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CSM from the Trenches: Mentors – Sam Feil, Customer Success Manager, ClientSuccess

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.

Introducing CSM from the Trenches Mentors

We recently launched a new segment of the CSM from the Trenches series that focuses on 7 mentor questions for frontline CSMs. The goal is that by sharing our experiences, we’ll be able to learn and apply more practical advice / practices to our Customer Success careers.

Let’s get started with this week’s post!

Company: ClientSuccess
Location: American Fork, Utah
From: Sam Feil, Customer Success Manager

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?

Time management has always been a practice I’ve been looking to better as a CSM. I’ve found that my schedule is often booked back-to-back with no time in between calls (which can make transitioning to the different conversations difficult). I have a calendar link that allows clients to schedule a time most convenient for them, but it occasionally stacks my day. It’s simply exhausting having to jump from one call right on to the next with little to no time to breath.

I recently learned my scheduling tool allows me to include a buffer before and after calls! A benefit to this is I’ve now taken more control over my calendar. It’s nice to be able to have sufficient time to transition between calls, including taking notes about the call I just had.

Question 2

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

I work with a lot of our international customers, so I try to arrive in the office at least 30 minutes prior to our scheduled calls. This allows me to not only prepare mentally, but also prepare any screens, notes, best practices, or documents that are relevant to those conversations.

On days with no international calls, I utilize the first hour of my day to answer emails received since I was last in the office. It’s important for me to be caught up support-wise in order to move on with my other planned activities.

Question 3

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

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown. I picked this book up last year, with my biggest takeaway being we’re empowered to control of our own choices about where to spend our time and energies. We don’t have to say yes to everything, only the essential.

As a CSM, and because I want to see my clients succeed, I started my career wanting to say “yes” to everything. I’d answer simple emails late at night, I’d speak more to future feature enhancements to appease frustrated customers, or jump on on impromptu call despite an already packed schedule.

Because of this book, I try to do better at owning my schedule and choices as a CSM by focusing on what’s most important. For example…if an email isn’t urgent, it can wait until the next time I’m in the office.

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”?

An apparent failure that comes to mind is when we realized our onboarding process was not setting expectations as well as it could have been. As we continued to grow our client base, it became clear we needed to take a step back and re-evaluate our onboarding to better align with our customers.

We took this opportunity to take our onboarding back to the drawing board, implement improvements, and create better internal documentation of our processes. One of the improvements we made included introducing a form to more easily capture onboarding-specific key success criteria and who the dedicated implementation owner / other key stakeholders are.

Question 5

What do you find most fulfilling about being a CSM?

I’m blessed in that I’m a CSM for a customer success platform and get to work with like-minded professionals. This makes it easier to understand where each client is coming from and the problems they’re trying to solve. It’s most fulfilling to be able to speak from experience in recommending best practices as I bring them onboard and drive adoption.

Question 6

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

Work towards establishing relationships as a trusted advisor. Authentic relationships are essential for subscription-based companies to be successful; therefore, building strong relationships of trust is a huge part in the role of a CSM. Just like real relationships, the best ones are those built on honest and open communication, a clear understanding or direction of purpose, and being unified in that purpose. Customer Success starts and ends with the relationship.

Question 7

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

I try to be as empathetic as possible, whether it’s training on new functionality or listening to frustrated feedback. I know that’s not what you may typically expect from a customer success principle, but it’s a principle CSMs should follow because ultimately we want to understand how each customer defines “success” and help them come closer to achieving their goals.


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


Join the ClientSuccess CSM from the Trenches LinkedIn Group: Join 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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