Is Being a Customer Success Manager Stressful?

Is being a Customer Success Manager stressful?

So I thought I’d change up articles today and answer other questions about not what a Customer Success Manager does, but more so how it is being one. Looking in Google and starting the search with, “is Customer Success Manager…” and looking and what gets autofilled, “stressful” is one of the first few. So I thought I’d tackle this one.

My answer is No. Here’s why.

Obviously what I say isn’t gospel, but I’d love to talk more about why it is no. Also, these are my own experiences and I can’t definitely say that it’ll be the same for you. Every company is different, after all. I wanted to dispel some non-truths about being a customer success manager that might make it seem that it’s a stressful job.

It’s a sales job

I’m going to make it super clear: a customer success manager is not a sales person. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. There is no cold calling, there is no pressure selling. Yes, there might be KPIs to meet in relation to expanding/retaining your accounts, as well as preventing churn, but these aren’t the same as the targets salespeople need to meet as part of their jobs.

If you get an interview and they start talking about sales targets, run for the hills! The company is probably trying to do a switcheroo and sell you something that it’s not.

You deal with angry people all day

This is also not true. I mean, you would deal with some people who might not like your company or product because they’re being made to use it, but it certainly shouldn’t be the norm. If it is, there’s probably far deeper problems to do with the UX of the product or the way that the users become customers in the first place.

You focus more on being a supporter and partner for your customer as a customer success manager. You’re there to help them become proficient and confident at using your product. They should be happy and excited at finding a way to solve their problems using your product as a solution. So no, you shouldn’t be dealing with angry people all day.

It’s a chaotic role

This one may or may not be true. Depends on your definition of chaos. Can it be quite unstructured? Absolutely. Particularly in younger tech organizations. You might end up wearing many hats, dabbling in a bit of product management, being tech support and assisting sales with demos.

For me personally, that’s part of the charm. I like being kept on my toes and having variety in my day. When many departments need me to pitch in, I feel valued. But if your company does gain traction, you should eventually see that chaos starting to subside. Your day-to-day work should be more manageable. However, it doesn’t mean that your value within the organization diminishes. Your expertise should be called upon regularly.

So overall, no, I don’t think customer success management is stressful for the above three reasons. Maybe you’ve heard otherwise. I’d be curious to hear your stories. Have other people said that their experience has been a nightmare?

How to Become an Entry Level Customer Success Manager

customer success manager entry level guide

While Customer Success Management is generally a job that benefits from experience, this doesn’t mean that it’s absolutely necessary. In fact, one of my colleagues at a Series B scale-up is a CSM. It was his first job out of university.

In a one-on-one, he shared some details with me as how he got into the role, citing the experience that he used to persuade the hiring manager (also his manager in real life) to give him a chance. I’ll also sprinkle in some advice you can use to also get your foot in the door.

What do students do?

Not a trick question: what do students do? They… study of course. They learn things in order to get good marks so that eventually, they graduate with that magical piece of paper.

Of course, as part of studying, a good way to test your knowledge is to teach. That is what my colleague did. Fresh out of high school, he offered tuition services to people who were still in school as a bit of a side gig. Cast your mind back to high school or middle school. Remember differential equations, calculus and the like? How about physics transformations, chemistry formulas and biology flora and fauna?

My colleague simplified complex concepts for students going through school, which is a key skill required to excel as a customer success manager. It’s no surprise now that he’s absolutely killing it at work.

What have you done?

Sorry, couldn’t help it. 😂

Anyway, the point I wanted to make is that you probably have experience in some way, shape or form that you’re not even aware of that makes you a good candidate for customer success, even if you haven’t worked before. Think about:

  • social clubs that you’ve been a part of. Have you volunteered to help with “IT stuff”?
  • family is a good source of training as a CSM. Are you the guy or gal that people go to if their “Google” breaks?
  • if you’ve tried to improve any sort of process anywhere at your part-time job (or even a school project) and communicated this with everyone.

Chances are, if you’ve done something, there’s a way to communicate it as experience that can put you in good stead for your first entry level role in Customer Success.

What can you do?

“But Johnson”, I hear you say. “I’ve done nothing. Like, literally nothing.”

