Customer Success Management must-knows: Squeaky wheel gets the grease?

portrait of Ben Winn
Ben Winn is the Community and Events Manager at Catalyst Software, Editor and Chief at the Unicornian and 2016 Fellow Alumni, shares his insights on why having an open space for feedback is essential for startups to thrive. When it comes to customer feedback and satisfaction, the people you hear from are the typically loudest. Are they the ones you should listen to? He gives us the ins-and-outs of Customer Success Management, how to structure customer-centric teams, and how hiring your People person (Human Resources) will pay dividends down the road. Having dealt with many new hires, Ben suggests that you need to be upfront about your weaknesses in interviews, find the balance between humble brags but not underselling your accomplishments, and doubling on your strengths. Admit your blind spots...that goes a long way for many other things in life.

Three Tips for Getting into CS:

Scott: What does customer success look like and how did you get your job in customer success?

  1. When Ben accepted a job in customer success, he didn’t really know what that entailed. It was between CS and Sales, and he was really scared of being in a sales role because of quotas and pressure to be “salesy.” Simply put, CS is about proactively driving customers to decide their desired outcomes. When you’re thinking about a CS role, think about it this way: they’ve engaged your company to help them grow by X% this year, it’s the CSM’s job to make sure that that customer grows their revenue or growth metric.
  2.  Keep your main responsibility top of mind: Customer Success is responsible for executing that vision, of what the company can do for the buyer. Recognize the tension that often exists between sales and CS; knowing what expectations were set for the customer and how to adjust those to what the software can do for them is essential.
  3. Learn the lingo and what CSMs measure. Ben’s resources: the Catalyst site where you’ll be able to download their books and take a skim through the users. Enter an interview for a role knowing exactly what you’re talking about, even if you haven’t done it.

Three Must-Have Skills for Customer Success: 

Scott: What does it take to succeed in CS and what do you managers hire for?

While there are a million things you can go into, and there’s a lot of debate around this, but at the end of the day, this is what Ben would scream you need?

  1. Being community-focused: this means you’re interested in building authentic relationships and emotionally intelligent. Ask yourself: do I understand what the customer truly needs? What can they learn from other customers or other teams at my company? Can they feel like they are part of something more? Being part of a community entails leaning on each other and giving feedback and input. How can you create this dynamic and make your customers champions.
  2. Flawless communication skills (email and messaging is your #1 form of communication, so attention to your tone, structure, and language is essential.) You’ll also chat with them via video and or phone, so clear and concise verbal communication and listening skills will get you far.
  3. Relationship building! Being a Customer Success Manager (CSM) is like really good CSM is are just natural relationship builders.

Three Lessons for University to Your Career

Scott: What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?

The way you present things is just as important as the thing itself. In school, Ben would spend as much time on the title of the paper as the paper itself. Attaining and keeping people’s attention is what will differentiate you from others. 

  1. When you’re starting a side-hustle, make sure that it’s something you really enjoy. Make sure it’s something you’re passionate about because its where you’ll be spending your time and extra money. Ben’s tale if you don’t really love doing it, you’re just not going to have that motivation because you’re going to be so exhausted from doing your day job that when it comes to putting in those hours on the evenings and weekends.
  2. If you work towards building an inclusive culture, then no matter what comes along, then you’re always equipped to handle your team issues and your people issues. An inclusive space, to Ben, just means a space where you feel completely safe and comfortable being your genuine self at work. Everyone needs to feel that way at work; it will pay dividends down the road.
  3. On how to master a task: Really double down on the things that you already have a natural inclination towards, and don’t spend time focusing on the things that you’re not good at.