with our CSMs is a term we’ve coined front-line empowerment. In a nutshell, it’s empowering CSMs to take care of their clients without needing specific approval from management.
From a leadership stance, this has been beneficial for two reasons. First, we’ve found that CSMs are getting more creative, innovative, and strategic in their approach to “customer success”. Second, our CSMs have shown a higher dedication to their customers with the added autonomy in their jobs.
What are one or two things you typically do during the first hour of your day that leads to a productive day?
Depending on the day of the week, we have a quick standing-sync with our team’s leadership on what big-rocks we’re pushing over the finish line that day.
If not, I’ll generally sync up with each of our team’s leadership to make sure they have everything they need to succeed that day. Using the mornings to go over big-picture projects/ideas is the best way to setup the trajectory for that day and week.
Lastly, I make sure to check my emails and hit inbox-zero before I really start the day. I know a lot of people would say it’s a waste of the precious morning hours, but I find it incredibly valuable in my daily routine.
What are one to three books, blogs, or thought leaders that have greatly influenced your career, and why?
Collective reasons for these books: (a) Making sure that we’re understanding our target market and how to best serve those customers. (b) Understanding the correct strategies to implement and when/how to deploy them. (c) Making sure that you have the right people on your team deploying the right strategy, at the right time, to the right customer.
Rob Nelson, Founder and CEO of Grow.com. Yes, I know – schmoozing your own CEO? Tacky? Brown-nosing? Regardless of criticism, one thing I’ve learned from Rob is that he not only has the grit and knowledge to win in any situation, he has the perfect mix of confidence and humility that is hard to find in a CEO of a tech-startup.
Greg Daines, CEO of Client Velocity. Greg has been paramount in understanding the dynamics of MRR/Logo retention. He brings refreshingly counterintuitive principles to the table that all customer success leaders should be following.
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”?
My “favorite failure” is more of a theme rather than a single instance. Early on in my career, I tried to get my clients to use the software as the best tool in their company’s digital tool-belt. It didn’t take long for me to truly understand that customers don’t want “tools”, they want what the tool can do. Simply put, customers want solutions, not tools.
The sooner I began proposing solutions to my clients’ problems, and subsequently labeling our software as the champion of that pain-point, is when I began to see more successful clients and an increase in LTV. Theodore Levitt, said it best, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.”
What do you find most fulfilling about being a CSM?
In terms of SaaS B2B, by far, the most fulfilling thing about customer success is helping clients change specific behaviors within their org to allow technology to become a solution to dozens of pain-points they’ve been experiencing.
Whether it’s automating a process that saves hundreds of collective hours each month, or gaining insights that allow executives to make drastically better decisions more efficiently — witnessing key behavioral changes throughout a client’s business is incredibly gratifying.
If you had to give one piece of advice to another CSM, what would you say and why?
Don’t be afraid to fail. Often we get into a rut where we’re afraid to experiment and try new things. Whether it’s because we’re afraid of failing, or because we’re afraid of the unknown that comes with experimentation and innovation.
Everyone knows that frustrating and all-but exhausting feeling of putting our blood and sweat into a project just to see it fail. However, if it weren’t for failure, we couldn’t ever be successful.
James Dyson knew that feeling all too well. Over the course of 15 years, he created 5,126 bagless vacuum prototypes that all came up short. Imagine failing over 5,000 times for 15 years? I like to pretend I’d have that same drive and ambition. By the way, Dyson? They’re now worth $5.6 billion.
What is one customer success principle you try to live by?
Customer delight does not always equate to success (all credit goes to Greg Daines of Client Velocity for this one). It became very clear that simply trying to make your customers happy was not enough to achieve high LTV or 100%+ net revenue retention.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be delighting our customers, and shame on us if we’re not; however, it is simply not enough. Success is the name of the game — it is called ‘customer success’ right? Now, we’ve all had “happy” clients cancel. At the same time, we’ve all had clients who seem to complain about everything imaginable stick around year after year. Often, customer complaints can be a sign of deep engagement with your product.
Simply put, successful customers should be our top priority.
Want to share your mentor advice? Submit your answers here.
Here are other customer success resources:
Customer Success eBooks:
Other CSM from the Trenches Posts:
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