First, I don’t believe you. You’re not trying hard enough. But just for the benefit of the doubt, let’s say you really have been living under a rock. If you’re serious about a job in customer success, just start. Here are some ideas:

  • Look at the apps you like to use. Consider what you like and don’t like about the user experience. Write up a blog about it and post it. share it on LinkedIn (create a LinkedIn account if you haven’t done so yet).
  • Look online and see if there are people asking questions or complaining about how hard something is to do. Look for apps or websites. Make a response TikTok, blog, or YouTube video.
  • Volunteer at a library and be the guy that older folk can get help from with their tech queries. This last one is particularly useful, because if you can help oldies figure out tech, you can help anyone figure out tech.

Whatever you do, stick with it and start documenting it in a resume. Track the results if possible. Get comfortable talking with people and sharing your achievements. Before you know it, you’ll have the experience you’ll need and will be able to find your first IRL customer success manager role. Good luck!

Why Should I Become a Customer Success Manager?

Why become a Customer Success Manager?

If you’re reading through this blog, there’s a good chance that you’re doing so because you’re interested in becoming a Customer Success Manager. You’ve been on LinkedIn, Seek, Monster.com and all the job boards and seen that there’s a lot of hiring going on right now in 2022 as tech companies look for people who are good at simplifying complexity to look after their customers.

But one question remains: why become a Customer Success Manager in the first place?

search trends for Customer Success Manager in Google

You can see that search trends for Customer Success Managers in Google are as high as they’ve ever been. The above graph is for the United States, but the same behavior can be seen in all countries that tech companies call home.

I’m going to try and put aside my bias to tell you why you should consider a role as a CSM.

You don’t need specific qualifications

This is the big one for me. When I was working in client services, I wanted to take my experience and elevate it to a higher level role that would let me make more of an impact. After bumping around for a while, I found that Customer Success was a natural progression.

My background was in management and marketing, but what worked in my favor was my experience. It’s more about what you’ve done than what you’ve studied. While more and more certifications are popping up that give you a solid grounding in CS, don’t be fooled. These are not necessary to get you in the door.

Variety is the spice of life

I like being kept on my toes. It doesn’t only make the day go faster, but it helps me grow professionally and personally as well. The great thing about working in customer success is that no two roles are the same. It very much depends on the company and industry you’re working for.

If you’re in a younger company that’s starting to find product-market fit, a bit part of your job will be establishing best practices while literally writing a playbook that they can refer to. You’ll also likely play a big part in what features of a product get worked on.

If you’re in a more mature company, you probably will have more processes to abide to, but the variety comes from working with different people within the organization. Product, engineering, tech support, sales, finance… the list goes on. You can use your skills not only to connect with your customers, but also with the people trying to build your company to be the best damn version of itself.

Money’s pretty good

I’m not going to lie: the money isn’t anything to sneeze at in customer success. I remember the day that I started earning 6-figures. There is a feeling that you’ve “made it”. But the great thing is that it’s just the beginning.

You can take your career as deep as you want and there’s always going to be a market for experienced customer success managers. If you opt to be a people leader, that’s great too. Leading teams of CSMs is a skill in of itself. An emerging field is customer success operations, that is, setting the systems and analytics up to allow CSMs to focus on doing the work and excelling.

But as tech has grown, so have the opportunities to be paid well if you’re a good customer success manager.

Ultimately, I can’t decide for you whether you want to be a customer success manager or not. But hopefully with these three reasons, it’s given you some food for thought. I’d love to see you on the other side!

What Does a Day In the Life of a CSM Look Like?

What does a customer success manager do daily?

I’ve been in customer success for a fair few years now, cutting my teeth in customer service before making the leap. If you like variety, but also having measurable ways to track your own growth and success, a career in customer success might be right for you.

