Customer Success Manager Company Review – Qualtrics

customer success manager qualtrics
https://www.qualtrics.com/au/

This blog is part of a series of posts exploring the different companies that have looked for or are currently looking for Customer Success Managers. Learn more about your potential employers, see if their values align with yours and whether you can see yourself working there. This week, we’re looking into Qualtrics, a company owned by SAP, whose core product revolves around surveys and the analysis of data that comes from them.

Qualtrics – Smart, Sophisticated, Survey SaaS

In my Oracle days, a presales consultant I knew moved into into Qualtrics. It was convenient for him, because they just happened to be down the road. During Friday drinks, he snuck back into the office and we caught up.

He had been at Oracle for 10 years, but had no regrets about leaving. While it was owned by a competitor of Oracle’s it operated more like a start up. He had more autonomy to move fast, break things and make an impact.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into what Qualtrics does and how you might support this business as a CSM.

The Software Itself

The great thing about surveys is that they’re a tool as old as time. As such, their use cases vary quite a bit. However, Qualtrics isn’t unfocused. They have seven or eight key segments they’ve broken out into. I’ll choose a few here to look into.

customer success manager qualtrics customerxm
CustomerXM

CustomerXM is focused on understanding customers better. Customer Experience (CX) is a field gaining prominence, particularly in the world of tech. Qualtrics shares that the popular use cases of the Customer XM product are:

  • social listing,
  • digital customer service,
  • sales and retention intelligence,
  • quality management,
  • Voice of the Customer,
  • Account Management.
customer success manager qualtrics productxm
ProductXM

ProductXM is on the flip side of the coin. Where there are customers (demand), there has to be a product (supply). In the world of digital, really digging into what levers will give the best possible output in a highly competitive landscape will the difference between your company/product being #1, or fighting in obscurity.

The main use cases are:

  • pricing research,
  • concept testing,
  • product naming,
  • product satisfaction, and
  • feature prioritization.
customer success manager qualtrics employeexm
EmployeeXM

Then last but not list here, who do you have enabling the supply and demand side to come together? Employees! Making sure they’re feeling fulfilled yet challenged, switched on and well remunerated is key to keeping a business operating not only smoothly, but profitably as well.

The key use cases here are:

  • action planning,
  • employee pulse,
  • onboarding feedback,
  • exit diagnostic.

Job Description Example

The role we’re going to look into today is for a Portfolio Customer Success Manager, in Sydney, Australia.

customer success manager qualtrics job description
Portfolio Customer Success Manager job description

Let’s go through each of the dot points:

  • be the one who builds connections in your account organizations and turn them into evangelists/champions,
  • increase adoption. Pretty part and parcel for CSMs. The main action you want to be enabling at Qualtrics is more research.
  • understand and empathise with customers to know exactly why they bought into Qualtrics and how they wish to use it to solve their problem,
  • build success plans to provide customers with a blueprint for success,
  • create content (PDF, videos, emails, etc) that educates customers on how to get the most value out of Qualtrics,
  • be the Voice of the Customer and make sure cross-functional leaders hear them,
  • unite the different departments so you holistically build the best possible product for your customers,
  • be an SME (subject matter expert) of Qualtrics,
  • be a sales enabler, helping with your domain knowledge wherever possible, and
  • work hand-in-hand with product to build the product to be better than ever by informing them real customer feedback that you get from your accounts.

Why You Should Go

customer success manager qualtrics company benefits

Their benefits can be summed up as having the stability of a strong parent (SAP), but possessing the spirit of a start up. If you need health coverage but want to do big things and make an impact, Qualtrics is for you.

Customer Success Manager Company Review – MongoDB

customer success manager mongodb
https://www.mongodb.com/

This blog is part of a series of posts exploring the different companies that have looked for or are currently looking for Customer Success Managers. Learn more about your potential employers, see if their values align with yours and whether you can see yourself working there. Today, we’ll be heading into the technical database realm and looking into a company called MongoDB.

MongoDB – Scalable, modern databases for technologically mature companies

MongoDB is classified as a NoSQL database program, it uses JSON-like documents with optional schemas. If you don’t know what any of that means, don’t worry, I don’t either. I took that blurb off Wikipedia.

I’d actually had a recruiter from MongoDB reach out to me before here for a CSM role in Melbourne, Australia. It comes across as a very collected, well-run organization that knows exactly the space it’s playing in and how it makes a difference in the lives of its customers.

Safe to say that its CSMs are quite technical, verging on the side of being Solution Consultants. Still, the fact that there are CSM roles show that there is a place for that human touch to connect with customers at the emotional level.

The Software Itself

I’m going to go on a bit of a different approach here. Usually I would talk about the software, but given that MongoDB has a section on use cases, I thought I’d share those, as they make sense to me.

customer success manager mongodb application driven analytics
Application-Driven Analytics is one of their use cases

Who likes admin work where you have to move slabs of data from one system to the next? If you’ve spent any time working in IT, you’d know that this is a laborious chore. With MongoDB, it becomes a thing of the past, if not at least a lot easier to manage.

customer success manager mongodb mobile app development
mobile apps that are house and share data easily is another use case

We know that societies are trending towards mobile. Everything you used to do on desktops now works on mobile. If your website isn’t mobile responsive, the UX is terrible. It’s seen as a prerequisite now. MongoDB takes care of the “invisible” data infrastructure, which is also crucial to mobile performance, so that these issues don’t detract from the user experience in the background.

customer success manager mongodb payment management
payments is another user case, making sure the data is secure but also useful

For e-commerce or any businesses that take money of any sort, payments are a crucial piece. You can’t have archaic payment standards that aren’t up to scratch. MongoDB ensures that sensitive customer information is housed securely and that once payments are made, customers don’t have to worry about that money being lost, or the legitimacy of their online purchase.

