I’ve been in Customer Success for about six years now and I’ve had the pleasure of working with dozens of amazing, competent Customer Success leaders and teams. I took every opportunity I could to learn from them. What made them successful? What made them good? Why did their customers love them?
High performance is crucial in Customer Success, especially in the realm where I work; early stage startups that require their CSMs to wear many hats. It was in these hectic, disorganized, beautiful environments that I learned how to be effective, efficient and excellent. Here are three tips for being high performing based on what I’ve seen work for myself and others!
CSMs tend to wear many hats, no matter where they work. We’re one part support, one part marketing and sometimes, one part sales and three parts superhero. Depending on the product, some CSMs code, some do technical support, some visit and present to clients and others never meet their customers in person. Our roles and talents are diverse but for those of us who are high performing, we have this one thing in common: we know how to prioritize.
Tips for Prioritizing
- Think about impact and let that guide your actions. What will have the biggest impact? What do we need to do to get there?
- Identify low hanging fruit that can make a big difference (impact)
- Scope projects before starting them in order to have a complete idea of what it takes to finish them.
Ask the Right Questions (and act on the answers)
CSMs need to be curious. Customer Success is a growing field and tech products are constantly iterating and developing. In order to be successful Customer Success Managers, we need to ABL: always be learning. And we don’t want to be reactive in our learning, we don’t want to wait until something has gone wrong before we ask questions on how to fix it. We want to be proactive, just as we are with our customers. Learning comes from asking the right questions and being brave enough to admit you don’t know something
Tips for Asking the Right Questions
- Acquire the base level knowledge on your own. Make sure you’ve learned everything you can by yourself — it will ensure you ask questions of substance and meaning
- Reframe the question a few times: Rewording the question can tell you if it’s already been asked and ensure you’re clear and concise.
Note: Asking the right questions is impressive but acting on the information you receive is vital to closing the loop and actually performing. Be mindful when asking questions and be actionable with the answers you receive.
Customer Success is like chess, it’s the long game and we’re in it for the long run. In chess, you need to be ahead of your opponent’s thinking, always anticipating their next move. And Customer Success is not really different; we aspire to be ahead of our customer’s desires, using strategy to anticipate their wants and needs. We prepare for success in uncertain environments with ever changing and growing products. Mastering proactivity means having a bias toward action; always experimenting and always learning.
Tips for Proactivity
- Ask great ‘discovery’ questions. Learn about your customer as soon as you can and as often as you can
- Understand your business and product inside out. It will make it easiest to understand and prepare for changes, both good and bad.
- Seek new opportunities within the department and continuously build your knowledge of how Customer Success works both in and outside of your organization
Practice Self Care
The best CSMs take breaks.
In fact, the most effective people take time for themselves. They know they aren’t at their best if they’re not well rested, well fed and well aligned. And if CSMs are not at their best then they aren’t giving their customers the best either. It can be hard to take a break sometimes; you don’t want to cancel meetings, you don’t want to get behind, you don’t want to to miss out. And self care goes beyond vacations; sometimes it looks like escalating a rude customer, or saying ‘no’ to a new assignment. Self-care is a daily practice.
Tips for Practicing Self Care
- Figure out what you need: Not all self-care looks the same. Know yourself well enough to know what you need to truly unwind and excel.
- Be unashamed to get that thing: Once you know what you need to do to take care of yourself, abandon all shyness keeping you from getting it. There’s no shame in taking time for yourself, especially when you work a people facing job like Customer Success
- Be Consistent: Suddenly dropping your self care can leave you stressed and poorly performing. Even if your self-care takes a little work, it’s worth the effort. So no matter how tired you are, draw the bath. No matter how nervous you are, ask for that day off. You’re worth it and so are your customers.