WEBINAR REPLAY

FROM THE EXPERTS: CLIMBING THE RANKS IN CUSTOMER SUCCESS

Erika:    

Hi everyone and welcome to today’s webinar with UserIQ. Our webinar today is From the Experts: Climbing the Ranks in Customer Success. Today we’re going to cover a few things. We’re going to cover some traits and skills and some of the things that are important to really growing your career in customer success. We’ll talk about some of the top challenges that experts are running into and some of the tips that they have for overcoming those challenges. And we’ll also talk about resources and some of the things that can help you grow your network and build out your skills.

First, a few housekeeping items. So as a reminder the webinar will be recorded and we’ll send out the slides and the recording after the webinar. You can keep an eye out for those in your inbox, which should be in the next day or two. We’ll also be doing a Q and A with our panelists toward the end of the webinar so if you have questions for our panelists or things that you’re dying to know please feel free to chat those into the chat box or in the questions pane for our organizer. And also if you have any technical difficulties or things that you want to share with us feel free to chat those in the same place as well.

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Just a little information about me, I’m your moderator today. I’m Erika Childers. I am the Content Marketing Manager here at UserIQ and we empower SaaS companies to deliver what each of their users needs to be successful in every moment so that you can effectively scale onboarding, increase feature usage, accelerate time to value and ultimately drive more revenue throughout your customer journey.

With that let’s get started. So we have three fantastic panelists with us today, really excited about it. They are all at different levels of their CS career and I think they’re going to give you some really excellent advice today.

Our first panelist is Elizabeth Italiano. She is the Founder and Managing Director at WnTD Partners. She has more than 10 years of experience and has worked for organizations like Xerox, Salesforce and Vend POS. Her expertise really encompasses things all the way from creating and implementing customer success strategies at the go to market level all the way through renewals and expansion with sales. She’s helped organizations increase revenue, reduce churn, decrease the cost to serve and ultimately her experience and her passion for CS really helps her to create customer centric cultures that scale across the entire business. And a little fun fact is that she is also a long distance runner. She really likes doing long distances like half marathons and marathons. Elizabeth are you here?

Elizabeth:         

I am, yes.

Erika:    

Awesome. So one of the things that I like to do when we do webinars is kind of give a little bit of background. So one of the things that I wanted to ask kind of level set with the audience today is if you can tell us about how you got started in customer success and what your journey was like to lead you through this career so far.

Elizabeth:          

Yeah, well thanks for having me on the webinar today. Super excited to be here with you all. So how I got started in customer success was a little accidentally to be honest with you. I was working with a start up called Radian6 that was acquired by Salesforce and I was a sales executive at the time of the acquisition and I got asked to run a pilot project after Salesforce bought Radian6 and part of the pilot project was running SMB and being basically sales and customer success manager for a segment of the customer base.

And so I took on that pilot project and absolutely fell in love with customer success. And that became my passion and my career going forward and that was 10 years ago and here I am today still doing it.

Erika:

Awesome. Well that’s a very interesting perspective and I think will lend itself to some great conversation as we go through today. Thanks for being here Elizabeth.

Elizabeth:          

You’re welcome.

Erika:     

Alright, so our next panelist is Manisha Marberry, she is a Customer Success Director at Sprinklr. She also has more than 10 years of experience in managing and growing client relationships. Her expertise is really routed in social media and SaaS and how conceiving and executing on strategies that help focus the audience engagement and acquisition, leveraging trends and really help achieving those client goals. She has experience working with a ton of different verticals like electronics, retail, government, pharmaceutical and many more. The cool thing about Manisha is that she’s a big traveler. She likes to travel at least twice a year whenever she can and some of her more recent destinations were Colombia, Thailand, Singapore. Word on the street she’s headed to Argentina next which is very exciting. We’re really happy to have you, Manisha are you there?

Manisha:            

I sure am.

Erika:     

Hi how’s it going?

Manisha:            

Hi, happy to be here. It’s going well.

Erika:     

Good, good. So the same kind of question that we just posed for Elizabeth — tell us a little about how you got started in customer success and what really drew you into this field.

Manisha:            

Absolutely. Well similar to Elizabeth it was somewhat accidental. When I moved to New York from Portland, Oregon I was really focused on a career in marketing and advertising. And at that time, brands were still learning what social media meant and how their brand could grow from a strategy around that. And so the agency that I was working with slowly evolved into a social media agency and from there that’s kind of what my bread and butter became. I joined a small advocacy influencer platform that was then later acquired by the company that I’m with now, Sprinklr, and at the time I was really looking to get back to my account management roots and while customer success and account management are different there were a lot of things about the customer success role that I felt really tapped into my strengths and so I joined the customer success team here at Sprinklr and the rest is history.

