Looking to transition into Customer Success Operations

Hillary Feldt
Hillary Feldt Member Posts: 7 Seeker
Second Anniversary
Good morning! 

I'm looking to take the next step in my career and pursue Customer Success Operations roles. I've been trying to do some research on other folks currently in this type of role and what I'm finding is having experience with CRM tool sets like Salesforce, Gainsight, etc. 

An obstacle I'm running into is my current and past employers aren't utilizing some of these tool sets so I'm wondering if I starting looking into trainings for these, am I at a disadvantage not having the tool available during the training? Do any of these platforms offer say a sandbox to use for training? 

I'm also looking into taking some project management certification courses. I'm wondering, with this type of role is it better to go down the Six Sigma, or Agile route? Perhaps both or neither? 

I would love some insight and direction on how to keep advancing forward. 

Thank you! 

Hillary Feldt, CSM


  • Dave Epperly
    Dave Epperly Member Posts: 23 Thought Leader
    Third Anniversary 5 Comments
    edited April 2022

    Hi Hillary,

    Not a Gainsight admin (or user) but their academy does offer a sandbox of capability that seems like a good optoin:


  • Carlos Gaviria
    Carlos Gaviria Member Posts: 1 Navigator
    edited April 2022
    Hi there Hillary! Because I, coming from a general operations background (Non-tech), was having similar questions/thoughts myself, I decided to look into it and after some weeks of having informational interviews and spending time on Reddit and other internet rabbit holes to unveil what would be the most valued besides industry and role experience, I've now started to walk this path myself:

    1) PM Training:  PM training/certification seems to be overall better valued than 6-sigma, among other reasons because the work tends to be more project-oriented than it is process-oriented, still both agile and waterfall project management methodologies discuss process management and add value to your profile. I got Project+ certified (waterfall), and I'm getting my scrum master certification soon (Agile is better favored nowadays than waterfall PM is). Out of all agile PM vendors available Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org are the best reputed overall.

    2) Salesforce Training/Cert:  Salesforce offers a free gamification-themed learning platform/sandbox called trailhead that with some effort can take you from zero to certified and explore all sorts of variations in career paths in the Salesforce environment, which is a rabbit hole in its own. Here's where you could get started https://trailhead.salesforce.com/career-path/

    Hope this helps, and please give us some feedback if you come across some new findings.

    Carlos Gaviria
  • Mark Holland
    Mark Holland Member Posts: 4 Navigator
    Second Anniversary Name Dropper First Comment
    edited April 2022
    Hi Hillary,

    Good luck on your journey! My suggestion would be to first build your skillset around data structure, analysis, and visualization, as that will be something you will be doing regardless of your target company and their toolsets. It is a foundational skill for Operations personnel, and the good news is that you don't need proprietary software to level up on it!

    - Mark
  • Junior Brito
    Junior Brito Member Posts: 2 Navigator
    edited April 2022
    Hi Hillary,

    Salesforce has its own academy called Trailhead with a sandbox, it's free.
  • Darko Kankaras
    Darko Kankaras Member Posts: 17 Thought Leader
    5 Comments Second Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited April 2022
    Hi Hillary,

    It really depends on what responsibilities you are going to have as CS operations manger. One thing that helped me a lot was learning SQL and familiarizing myself with PowerBI and Tableau. But every company is different and they may have different expectations. For Salesforce, Trailhead is a great and free learning tool. Just make sure you pick the appropriate route.
  • Hillary Feldt
    Hillary Feldt Member Posts: 7 Seeker
    Second Anniversary
    edited April 2022
    Thank you, Dave! This is super helpful!
  • Hillary Feldt
    Hillary Feldt Member Posts: 7 Seeker
    Second Anniversary
    edited April 2022
    Thank you so much, Mark! If you have any other suggestions on where to start or recommended courses around data structure, analysis and visualization, that would be very much appreciated! 

    Thanks again!
  • Hillary Feldt
    Hillary Feldt Member Posts: 7 Seeker
    Second Anniversary
    edited April 2022
    Thank you, Junior! I'll take a closer look!
  • Hillary Feldt
    Hillary Feldt Member Posts: 7 Seeker
    Second Anniversary
    edited April 2022
    Thank you very much, Darko! This is extremely helpful! I appreciate your insight and what was helpful for you!
  • Hillary Feldt
    Hillary Feldt Member Posts: 7 Seeker
    Second Anniversary
    edited April 2022
    Hi Carlos!

    Thank you so much! This is extremely helpful! I think I was torn between 6 sigma and Agile because I thought having the process oriented cert (6 sigma) would tailor "better" to a Customer Success Operations role. But perhaps not? 

