First Time CSM

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Kassandra Carlisle
Kassandra Carlisle Member Posts: 2 Navigator
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edited August 2023 in CS Org Conversations

Hey GGR community, I'd love some advice!

I discovered customer success a few months ago and I've been avidly researching it ever since. I've worked as a 911 Dispatcher for the last few years but customer success ignited a passion in me that I didn't know I had. I'm so excited to say that I just accepted a CSM position and I start in about a week!

With all of that said, I'm hoping to get some help in any of the following areas, if possible:

📌 What advice would you give to a first time CSM?

📌 What do you wish you knew before entering this field? Any crucial lessons learned?

📌 Are there any resources that have been a game changer for you?

📌 What has worked best when introducing yourself to a customer for the first time (in order to start building trust, connection, etc)?

📌 To the managers, what is impressive to see from a new CSM? Additionally, what are mistakes new employees often make?

📌 Anything else you deem helpful, I'm all ears (:

If you'd like to talk further, send me a message or add me on linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/kassandracarlisle

Thank you so much!

-Kassandra (Kass)

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  • William Buckingham
    William Buckingham Member Posts: 39 Expert
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    Hi @Kassandra Carlisle

    I'll offer my two cents and hope it helps you. I'm more than happy to chat if that would help make your entry into this career a success.

    📌 What advice would you give to a first time CSM?

    1. Take a learner and growth mindset to the role. It's a dynamic role which requires several different skillsets - learn about all of these.
    2. Educate yourself on the high- and low-level knowledge and skills. I've seen CSMs who know how to execute the day-to-day tasks, but fail to connect these to the overall business goals. This stunts their growth in the career. also see the latter; CSMs who understand the SaaS business model and how CS contributes to it, yet struggle with the soft skills required to initiate and execute. So educate yourself on SaaS, finance, sales, customer success, customer experience, change management, negotiation, time management, etc.
    3. Never stop learning your company's product. The more you know the product, the more confident you will be and sound, and at the end of the day CSM confidence drives customer convincing of whatever you present. Customers can tell when you aren't confident in a solution. It will show in your voice and their adoption.

    📌 What do you wish you knew before entering this field? Any crucial lessons learned?

    1. Be consistent. Focus on controllable efforts. CS is like sales, we celebrate big wins, but we only get those by consistently executing seemingly small tasks. Consistently execute: outbound engagements, check ins, quarterly business reviews, executive business reviews, and follow ups. At the end of the day, if the routine of CS feels boring, you're likely about to have some exciting outcomes happen. The reason is because consistency drives accountability and trust with customers, and that's one of the key inputs needed for adoption and expansion.
    2. Your customer relationships can't evolve faster/better than you yourself evolve. Never stop learning. Never stop questioning how you could do your role 1% better. It will show in your conversations.
    3. Every department is your ally and partner. When I see a CSM seeing another department as the enemy, say sales or support, I know that mindset is going to hold them back. Serve your customers, and serve your team members. Get to know how each department is measured, and bring that lens to your engagements with those team members.

    📌 Are there any resources that have been a game changer for you?

    1. There's some great CS Books out there. Customer Success, 7 Pillars of Customer Success, Customer Success Professional's handbook, and many more.
    2. Several good blogs are out there: 16 ventures, Gainsight, etc.

    📌 What has worked best when introducing yourself to a customer for the first time (in order to start building trust, connection, etc)?

    1. Ask questions. Then ask more questions. Talk no more than 33% of the time - max. Ask the questions that might have the hardest answers. This will build trust. "what's not working well when you think of your relationship and use of our product and services?" "What could we be doing better?". If you ask and action on these, you'll quickly build trust.
    2. Understand the objectives and metrics which matter most to the customer. Tie everything back to these whenever possible. This will show you are listening and remembering what is top of mind for them.

    📌 To the managers, what is impressive to see from a new CSM? Additionally, what are mistakes new employees often make?

    1. I'm not a manager, but I run CS Enablement so I partner with managers to onboard, up-level, and improve performance of CSMs. Engage customers early on and create a plan, and take ownership to move the needle. Don't be afraid to say "I've finally reached the customer, they aren't using the product. I convinced them to meet with me next week to review goals and how we could align our product to these goals." You've been there 1 or 2 months, no one is gonna blame you for zero adoption the past 9 months, but showing you are tackling the situation and putting a plan in place out the gate is what impresses me and managers I work with.
    2. Mistakes that often get made: Believing the way a customer has always been is the way the customer will always be moving forward. You are the new person - greatest opportunity to rewrite customer relationships and how we engage with them.

    Hope these help. I'm sure many seem obvious, but they can slip when not kept front of mind.

    Will Buckingham

    Customer Success Operations Manager, Enablement

    www.CustomerSuccessEnablement.com

  • Harsh Shah
    Harsh Shah Member Posts: 40 Expert
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    Hey @Kassandra Carlisle, first of all, many congratulations on your new role!!

    Let me try to share a few of the things which helped me to grow in my first CS role.