Erika:     

Awesome, again going to be some really good information from you about what that transition looks like and kind of some of the skills and things that you’ve had to build up over time. Really excited to have you Manisha. Thanks for being here.

Manisha:            

Thank you.

Erika:     

Alright, and our final panelist is Sherrod Patching. She is the Chief Customer Officer at Leadspace. She has more than 15 years of experience leading customer teams and even having built teams from the very inception of CS all the way to scaling those to form an IPO. She manages customer success managers, customer support and operations as well as professional services in her current role. And a fun fact about Sherrod is that she lived in London or awhile, lived in Canada for a little while, she’s been in the US for about six years and she has two sweet little daughters that keeps her very active. Sherrod are you there?

Sherrod:            

I am yes. Thank you.

Erika:     

Awesome.

Sherrod:            

Yes so Elizabeth I don’t do marathons or half marathons but it feels like it on a Saturday morning so it’s not a little different.

Erika:     

A little different but still staying active, all good. So I’m going to ask the same question of you, so tell us a little bit about your journey into the role that you’re in now.

Sherrod:            

So I think to keep on trend, I think everyone probably fell into customer success at some point. So I’ve been in this space for probably about 10 years specifically doing kind of post sales customer success. And the first company that I worked for I came in in the pilot phase for the company because of my background in running teams and operations. And lead the post sales teams, built them out, and built the platforms and the systems and it was really my first foray into what does good customer support look like really in Saas and we’re kind of figuring it out as we went along and from there just really enjoyed the post sales structure and just getting to engage with the customers and kind of stayed in that space since then.

Erika:     

Awesome, fantastic, well again great experience from you and we’re really excited to hear from all of our panelists today.

So with that let’s go ahead and jump into some of the questions that we had. As a reminder or if you’re just joining we will do a Q and A with our panelists toward the end of the webinar so feel free to chat those in the questions pane or the chat box in your admin panel and we’ll try to cover as many of those as we can once we get started.

So our first question will kind of break this out a little bit into two separate questions, but what are some of the skills and traits that are required to be successful in customer success? So Sherrod, I’m going to start with you on this one, can you tell us about some of the hard skills versus soft traits or soft skills that you have found valuable in your customer success career?

Sherrod:            

Sure. So we’re a data company. I worked primarily in data companies and so I think being data driven is incredibly important in customer success both from looking at the data across your customers and being able to make decisions based on what the data is telling you, not just based on a fire, or based on potentially emotion. And also because we’re a data company then we also need CSMs that can truly understand the customer’s data also. So it’s a bit of a blend for both. Being data driven is very important for us. Then being creative in problem solving so that it’s every customer needs something slightly different however you want to make sure that it’s a standard approach. So how so we implement something that is consistent, messaging is consistent and yet still we give room and flexibility for them to be able to come with creative solutions for customer problems. So I think that kind of creative solving and problem solving and also a flexibility is really key.

Time management is an obvious one but there is never enough hours in the day so what do I do about that. Someone who can really prioritize and determine what sort of the most important things for today versus tomorrow.

And then on the softer side, empathy is incredibly important. Customers need to feel like they’re being listened to. So just the ability to actively listen and empathize and connect with customers has been really important for us.

Erika:     

Awesome, very good. So Manisha we had chatted about this before and you had mentioned kind of the perception of a customer success person having product knowledge and technical knowledge. Can you expand a little bit more on that conversation?

Manisha:            

Yeah, absolutely. So I think it really comes down to the role that you’re in. In some success roles they do require you to have a little bit of knowledge around being able to implement the software. Whereas other companies that might not be as important. In my humble opinion I think no matter which side you’re on its important to have some understanding some technical knowledge of the product because if your role includes driving value and driving adoption it’s much harder to do that if you don’t truly understand the products that you’re trying to get people to adapt to. And so I would say where to start if maybe you aren’t in the doors of a company yet, or maybe you’re looking for a success role is just make sure that you’re familiar with some of the different platforms that are out there. There’s a lot of free tools that you can use that might be related to your industry and from there that will just get you a little bit more hands on when it comes to getting your feet wet when it comes to the technical side of the business.

