Most Bang for the Buck: Industry Expertise or CSM Training

Andrew Schneider
Andrew Schneider Member Posts: 6 Seeker
edited August 15 in CS Conversations
tldr: Is it better to invest in industry-specific knowledge or CSM training? 

Hi all,

I have a learning credit to use from my company, but struggling to choose between finding CSM-specific learning opportunities or getting some deep dives into the industry we support (retail and ecommerce.)  It's only about $1,000, so it's not enough for a General Assembly or Cornell certificate, but enough for a conference, webinar, and some other types of certifications. 

So what's the best way? Should I find a package of ecommerce and retail courses to take tom better understand the specific challenges and industry that my customers work in (like the firstmovr series), or should I aim to build my CSM skills, and get a certification from somewhere like the Success League

I've read the Gainsight books, the recent Wayne McCulloch book, and will continue to do that kind of thing, so this is a bigger investment I'm looking to make, not just a book.



  • AJ Mackey
    AJ Mackey Member Posts: 9 Seeker
    edited October 2021
    This is a great question, I am also very curious to see what the community has to say!
  • Andrew Schneider
    Andrew Schneider Member Posts: 6 Seeker
    edited October 2021
    Thanks AJ!

    I'm leaning towards industry knowledge, because so much of the day-to-day as a CSM is on the job learning and I get great feedback from teammates and managers. Plus, I can bring that industry expertise back to my team and share nuggets that they can bring to their customers. 

    But we'll see what the community has to say!
  • Leandro Demari
    Leandro Demari Member Posts: 5 Seeker
    edited October 2021
    Look at SuccessCOACHING | Customer Success Training for CSMs I've used them for our in-company training and online also. highly recommend the content.
  • Mark Flanagan
    Mark Flanagan Member Posts: 26 Expert
    edited October 2021
    Your manager knows your strengths and the areas where you need improvement best, Andrew. What do they recommend?
  • Andy Manning
    Andy Manning Member Posts: 4 Navigator
    edited October 2021
    +1 for industry knowledge - the better you understand your customers and their challenges the easier it is to build a relationship. CSM specific stuff are just techniques and frameworks, they won't help as much.
  • Ashton Liu
    Ashton Liu Member Posts: 30 Expert
    Second Anniversary 10 Comments
    edited October 2021
    I'm a bit biased since the vertical that my company services (hospitality) is highly specialized, which means that we need CSMs with industry experience. 

    Not surprisingly, I certainly come down on the side of industry learning. This is not to downplay the value of CS know-how and training, but I imagine you've already gotten quite a bit from the reading that you've done. A lot of the value of CS to a customer is the insight that you provide. How can I build out my strategy using your product? Does this change the way I interact with the other vendors in my tech stack? What are the potential pitfalls that might arise downstream? If a customer is trying to grow revenue (pretty common for both hotels & e-commerce), it's hard to speak to that if you don't have a good understanding of your customers' world, their challenges, workflows, etc. So much of these conversations is outside of the product itself that having that industry knowledge is immensely useful. 

    This will also vary by company and industry, as there will certainly be those where this is not as important. I don't work in e-commerce, but hotels operate in a complicated distribution landscape, and as a result industry knowledge has been invaluable to all of our CS efforts.
  • Sean Wilkes
    Sean Wilkes Member Posts: 13 Contributor
    5 Comments First Anniversary
    edited October 2021
    I'd agree with others here, the answer is Yes :) 

    If you need your CSMs to develop strategic relationships and become advisors to your customers, then they genuinely need pretty deep knowledge of the vertical. Our platform serves HR & Talent teams, so in customer facing roles I'd take someone every time with deep domain experience over someone with extensive CSM experience and absolutely no relevant domain experience. 

    If you are a point solution, where the amount of whitespace for your business is limited and you need someone to simply drive and track adoption, then I'd suggest the experience of processes and executing playbooks is probably more relevant than the domain experience and the product knowledge can always be learned.
  • Chad Horenfeldt
    Chad Horenfeldt Member Posts: 61 Expert
    Third Anniversary 10 Comments Photogenic
    edited October 2021
    First off, kudos to you for taking advantage of this perk. You are investing in yourself which is the best bet of all. My question for you: What is your passion? I would start there as that will lead to where you will be successful. For example, you may want to improve your technical skills so a coding or SQL course may be more applicable. I would expand your scope. In addition, have a tangible goal in mind for the training. For example, you will do a show and share for your team or create a blog post for your company site. That way you will put your new skills to work.

    Hope this is helpful!
  • Andrew Schneider
    Andrew Schneider Member Posts: 6 Seeker
    edited October 2021
    Great question @Mark Flanagan! Definitely need to connect with them, as well as review my latest 360 review, which should provide some input. Good idea!

    @Leandro Demari I'll definitely take a look. It looks like that would be a good investment for our whole team.

    And thanks to @Andy Manning @Ashton Liu @Sean Wilkes and @Chad Horenfeldt! Based on your responses, I'm definitely leaning towards industry specific knowledge. In retail/ecommerce it's really hard to get much 'hands-on' experience unless you're actually selling something online or into B&M stores, but there are some great groups, webinars and communities that I can join to get that knowledge without actually 'doing' it as my day job.
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    mikes somers Member Posts: 6 Seeker
    edited December 2021
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