Before you make the leap, you might be wondering what a customer success manager actually does daily. That’s what this post is all about. Let me take you behind the curtain and show you what my typical day looks like:

  • I work remotely, so my day starts at around 7:30am. I get the kids’ lunches ready while making my breakfast. I might log into Slack and check my emails, but for work-life balance, it’s probably better that I actually don’t do this.
  • 8:30am. It depends on the day, but we might have an organisation-wide, all-hands meeting, or a department-wide session where customer success managers from the US and Australia log-in to get updates on the organisation. I dial in from my phone, making sure to turn my mike and camera off.
  • 9:00am. I’m “officially” online, but likely have been reading emails for the past half hour or so. I check the rest of my channels in Slack for any updates from the US while I was asleep.
  • 10:00am. We have a pod meeting for our go-to-market team. This compromises of our sales, customer success and support teams. We shoot the shit for a while before talking about specific customers that we all need to be across.
  • 11:00am. Morning tea. Stand up, stretch, make myself a cuppa. Got to make sure that I get some sunshine too.
  • 11:30am. Internal meeting with product or design. These are teams that build our digital SaaS. Because we’re at the coalface, speaking with customers, they’ll often show us prototypes or ask us about what customers want to prioritise.
  • 12:30pm. This is usually when I start thinking about lunch. If I was smart, I would’ve bought ready-made meals from Aldi that I can just pop in the oven. Otherwise, I might treat myself by going out and grabbing a bite.
  • 2:00pm. Customer meeting. It might be a kick-off, if the customer’s new, or it could be a training session during the onboarding phase. Or it could be a deep-dive into a specific workflow or question they have about whether our product can be configured in a certain way.
  • 3:30pm. Ad-hoc responding to emails, taking calls/calling customers back and fighting fires. This is usually sprinkled out through the day, but can be busier at month end. Pick up kid from after school.
  • 4:00pm. I might spend a bit of time doing some professional development. Learning a bit about Gainsight or analytics that helps me be more of an effective customer success manager.
  • 5:00pm. And thaaaat’s time! I’ll often work a bit overtime if there’s a customer issue I don’t want to leave hanging over, but I try to make a habit of finishing on time.

Hardest part about working from home is setting boundaries. I have found myself doing more work at odd hours of the night when I suddenly remembered that I had something to do.

What do you think about remote customer success life? Does it appeal to you? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section belowww…

How to Become a Customer Success Manager even with No Tech Experience

How to become a customer success manager even with no experience

Customer Success Management has been around as long as technology has been around. If there are complex workflows, then there is likely also to be software to try to improve these workflows. However, often the software’s user experience leaves little to be desired. That’s where Customer Success Managers come in. They help new users navigate this software so that users can save time and achieve time to value a lot quicker than if they were to learn to use it themselves.

If you’re considering starting a career in tech, becoming a customer success manager is a great way to get in. Big reason for this is because there is no specific degree requirement. While there are more and more certifications popping up, they usually aren’t prerequisites for customer success management jobs. This blog’s all giving you a leg-up so you can get into tech through this job, even if you have no tech experience. Here are some things to consider.

Are you good at simplifying complex things?

As I mentioned at the start, you’ll find customer success management roles wherever you find complex workflows. Good tech companies will hire User Experience Designers (shortened to UX Designers) whose job is to make these workflows more user-friendly. As much as they’ll try to make the software as easy to use as possible, there will be components that require a human to onboard.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • do you deal with archaic, crappy software in your current job that you are forced to use?
  • Do you help other people within your organisation with using said crappy software?
  • Have you written up documentation (even a basic how-to list) that people rely on to use the software?
  • Do you speak with IT people who have to fix bugs/improve features in this software and explain what’s actually going on?

The more of these things you do, the better your chance of qualifying for a customer success manager job.

Are you good at de-escalating situations?

One of the things that customer success managers need to be good at is having difficult conversations. What comes to mind straight away are people who work in retail or hospitality. The videos you see online where they face very fiery customers… I applaud their professionalism and calmness in the face of real danger.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • if you’re on the phone a lot, are you responsible for making outbound calls? What’s your approach at calming a customer down?
  • do you have any good stories of customers that no one else wants to deal with, who you’ll gladly take because you aren’t scared of them?
  • what is an example of a time that you have lost control? How did you recover and turn a bad situation into a good one?

De-escalating is a key skill that you can only learn on the job. Any job that gives you this skill gives you an advantage when applying to be a customer success manager.