Erika:     

Yeah absolutely, so one of the things that is important to us here at UserIQ is thinking about how customer success aligns with the product team not just from a technical perspective but how can these two teams work together and certainly building that technical knowledge where you can or where it’s needed or wherever it’s best served can kind of help facilitate that. We’re actually running a survey right now to learn more about how these two teams are working together. You can find that on the website if you’re interested. But such an important kind of skill and people can kind of take advantage of sometimes is customer success is seen as more of a softer thing.

Manisha:            

Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah absolutely.

Erika:     

Elizabeth what about you, what are some of the unique skills that you have built up and you think are important especially as coming from kind of more of that consultant type background?

Elizabeth:          

Yeah, so for some of the hard skills problem solving is a big one. You absolutely need to be a problem solver and think strategically. And alongside thinking strategically I really believe you need to be analytical and data driven. So being able to tell a story with data. Particularly when you’re in a leadership role, when you’re trying to advocate for your customers, when you’re trying to make a case for your team, when you’re trying to develop a strategy I think being data driven and like I said telling a story with data is really important.

Some other skills as well are negotiation and objection handling, managing difficult conversations. Those are important as a CSM, as a CS Leader, as you get things escalated to you, managing things internally. And then lastly, I think the other element as far as hard skills go is project management. I always say you can have the best strategy in the world but if you can’t project manage to execute on it and to work with your team to execute on it. And again that’s in line with CSMs as well and CS Leaders is you need to be able to execute on your client strategies or your strategies internally. So I think those are really important.

And then in terms of soft skills being personable. Liking working with people and being passionate about seeing people be successful. If that gets you excited about helping others achieve their goals and outcomes and see them reach their successes, if you’re passionate about that then CS is definitely a role that you’ll thrive in.

Empathy is huge. That’s a 100 percent must have. You need to be able to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Be empathetic, be a good listener, much like Sherrod said I completely agree with that point as well. And lastly the ability to influence. So the ability to influence your customers to adopt the process, the best practices, because sometimes you’ll have people that are resistant to change. You’ll have detractors that don’t want to adopt your product, the ability to influence as a CSM and then as a CS Leader being able to influence the product roadmap because you know the feedback you get from your CSMs. So whether you’re a CSM or a CS Leader it’s really important to be able to influence.

Erika:     

That’s great. So that’s a really comprehensive list that we have of different skills and traits and things that are so important. So I wanted to shift actually, this is good timing because I wanted to shift over to the traits specially and Elizabeth what you were just talking about some of the differences or similarities between the skills or traits that you need to have whether you’re a CSM or all the way up to a CS Leader, Sherrod and I had actually had a similar conversation and I had asked some things about how do your skills change from one level to the next as you’re moving through your career. And Sherrod you had a really good thought on this around oscillating between micro and macro. Can you expand on that?

Sherrod:            

Yeah. I think it’s true of CSMs and I think that CSMs that do well or you see do well are the ones that can do this well and it is exactly as you say the oscillation between the micro and the macro. Being able to have a business conversation with a CMO and most of we’re dealing with marketers and sales organizations so being able to have a business conversation with the CMO and keeping it high level enough that we’re truly talking about vision and not talking about the nuances of something. And then literally in the next sentence be able to dive in and talk about a data point and the variable within a data point with maybe one of your champions. And being able to go between those two is incredibly challenging.

The ones who I see do really well in this space both from a CSM and also from a leader perspective are the ones who can take it back up out of the weeds and have those business conversations. And I think some of it just comes down to getting comfortable having the business conversations with your accounts. And I think the ones who do well with being able to take a step back and say what are we trying to solve for here holistically and how are we working towards that are the ones who can then take that into the next level in their own careers.

Erika:

Yeah I think that’s such an important thing and hard for so many of us. I think it’s an important thing as most of us move up through our careers whether we’re in CS or sales or whatever, but really figuring out how can I spend so much of my time, especially as a CSM, you’re spending so much of your time in the weeds, you’re deep in the data with your customers, you’re working on very tactical things and it can be hard and sometimes there may not even be an opportunity for you to flex those skills of kind of how you move up. And kind of think more of that macro business level strategy.

Awesome, so Manisha, you had mentioned something about how customer success people need to stay positive as customer success professionals in the ever more stressful world, the importance of staying positive and being able to really just be patient with the things that you’re working on. Can you chat a little bit more about how that has impacted you?