    1. What advice would you give to a first-time CSM?

    ⇒ Understand your product inside-out 

    ⇒ Know your SOPs, processes, and systems

    ⇒ Document your process and SOPs

    ⇒ Get familiar with your tool stack

    ⇒ Know your peers 

    ⇒ Start to get familiar with basic CS voculabary

    ⇒ Follow some good leaders on LinkedIn

    ⇒ Know your customers and various segments

    ⇒ Understand your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

    ⇒ Review and create email drafts for regular communication

    ⇒ Know your business competitors

    2. What do you wish you knew before entering this field? Any crucial lessons learned?

    ⇒ I wish I knew more of the CS leaders and professionals

    ⇒ Don't be afraid to face an angry/frustrated customer, consider it as an opportunity to learn and grow

    ⇒ It's okay to make mistakes as long as you don't make them often and learn from them

    ⇒ Ask questions to yourself and to your peers about the current process or systems if you see a chance to optimize it

    ⇒ Learn to Google (Yeah, that's one of the most important skills)

    ⇒ Don't limit yourself to only your department, connect with people across your organization

    ⇒ Be yourself

    3. Are there any resources that have been a game changer for you?

    ⇒ Podcasts (Search Customer Success on Spotify and you will find lots of good podcasts)

    ⇒ LinkedIn is a great way to learn new stuff, industry trends, and events happening around you

    ⇒ Books

    ⇒ Youtube channel of SuccessHacker

    ⇒ Blogs and articles of SuccessHacker, Gainsight, Custify, Hubspot, SmartKarrot, CustomerSuccessBox

    ⇒ LinkedIn groups and communities

    4. What has worked best when introducing yourself to a customer for the first time (in order to start building trust, connection, etc)?

    ⇒ This is 1 thing I tried recently and that helped me know my customer and get their feedback on product gaps and suggestions. With that, I also get a few good reviews from them. Start your introduction mail by stating your responsibilities and how you could help them to get more value out of your solution. Then ask them 2 questions,

    • Which are your favorite features and what do you like most about them?

    • Is there anything else in terms of content or features that you would like us to enhance?

    Don't stop there, you now have a library of feature requests to share with your product team but present it with use cases and impacts. Once they complete the enhancements, you can close the loop with your customers saying you've made X change based on his Y feedback. There is a high probability that they will respond and will also share a great review.

    5. To the managers, what is impressive to see from a new CSM? Additionally, what are mistakes new employees often make?

    ⇒ How much do you understand the product and are able to deliver value

    ⇒ How well you're able to communicate and understand client's perspectives

    ⇒ Validate customer success plan and deliver outcomes 

    ⇒ Never forget to close the loop with a customer

    ⇒ How well you're able to communicate value to customers

    ⇒ Contribute to optimizing the current CS process

    ⇒ Properly manage expectations

    ⇒ Share problems/challenges but try to go with some solutions too

    6. Anything else you deem helpful, I'm all ears (:

      ⇒ Try to highlight if you're time is spent more on repetitive activities and if there is a better way to do it

    ⇒ Understand the high-level process of closely related departments like sales, marketing, & product

    ⇒ Don't be afraid to blow the whistle if you find any risk

    ⇒ Keep communicating with your peers and managers to know how you're doing and what changes they recommend to improve your performance

    ⇒ Don't take too much pressure and more importantly enjoy the process and journey

    I'm sure, you will do great on this new journey!

    Please feel free to reach out to me via LinkedIn in case of any particular queries, I would be happy to help a fellow CS professional.

    Best Regards,

    Harsh Shah

    Customer Success Manager, Woliba

    Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/harshshah-15/

    Email: hcshah15.hs@gmail.com

  • Rick Saunders
    Rick Saunders Member Posts: 2 Navigator
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    @Kassandra Carlisle @William Buckingham @Harsh Shah

    This is a great question and two excellent responses!

    I have just found this community and found this very helpful. I am looking into moving back into Customer Success; I actually had roles in CS and Tech Sales earlier in my career.

    I'll do my best to add value where I can.

    Rick

  • Kassandra Carlisle
    Kassandra Carlisle Member Posts: 2 Navigator
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    @Harsh Shah @William Buckingham ,

    Thank you so much for your responses! They are well written, detailed, and so helpful! I will look back on these often throughout my transition into CS and I'm so appreciative of the help and support.

  • Allison Mortens
    Allison Mortens Member Posts: 9 Navigator
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    Hi Kass! Congrats on the career shift! Previous responses have been so thorough and detailed so I have a few tidbits to share in addition to theirs.

    📌 What advice would you give to a first time CSM?

    Two things:

    1. Get comfortable saying, "I don't know, let me look it up and get back to you!" This skill (yes, I believe it's a skill 😉) is great because we never know all of the answers, and your customers are going to ask a hyper-specific question that you're going to need to research / ask around on. And that's okay! No shame in asking for help!
    2. Remember that there's a person on the other side of the piece of tech that brought you together. This is important for the good and the ugly. You can joke and enjoy a meeting, and empathize when they're frustrated. Empathy is crucial in this industry!

    📌 What has worked best when introducing yourself to a customer for the first time (in order to start building trust, connection, etc)?

    I like to lean on two things to build rapport with my customers - my pets (thanks, WFH life!) and, like any good Midwesterner, the weather. My cat likes to sit in my lap for meetings and my two dogs like to snore loudly or squeak toys, especially the puppy. Depending on the customer, I'll talk about my previous experience to build some industry cred if necessary, but mostly emphasize parts of the Customer Success experience that I'm passionate about, like data and process development. The latter is helpful if you can tie those interest areas into the customer's goals.

    📌 Anything else you deem helpful, I'm all ears (:

    Something my amazing manager (looking at you, @Naomi Aiken 🤗! ) shared in another forum recently is:

    "You, and only YOU, own your calendar! Protect your time, so you can do your job well. Block out times in your day for Customer meetings, Inbox cleanout, Proactive planning, EOD/EOW wrap-up, etc. And most importantly, don't let anyone take these blocks away from you. Staying organized each day keeps me sane, balanced, and allows me to ensure I get everything completed each week. Many of us use scheduling tools these days (Ex: Calendly) so double check all your settings in your scheduling tool of choice to ensure that customers may only book with you when you allow it, and also make sure to build in prep and follow up time to each meeting. Healthy calendar = Healthy you!"


    Congrats again and good luck in your new adventure!

    -Allison 💃🏻