Are you good at working with a wide variety of people?

It’s no secret that customer success managers are people people. You don’t have to be an extrovert per se, but you do need to be open, curious and empathetic. This isn’t just for the wide array of customers that you’ll meet, but the internal stakeholders that you’ll talk to who have conflicting priorities that you’re expected to at least listen to.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you speak with people who are more senior (even as high as C-suite/CEO) as well as your peers (on your level) or people below you regularly?
  • Do you get along with people who come from white- and blue-collar backgrounds?
  • Are you that person that people go to to ask a question about something that isn’t in their realm because you’re able to explain it in a way that they understand (related to simplifying complex things)?

Then I have news for you: you have a great, natural skillset to become a CSM. In future blog posts, we’ll look at how you can actually translate these into your CV so that it gets the attention of recruiters looking for skills like yours.

What Does A Customer Success Manager Actually Do?

a woman laughing while sitting in front of a laptop
What does a Customer Success Manager Do?

So… you’ve been scrolling through LinkedIn or Seek, thinking what life might be like doing something that actually makes you want to get up in the morning. You stumble upon a few roles for “Customer Success Managers” and see that they’re mostly associated with tech companies. Cool! You’ve always wanted to get into tech.

You tap into a few of the jobs, have a scroll through the JD. Your interest is piqued. It seems a lot of the actual day-to-day isn’t too technical. Maybe you could use your existing skillset to show that you have what it takes to make the jump across.

If that’s what you’re thinking, welcome to this blog. That’s why it exists and what I’m here to help you achieve.

Let’s dive a bit into what a Customer Success Manager actually does. It’s my day job, after all. I’m going to talk about it in plain speak and cut out the CS mumbo-jumbo for the time being. We’ll dive into resumes/CVs and what not in future blogs.

People Skills FTW

If there was one key skill that sets customer success apart from other roles in tech, it’s how well you work with people. For the time being, I’m going to focus on dealing with external stakeholders (customers), a big piece of it is also dealing with internal stakeholders (your colleagues) but I’ll leave that for a future article.

The next time someone asks you, “what does a customer success manager do?”, you tell them, “I help customers get good at using my software.” That’s it. The role exists because the problems that the software solves might be complex and as a result, needs a customer success manager (CSM for short) to hold their hand, at least in the early days, until they become pros at using it themselves.

If you’ve ever been the one in the family who helps everyone with their tech problems, this is great experience to talk about.

So How Techy Do You Have To Be?

There are definitely more technical CSM roles out there, but in the great tech companies I’ve seen, they embrace the varied experience of their CSMs.

Here’s what CSMs don’t need:

  • coding experience,
  • app/website design experience,
  • sales experience.

Don’t get me wrong, those things will help but 9 times out of 10, they aren’t a prerequisite for the role. Or if they are, it would mention that in the job description.

While you might not be “traditionally” technical, i.e. computer smart, you might possess technical knowledge that comes with being in an industry for a long time. That is priceless and arguably harder to find than someone who possesses experience as a CSM. That’s because there is no substitute for living and breathing the problems that your key customers face. That empathy is gold.

So Now For Some Day-To-Day

OK let’s cut the crap and get to some dot points on what a typical day looks like:

  • start the day by checking missed calls from anxious customers who need you to show them how to do the thing that you’ve already shown them a few times (patience is a virtue!),
  • check emails from customers who might ask whether something is possible while using your software,
  • using the insights from that email, write a feature request and send to the product team so they can add it to their backlog of things to work on,
  • jump on a CS team stand-up. It’s called a stand-up because it’s meant to be done literally standing up, but COVID might have changed how things are done. It’s meant to be a short meeting talking about what everyone’s got on for the day,
  • Plan your day around customers at different stages of their onboarding, be a bit reactive but also proactive as you get calls and emails through the day.
  • Help other people from the company who need insights from someone who works most intimately with customers (that’s you!… or will be, soon. 😉)

And… that’s pretty much a standard day. Doesn’t sound like much, but it goes by. So hopefully that’s helped you understand what a customer success manager does. It’s a lot of fun, keeps you on your toes and best of all, you’re helping people solve real problems.