Manisha:            

Yeah, absolutely. So I couldn’t agree more with that statement that positivity just brings a completely different perspective. In the world of customer success things change often. Releases may not go out on time, there might be something that wasn’t communicated to you from another team member, maybe there is something that you didn’t communicate to another team member and the world is not perfect. There are going to be ebbs and flows throughout your day and so just remaining positive and remembering that you need to stay adaptable I think is absolutely key in this role. There are a lot of moving parts so you might be as Sherrod had mentioned you might be speaking with the CMO one hour but you might be speaking with and ends level user practitioner the next hour. And so just being able to adapt quickly and understand that the world of software is ever changing I think just helps create a great mindset for how you should approach your day.

Erika:     

Absolutely. So important, I mean it makes such a big difference if you can just try to stay positive. Like you mentioned there are always going to be things in technology and SaaS and the space that so many of us work in that it’s not always going to be a good time but if we can try to find the value, or try to see the positive or just fight against the negativity I think our customers will feel that too and it kind of really helps build that relationship in a positive way.

Manisha:            

Yeah and I think kind of going back to just customer advocacy in general, when things don’t go right, tapping into that empathy and saying you know I get it. It’s a bummer that this particular project or this thing didn’t go the way that we had hoped, I’m bummed out about it too, but this is what we can do moving forward to make it better or to hear what the next steps are.

Erika:     

Yeah, love it. Ladies this is really comprehensive. We have the skills and traits all the way from being data driven and things that you can physically learn and be taught all the way to skills and softer traits that are important to just who your personality is. This is really great so far.

So moving into our next question, I wanted to chat with our panelists because they’ve all come from different backgrounds, they’re coming from different places, it kind of all sort of fell into this customer success role accidentally as I think they all described I’m wondering about what are some of the setbacks, what are the challenges to that? So I wanted to Manisha to start with you on this one. So what are some of the obstacles that kind of really stand out from your career and what were some of the things that you did to try to overcome those things?

Manisha:            

Yeah, absolutely, so like many people who are exploring their passions and trying to figure out where they fit in the world when it comes to career, I had taken a job that just wasn’t the best fit for me. A lot of the things that I thought the job would include didn’t and it had me really missing my account management background. I really wanted to be working with customers again. I was in more of a sales role but it wasn’t exactly what I hoped for. I was really itching to get back in front of customers because I have such a passion for customer delight. And as I was seeking out other opportunities it was just a coincidence that the company I was with was acquired by a software company.

And when we got to this new software company I started to seek out what some of the other positions were internally, one of them being customer success and spoke with the customer success team, multiple members from the VP of the team to other members on the team and learned about what customer success was and what the approach was for them. And I felt like it tapped into so many of my strengths, so many of the things that I was passionate about so it was a rocky road while I was trying to figure it out but it ended up working out very well.

And then I would say as far as another obstacle goes coming from an account management background from the agency world we’re so used to doing things for our clients. Anytime a client reaches out and they need something you are the doer, you are the executor. Whereas in customer success I truly believe that it’s about empowerment. Truly empowering your customers to learn the technology and showing them how to use the technology and so when I first started in my customer success career I have to admit it was really difficult for me to let go of those reins but over time I knew that if I wanted to avoid burnout it was the only way, was to really see my role as a strategic advisor, as an empowerer of the platform, as somebody that was there to help drive value and adoption and it was tough but eventually it worked out.

Erika:     

That’s great and I think that really harkens back to this idea of being especially as you’re transitioning or even if you are looking forward to moving upward in your career being able to empower your customers to do the things that they should know how to do in your platform and not just being the doer kind of takes me back to this idea of being able to oscillate between the micro and the macro. There is so much time just doing the thing that they need you to do so that they can see the value instead of empowering them and it kind of definitely will lead to burn out it will leave you just so in the weeds all the time. And just kind of stuck there if you can’t take a step back and try to get some perspective on that.

Manisha:            

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely.

Erika:     

So Sherrod you had kind of a unique pivot into customer success I’d love to hear a little bit more about that and if you can chat about some of the obstacles that you ran into and how you overcame those as you made that transition.

Sherrod:            

So I’m aging myself but I was a musician until I was 30, living in London. I was definitely going to get famous and got to 30 and realized that I probably wasn’t going to get famous and I needed to probably do something else and if I ever got famous I could always quit my job, but I needed to move forward. So I had been leading big kind of 50,000 square foot gyms because most musicians have jobs whilst trying to figure out my music career. When I hit 30 then I decided to pivot and I think was tired of the fitness industry and wanted to do something that I really felt that I could put my passion into and just kind of fell into ended up leading up a digital marketing agency and then from there got into tech. But it was a massive setback.