    Either way, I'm super eager to learn and expand my skillsets further and your insight is so appreciated and valued! Thank you!
  • Seth Wylie
    Seth Wylie Member Posts: 3 Navigator
    Second Anniversary First Comment
    edited April 2022
    Congrats on deciding to make this move, Hillary! Lots of people have done exactly what you're doing and been so glad about it (including these five folks), so I wish you the best of luck! Happy to share a collection of resources.

    First off, I want to flag for you that, in my conversations with CS Ops hiring managers, I've found that they're basically not interested in specific project management methodologies -- so long as you can show that you aren't just wildly disorganized. They're most interested in whether you can design solutions. That holds true regardless of whether the lever(s) you'd personally be using to improve the CS team would be technology, analytics, CSM enablement, 1-to-many customer marketing, or program management. It's a skill I've started to refer to as 'Solutioneering', and I break it down in the first link listed here:
    • I recently wrote this article, How Anyone Can Become a Gainsight Admin. I hope that it helps really paint the full picture for you of what it looks like to ramp-up on technical skills.
      • It also has links to numerous CS Ops resources woven throughout. For example, you'll find links to CS Ops compensation benchmarks, and to the CS Ops Mentor Program, to help you get connected -- even for just a single conversation -- with people who are happy to be a sounding board.
    • You can keep up with new CS Ops resources and perspectives by subscribing to my monthly CS Ops newsletter.
    • Our CS Ops Central website has a page specifically about joining a CS Ops team. It starts with resources to make sure you feel solidly versed in what CS Ops is / can be, and then gets into resources about how to personally make the transition, including a podcast I did about breaking into CS Ops, and several CS Ops Slack communities you can join.
    • Here's a crowdsourced list of CS Ops job openings. It's bound to be missing some, but I add every new one that I see, and I know others are adding to the list too.
    I know that's a lot of meat already in just four bullets! But please speak up or feel free to reach out if more questions come to mind :-)
  • Jennifer Scheib
    Jennifer Scheib Member Posts: 11 Contributor
    5 Comments First Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited April 2022
    Thanks so much for the great resources Seth! Like Hillary, I'm also looking to break into CS Ops Management and have found Gainsight to be incredibly helpful in my journey. Thank you for your generous knowledge sharing!

    And good luck @Hillary Feldt, keep us posted!
  • Ed Powers
    Ed Powers Member Posts: 168 Expert
    Third Anniversary 100 Comments 25 Insightfuls 25 Likes
    edited April 2022
    Hi @Hillary Feldt--

    I would strongly recommend Six Sigma and having a basic understanding of statistics for anyone working in Customer Success Operations.

    Everything in business boils down to a set of interlinked processes (what Dr. Deming called the system), but surprisingly few in the software industry understand processes or how to systematically improve them. Several studies show that companies that adopt and practice continuous improvement outperform rivals by a factor of 2, so possessing this knowledge can make a significant contribution. I got my ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt certification 20 years ago and still use it every day.

    Additionally, some working knowledge of statistics helps not only with Six Sigma, but in deriving critical insights from data. Just because you can show charts and graphs in Tableau, Looker, Power BI, or any Customer Success platform doesn't imply that what you're seeing is valid or even useful--most of what we see in the numbers is just random noise, not meaningful signals. Understanding the nature of random variables and applying the correct statistical tools ensures your leaders make good decisions. I teach a course with SuccessCOACHING called Data-Driven Decision Making for Customer Success, which is also available in self-paced format on Udemy. The course gives you practice using statistical tools in real-world Customer Success applications. Possessing this knowledge and skill makes you extremely valuable to your team. 

    Hope that helps! 

  • Jeff Breunsbach
    Jeff Breunsbach HLAdmin, Member Posts: 277 Gain Grow Retain Staff
    Third Anniversary 100 Comments Photogenic GGR Blogger 2022

    Hey Hilary, Just my opinion but tools can be learned (fairly) easily. So I'd focus much more on what strategies CS Operations needs to help a customer organization be successful.

    I'd look to learn things like:

    1. Budgeting and forecasting for resources
    2. Forecasting upcoming renewals
    3. How to overlay digital strategy with high-touch CS work

    Just a few things I'd consider.

  • Karlie Termotto
    Karlie Termotto Member Posts: 1 Navigator
    Photogenic Name Dropper First Comment First Anniversary

    @Hillary Feldt Thank you for this post and getting the conversation flowing I have been considering the same path, as I have found our CSM team in a reactive state of affairs for so long, and frustrated by the challenges and blockers to transition to the proactive approach we all desire I am also strategy driven, and look for ways to operationalize processes to create more 1:many client engagements and activities to maximize the span of impact. The ideas presented in this conversation offer so many options to explore looking forward to your feedback and experience.

    @Seth Dovev I bookmarked your resources. Thank you for the excellent list of suggestions, I look forward to exploring.