What's the best piece of career advice you've ever received?
Whether you're at the beginning of your career in customer success, or you've been working with customers for years, we could all stand to benefit from a new perspective or a push to go one step further from the expert practitioners in our industry.
And since today falls on International Women's Day, we wanted to share some of the best career advice we've ever received from female leaders in the customer success space (although this advice is valuable no matter what your gender). Read the list for their advice for growing your career in customer success, and get involved in the conversation by sharing your own advice using the hashtag #PressforProgress on Twitter.
6 Pieces of Customer Success Career Advice
1. Practice active listening -- and scouting.
"Customer success involves both listening and scouting. Actively listening to your customers is a fine art. But truly active listening isn't as easy as it sounds.
What about scouting -- what does that mean? Think about the role of a scout on an expedition. The scout's job is to forge ahead of the group and report back on what can be anticipated or expected ahead. They play a proactive role that's pivotal to both helping optimize the journey and ensuring everyone avoids calamity.
As your customer's scout, your job as a customer success manager (CSM) is to not only listen to what they say, but also pay attention to what they don't say. By forging ahead, you can provide relevant insights to business needs and problems your customers may not even be aware of yet.
Scouting is not just for your customers -- it is also essential for your organization. Customers that are early adopters or well-connected in their industries can provide your organization with significant insight into both opportunities and roadblocks that your broader customer base may face.
How are you communicating the needs of your customer back to your organization? The creation of a transparent and actionable Voice of the Customer feedback loop is fundamental in communicating what your customers need and want -- because a company's ability to gauge and act upon that change can sometimes be the difference between market leadership and extinction."
2. Always, always collaborate.
"When it comes to customer success, it all comes back to the customer -- even when we're talking about growing your own career. Think of it this way: You are pivotal to the success of your business because it's your job to make sure the customers are getting what they need. Do that well, and you'll be indispensable. But, in order to do that well, you can never lose sight of the foundations.
You have to make sure the marketing team has access to the exact words ideal customers use to describe their problems and your solution so they can use it in their copy to attract more of the right customers, and work with the product team to ensure that their roadmap is planned with the desired outcomes of their ideal customers in mind.
If you don't have the full support of management, it can be frustrating to get everything you need -- and get everyone else what they need -- because you're working in and between so many departments. But I don't know how to do the job any other way than holistically. When you get results though, that's when you can prove your worth and name your price."
3. Make your customers successful, and your career will follow.
"Congratulations on being in the right place at the right time. The function of customer success has found its identity and voice in the business world, and it's incredibly fun to be in a space that has evolved so quickly and lets you act as an advocate for customers inside of companies.
I hate to use the over-used rocket-ship metaphor, it applies so nicely to the field of customer success as the function expands not only in volume of CSMs, but in a growing number of complementary, partnered, and career growth roles (such as success automation, strategic CSMs, Chief Customer Officer, renewal specialists, customer education, and more). This is a space where you want to get on board, put your customer first, work hard to deliver, and the opportunities will present themselves.
The hardest part might be reminding yourself to pick your head up every now and again to review what is new, and determining which path you want to take for your development plan."
4. Stay passionate, stay current, and stay focused.
"Customer success is an interesting field because there are so many different aspects required to be successful. I have seen people enter the customer success profession via account management, customer support, professional services, product management, and marketing teams.
The advice I would give someone already in customer success and looking to grow their career is threefold stay passionate, stay current and stay focused.
The key to customer success is in the name -- it's about making customers successful.
A CSM needs to be wildly passionate about wanting to help customers be successful and achieving their goals, while balancing the goals of their company too. Ultimately, that passion is what will fuel the creative problem solving required to help customers and the vendor's business succeed.
A strong project management background is really important to guide the customer forward and manage them to success. Great communication skills, being empathetic and listening skills are also important for CSMs, in addition to the subject matter expertise required to persuasively mature customers along in their journey. Continue to hone these skills so that you are acting as a true trusted advisor and continue to bolster loyalty.
The best way to keep growing your career is to ensure that you are successful by making sure that your customers and your company are successful. Aim for the triple win and understand how to align your goals with those of your company and its customers. Staying true to yourself and that triple alignment is the surest path forward to a rewarding and successful career."
5. Be curious.
"I think the greatest tool for a CSM is curiosity.
While you need to be an expert in the product or solution you are supporting, you really need to become an expert in your customers. This likely means being exposed to all sorts of different industries, operating models, organizational structures, company cultures, points of view and expertise. You sit at the intersection between your customers business need and your solution so only by understanding both can you provide real value. The best thing about that is you get to become an expert in all sorts of different things, even if just briefly.
I think the best piece of advice that I can give to someone trying to grow their career in customer success is to ask at least twice as many questions as you answer and listen far more than you speak.
The more you learn from the other parts of your organization and from your customers, the more value you can provide. It will help you connect solutions, ideas, and people together which is one of the best things you can offer. Very often the CSM is not the right person to solve the problem being presented to them but they are the best person to figure out if it has been solved, who solved it, or who could be the best source for solving it. I cannot tell you how often I use what I learned in my last customer call to help the next one.
Stay curious, and always be learning."
6. Commit to making big bets.
"Bet big on your team.
There are many factors that can accelerate and enhance a career in customer success, but nothing as much as the caliber of people you'll be surrounded by every day. Technologies change, the market evolves, competition heats up, but smart, driven, and passionate people focused on a shared vision for their customers will win consistently. You may be surprised to see how quickly revenue flows for the business and reward for you when authentic conversations build deep relationships, leading to optimal solutions that create massive impact -- for you, your coworkers, your company, your customer, and your community.
And commit to growth.
Be on the lookout for hard problems that need solving, and then raise your hand to help solve them. The more experience you gain, look for bigger and bigger problems to solve, with hands that are raised higher and higher."