You first had to come to grips with the fact that my career wasn’t going to go the way I thought it was going to go. And then I had to discover what is technology all the vernacular, all the acronyms, everything was new. I came in completely green and started by leading a team and then kind of grew out to leading the agency and then in time getting into technology from there.

But it’s a massive learning curve and I think it’s the one thing that I learned was to not to despise the day of small beginnings. Of kind of starting somewhere by just leading a team in a digital marketing agency and from there I think I truly believe that if you apply some of the things that we’re talking about today and the passion that Manisha was talking about that there are always opportunities. That people are looking for problem solvers. And if you can come into an organization as a CSM and truly believe that you can bring strategic thinking and problem solving and positivity as we’ve been saying to the role there’s always room for growth. So I think rather than, I started kind of middle level and from there worked my way up and have done that consistently in opportunities since then. So my career has just kind of snowballed from starting out somewhere in the middle of an organization and working my way up through applying the things that we’ve been talking about today.

Erika:     

And I think that’s so important and really goes back to those skills and traits that we were talking about. So much of it can be learned if you’re willing to learn and like you had mentioned there is such a big demand, companies are looking for people who can execute and who can really strategize and understand how to tackle things, not necessarily the hard skills or the ability to know exactly what all the words mean and things like that but really being able to take all that and turn it into something that empowers you to do to keep learning, to keep growing.

I think we all had this discussion previously but it was at an event awhile back when I was chatting with someone and he was talking about what a big difference it is because customer success is still sort of a newer department. And a lot of companies are still trying to figure out what that means but for the most part at this point lots of companies know that they need customer success. So they’re all out there looking for customer success managers or directors of VPs or whatever it is that they’re looking for and the supply is just not there. And I think as this continues to grow, we’ll probably start to see customer success make it into university curriculums and things like that, because I think it’s that important.

But definitely there’s a huge demand and they can only ask for so much. If they can get someone in who knows at least how to strategize or how to manage or those softer skills all the other things can be learned.

Sherrod:            

Yeah agree.

Erika:    

Awesome, so Elizabeth can you chat with us kind of around this same question, so what are the things that you ran into that kind of led you to where you are today because you are in a little bit of a unique place? What are some of the setbacks or obstacles that you ran into through that?

Elizabeth:          

Yeah so, the obstacle or setback I guess that I ran into ended up being one of my best learning experiences and really shaped how I approach things today is I knew years ago that I wanted to start a customer success consultancy but I identified that there were some areas that I needed to grow my experience in. So I was a CS Leader with one organization and I took an individual contributor CSM role after that with another organization because it filled in one of the gaps that I’d identified that I had and wanted to fill before starting my business.

And the company that I was working with as a CSM we experienced massive growth and the way I was working with my clients it wasn’t scalable. And I learned a lot about scale in that year. But essentially what happened is I was working 80, 90 sometimes even more a week and this was for months on end and I completely burned out. I mean like crashed and burned. And it affected me personally and professionally. And why it was such a big setback for me is because this was very meaningful in my career plans and my career growth executing at 100 percent or as close to 100 percent was very important for me. And I got to the point where I recognized my quality wasn’t as high in my work, my resiliency was low, my positivity, which is usually pretty high, took a big hit and it really affected me like I said personally and professionally.

And I took that learning experience though and I learned how to listen to my body, my mind, to take breaks, but it’s also what has given me a lot of passion or part of what has given me a lot of passion about teaching others and helping others to develop customer success strategies in teams that are scalable because I don’t want to see anyone go through kind of what I went through in that stage of burn out. And it really made me a better leader. So when I left that role I moved back into a leadership role and I do believe that it made me a better leader for my team that I subsequently had. And I think it makes me better at what I do today.

Erika:     

That’s awesome. I think that’s a big one, feeling like you’re just kind of at a pretty low point being able to bounce back from that. I don’t think that I mentioned it earlier but you created this customer success master class series right? And I’m assuming that a lot of that stuff comes from some of the things that you’ve learned in your personal career.

Elizabeth:          

Yeah, it does and so WnTD, my business name, it stands for What Not to Do because I believe that a lot of things in business is as much knowing what not to do and I learned through this unscalable way that I was working of what not to do. And it did shape my customer success master class program that I’ve put together and the training program that I have because I teach about self-sufficient customers and time management and all of these things and the balance between strategies and tactics. I guess the experience that I had is a blessing in disguise because ultimately it did help me shape what I created today and the program that I teach.

Erika:     

That’s fantastic. We’ll share some resources and some of our follow up materials if you guys are interested in learning more about Elizabeth and her series but I think that’s such an empowered place you came from like I said kind of a lower point and you bounced all the way back and now you’re trying to teach other people what not to do. Like here are some things that I’ve learned that you guys can avoid. You don’t have to do this because I’m telling you that I’ve learned from it. That’s awesome.

Erika:     

So just as a reminder for our audience, if you guys have questions, we’ve had a few trickle in already, but if you guys have questions for our panel, want to know more about what their experience has been, anything that we haven’t covered, please feel free to send those in, we’ll cover a few of those after our next question.

So I really wanted to dig in on some of the challenges. We talked about challenges and setbacks to a career but as most of our ladies are in these sort of senior levels I wanted to understand what are some of the challenges that they run into today. And Sherrod I wanted to start with you on this one. What are some of the most challenging parts of your job today? And what are some ways you’re trying to overcome those challenges now?

Sherrod:            

Sure, I think one of the biggest challenges as we grow is how do I keep close to the customer so I don’t manage a book of business myself. So how do I keep close to the customer, what’s happening with the customer and I really think that comes through strong relationships with the CSMs and also the team that reports to me. So being able to understand through them, kind of be able to filter my questions so that I know what I’m looking for. Rather than just kind of hearing the day to day with customers so I can see trends across our customer base that then will feed into product roadmap and those types of things.

I work very closely with our product team on development and so it’s incredibly important that I understand what the customers are saying. And yet I can’t always be in front of them all the time. And I do make a point of spending time with customers but I don’t get that same, the CSMs have such a wonderful feel for being in with the customers day in and day out and so I think the biggest challenge and also the biggest opportunity is how do I build a framework where that feedback can get back to me so that I can make sure that we’re always keeping the customer at the center of everything that we build and decide as an organization.

Erika:     

That’s great. Another one of those is oscillating between the micro and the macro, the ability to stay close to the customer. I think that’s an important challenge.

Elizabeth, what about you on this one? What types of challenges are you running into today?

Elizabeth:          

Yeah so the biggest challenge that I have is also one of my favorite aspects of what I do right now. And I would say that it’s the fact that there are varying ideas of what customer success is and some misconceptions of what customer success is because it’s still a relatively new field and business discipline.

We’ve been doing it for, I think we’ve all been doing it we said for 10 years or more but there are a lot of businesses and business professionals that are still just learning about it. And there’s misconceptions around the fact that it’s kind of a tier two support. That it’s an extension of sales. All of those things are very important, don’t get me wrong, but customer success is a strategy in its own right and I think the challenge around teaching other business professionals and business leaders the notion of customer success as a strategy not just customer success as a team or a department that should be integrated across the entire organization and the entire company is one of the challenges but like I said it’s one of my favorite parts.

And it’s a challenge because it’s a new business discipline, it’s not for the lack of or to anybody’s fault really, it’s just that it’s new and people are still just trying to figure it out and so I love teaching people about it but it’s certainly one of the challenges in terms of figuring out what sort of perception and point of view everyone’s coming from because it’s a little bit different across the board depending on who you talk to.

Erika:     

Yeah, that’s a big one, educating. I mean again we had talked earlier about the customer success department and the strategy and the philosophy behind it still being fairly new and trying to figure out what’s the best way to teach different departments or even at the high level, your C-Level, how do you teach strategy around something that they kind of maybe don’t even have their arms around yet?

And Manisha what about you, what are some of the challenges that you’re running in today and maybe how are you overcoming those challenges?

Manisha:            

Yeah, I mean, I have to echo what Elizabeth said, she is right on the ball there. I think a huge challenge is helping others understand the framework, the strategy behind what customer success is.

I would say another thing and maybe this is more specific to the role that I’m doing working for a social media platform is keeping up with the complex features of technology. Kind of going back to what I was saying earlier of being able to use that knowledge to drive value and adoption. Making sure that you’re staying up to date on product and technical knowledge I think is absolutely key. And I know that it can be very difficult for many of us in a customer success role to do because we are getting pulled in so many different directions throughout the day. So what I found helpful is to put a block on my calendar throughout the week and use that as undistracted learning time so that I can dive into our software and can make sure that I’m getting that key information that I can bring back to my customers.

Erika:     

Yeah, yeah, such a good one. Making time for education, right, on any level whether it’s technical lot knowledge or product knowledge or learning how to improve or how to scale or all of these different things, we have to make time to do that. It’s not always a natural part of our day to be learning but having to make time for that is important.

Alright so that covers the sort of the things that I wanted to cover today. We have had a few questions come in which I’m excited about. So we want to hear from you guys again feel free to continue to send us questions, we’ll chat for maybe 5 or 10 more minutes if you guys are good with that ladies?

Alright, so this one comes from David, and he asks “If you want to move up in customer success what are some of the things that you can do to stand out in your organization? Are there things that customer success managers aren’t doing that they should be doing and maybe how does that help you stand out?” And I’ll leave this question open to the panel and if you guys have any thoughts feel free to jump in.

Sherrod:            

I’ll jump, I’ll jump in. So I think it goes back go the strategic thinking piece that we’ve been talking about today. I think one of the opportunities that CSMs have to show their strategic thinking in a condensed way is business reviews. So we do business reviews, we do more strategic business review with all of our customers every six months and then of course our larger customers it’s more frequent than that. But a business review should be a reflection of I understand your business objectives, let’s talk about progressions against those, what’s been achieved. If things have gotten off track then how do we get them back on? But it definitely shouldn’t be about just features and functions, but about I understand your business, here’s how we progress together in our partnership, reiterating that value back into the executive that you have on the call with you who may or may not know the value they’re receiving. And then forecasting together, where do we go from here? And I think a CSM who can truly embrace the business conversation just stands out. So it’s a great way to get exposure.

Think also to often time our CEO here will take one of the CSMs aside and just say tell me about and one of the customers and what he’s not asking for is challenge with a variable and a configuration and a Marketo currently but what he wants to know is what are they trying to achieve as a business and how is that going. And I think those types of just offhand opportunities so that the more CSMs can really understand and articulate the value of what customers are trying to do their book of business the more I think they’ll be recognized. Particularly across the executive team as really standing out and those are the ones that I certainly would think I see leadership in that and would feel more comfortable potentially putting them into more of a leadership position.

Erika:     

Love it, really keeping CSMs on their toes.

Elizabeth:          

I would echo that as well. I think it’s thinking strategically, having the business level conversations, being able to get in a room with the CMO, CEO and talk to them about their business challenges, their economic drivers and things of that nature. And I also think that execution is huge as well and so when I see CSMs that can take that strategy and then deliver in a programmatic way as well and that kind of goes back to the micro/macro that we mentioned a few times so I like that I’m going to borrow that from you if you don’t mind.

I think that’s really important as well because that tells me that this CSM is a strategic thinker and also can align resources to get things done, to execute on a plan, and so if I see kind of a programmatic approach with a CSM and they think strategically and have those conversations then I put them in that CS Leader bucket.

Erika:     

Yeah, love it. Alright so we’ve got a couple other questions. So this question is from Jim, he asks “Lots of the theory and practice around customer success naturally focuses on the customer but since you all are leaders in the field what are some tips on how to develop your aspiring CS Leaders?” Maybe a good question here is what’s one piece of advice that you would give to an aspiring CS Leader to kind of help them navigate their career?

Manisha:            

I’ll go ahead and jump in there, I think one of the big pieces is to always remain curious. To ask questions and to continue to learn as much as you can. With customer success being an ever evolving strategy to Elizabeth’s point earlier I think always remaining curious and always pushing yourself and taking on new challenges is a great way to demonstrate your leadership abilities because you’re staying on top of it. Even in my role I’m constantly soaking up information that I’m finding about customer success, strategies, tips and tricks, best practices, regardless if you’re currently in a leadership role or not. I think making sure that you’re maintaining that focus on learning is absolutely key.

Erika:     

Yeah and so much of what we’ve already talked about today, like keep learning, make time for learning, that’s a great one. Anyone else?

Sherrod:            

I do think that to echo you there is a natural curiosity in CSMs that ones that I see do well are the ones who are just curious, like why does that happen? And they can look for longer conversations but I think they’re the ones who do the best from what I’ve seen also. So I’d definitely echo that.

I think another is just constantly improving your ability to communicate clearly. So I actually have a couple of my team who have gone and done Toastmasters. Like how do I articulate my thoughts in a concise way and so it’s actually benefited them really well coming back into the arena of customers and executives and being able to get a thought across in a clear and concise way.

Elizabeth:          

Yeah I think those are great. I completely agree with all of those and I would say that one I would add would be learning about how to work with data to make data driven decisions because that’s really important with CS. And understanding the economics behind business like learning about things like the cost to serve and LTD to KACK and the payback period and how customer success pulls the lever because that can really inform how you apply a CS strategy. So I think kind of learning about kind of business holistically and the role CS plays in it is really important as well.

Erika:     

Alright so we’ve got a few questions that kind of focus around the same sorts of things so I’m going to combine those and it’s really around some of the resources. So what are some of the things that you do to keep your skills sharp and are you connecting with your peers, are you mentoring, are you watching videos and listening to podcasts, what are the things that you’re doing to keep your skills sharp and keep building your network.

Manisha:           

I can jump in, so what I found to be really helpful if you have a Twitter account, and if you don’t you can always sign up for free, is just going in to the Twitter search bar and using the hashtag customer success. I found a number of articles, resources, thought leaders, handles that I should be following just by doing that. I think it’s a great way just to learn about what people are talking about. So that’s one trick that has worked very well for me is just seeking out that information online.

Elizabeth:          

Yeah, same. And LinkedIn forums is another one.

Manisha:            

Yeah that’s a good one.

Elizabeth:          

Yeah, so I look at LinkedIn forums, see what questions people are asking, different blogs. The other thing that I try and do as well is I try and look at kind of the peripheral of customer success so one thing I’ve been learning a lot about lately is change management because I think that’s something that with the insane amount of apps and software that everyone has in their day to day in their life being able to be that the CSM that gets your customer to adopt yours across other 26 that they have at their disposal day in and day out is huge and I think change management is going to be a bigger and bigger kind of piece of customer success. So that’s just one example but I kind of look at the peripheral around customer success and see different things that impact it and kind of absorb as much of that information as I can.

Product area is another one that I try to learn a lot about as well.

Erika:     

Those are great. I love the idea of these sort of tangential things, it’s not necessarily customer success itself but these types of things that we talked about like change management like you mentioned, product like you mentioned, we had talked about data, throughout this entire chat today. Kind of thinking about some of the areas where you have gaps, maybe where your organization has gaps and start thinking about those sort of tangential things.

Awesome. Alright.

Sherrod:            

Oh sorry.

Erika:     

Go ahead.

Sherrod:

I would encourage mentors too. So I do have a guy here in the Bay Area who mentors me and you know what it is is a glass of wine once a month and I just say “Here’s all the challenges and what do you think?” and just bounce ideas off of someone. But it’s so great to get an outside voice particularly someone who’s been in this space for longer. So I can’t advocate enough. He mentors me because I asked him. So I think just have the confidence to find someone that you’d like to have give you a recommendation even on a monthly basis and ask them. It’s been incredibly valuable for me to have someone who’s been in this space longer and is more advanced in their career to be able to bounce ideas off of.

Erika:     

That’s fantastic. That’s a good one, mentorship is I think severely underrated and I think a lot of it like you said has to do with sort of not having the confidence to just go out and ask someone but the whole point is you’re trying to learn and that person’s not going to, no mentor is going to be like “Well you are actually not smart enough for me, you’re not smart enough for me to mentor you.” I think it’s really important for you to say that there are definitely things that I don’t know that’s why I’m searching for mentorship.

Sherrod:            

For sure.

Erika:     

Alright, well I think that’s covered most of the questions that we’ve had come in. If there is any in here that I missed or anything like we’ll try to follow up with everyone individually. Otherwise, this has been a really great discussion and I hope everyone found some value in this. We’d love to hear your feedback. If there are things that you want to see us cover in the future we’d love to hear it. You can send us an e-mail at [email protected]

I also wanted to just say no Pulse Gainsight’s Pulse is coming up. UserIq hosting a VIP lounge during Pulse and you can sign up at this link we can include this in some of our follow up materials but it’s info.useriq.com/pulse-hospitality2019 and we’re really just looking to kind of hangout with you guys. We’re not looking for anything specific, we’re just kind of wanting to hear more about the challenges that you’re running into, talk more about how do you climb the ranks in customer success, what are the strategies that we’re seeing are cool and valuable, what are the strategies that you guys are using that are valuable. So come and join us if you’re going to be out at Pulse. Otherwise we look forward to seeing everyone on our next webinar which will be in June. And ladies thank you so much for a great discussion today.

Elizabeth:          

Thanks for having us.

Erika:     

Thank you so much, bye everyone. Have a great Thursday.