Job Description Example

This screenshot is taken from the MongoDB website and is for a Senior Customer Success Manager role in New York City.

customer success manager mongodb job description

Let’s go through each of the dot points:

  • you have done the time as a CSM already. Pretty fair, given that it’s a senior role. For a lower role, they might be more open to existing customer-facing experience,
  • you can act as the Voice of the Customer. Pretty standard CSM stuff here.
  • you are a bit more on the technical side. Maybe this is you, or maybe it isn’t. If you’re a bit geeky and can break down complex concepts into simple things, could be great for you.
  • as a senior role, you won’t have your hand held. You have to have the tough conversations, de-escalate situations and talk your way out of sticky situations.
  • have you ever started a business, or run a side gig? This role could be great for you!
  • team players for the win. CSMs work best in teams, supporting one another.
  • again, if you have experience in the industry/databases, then it’ll be looked upon as a big plus.

What are MongoDB’s benefits?

customer success manager mongodb job benefits

Have a look at these! Generally, if you’re looking to lead a balanced life for a company that looks after you, look no further than MongoDB.

So what do you think? Does it appeal to you, or not really your cup of tea? Drop me a message through the blog, keen to hear what you think!

Customer Success Manager Company Review – Klaviyo

customer success manager klaviyo
https://www.klaviyo.com/

This blog is part of a series of posts exploring the different companies that have looked for or are currently looking for Customer Success Managers. Learn more about your potential employers, see if their values align with yours and whether you can see yourself working there. For this week, we’re changing industry and looking into the world of marketing automation. Say hello to Klaviyo.

Klaviyo – the SMS and email marketing automation platform

So do you know how some of your favorite shops sometimes send you text/SMS, talking about a promotion, new item that’s come in or special offer? That’s part of what Klaviyo does. It helps companies run campaigns that scale and help the company sell more with less effort.

There are also parts of it that allow it to personalize collateral to suit specific personas. For example, if tracking pick ups that someone is more likely to buy items at full price, it may highlight features over a discount, whereas if another customer has only ever bought at discount, they would go down a “discount route” and be shown campaigns where the money they save is in bold.

The Software Itself

There are two main modules that Klaviyo sells: email marketing and SMS/text marketing. Here are screenshots of both from their website:

customer success manager klaviyo email marketing

The email marketing module allows customers to:

  • send personalized emails that convert: the WYSIWYG drag-and-drop module lets you select how the campaigns should look like and can go through specific paths based on their browsing behavior,
  • drive repeat sales through automation: using browsing behavior, automatically push campaigns to cross- and up-sell to customers,
  • launch and test quickly with prebuilt campaigns: spend less time messing around with design and more time building winning campaigns with prebuilt templates.
customer success manager klaviyo sms marketing

The SMS Marketing module allows you to:

  • Personalized text campaigns: don’t blast out the same message to everyone. Klaviyo helps you send specific content to specific personas.
  • Text their number: you can specifically send a message to their device and get their attention where it’s directed to most: their phone.
  • Bring people who are sitting on the fence back: last thing you want is for people who aren’t committed to not buy. Get the sale with campaigns that convert.

Job Description Example

customer success manager klaviyo csm jd

The above is a screenshot from a CSM job out in Los Angeles, California. Let’s break it down in each of the bullet points:

  • gives you some sense of how many customers you’ll be managing. 50-60 mid- to high-touch customers sounds about right.
  • give advice to customers on how to increase revenue from the product,
  • standard onboarding procedure, getting customers in and using the product, eventually falling in love with it.
  • be proactive about finding risk and addressing it before it gets out of hand,
  • let customers know about new features,
  • work cross-collaboratively with product and engineering for new features,
  • resolve issues that customers are experiencing
  • speak plain language when communicating with customers,
  • document issues,
  • and of course, be someone fun to work with!

Why you should consider them

These are the values they stand for:

customer success manager klaviyo values

Do these resonate with you? If they do, keep and eye on them. Their next CSM opening might be near you!

Customer Success Manager Company Review – Datadog

https://www.datadoghq.com

This blog is part of a series of posts exploring the different companies that have looked for or are currently looking for Customer Success Managers. Learn more about your potential employers, see if their values align with yours and whether you can see yourself working there. Staying on the theme of cloud SaaS, we’re going to explore a company called Datadog.

Datadog provides cloud-scale monitoring and security for metrics, traces and logs in one unified platform.

Datadog is all about observability and seeing just how your server-based services perform and operate. The two founders, Olivier Pomel and Alexis Lê-Quôc, founded the company in 2010 to address the friction they experienced working in system admin and developer teams.

Since it raised a Seed round, it’s gone on to raise a Series A, B, C and D before finally going public on the NASDAQ in 2019. As of writing this blog post, it’s currently trading at around $75 USD a share.

The Software Itself

Here are a few of their key product screenshots, taken straight from the Datadog website:

customer success manager datadog, infrastructure visibility
Infrastructure Visibility
customer success manager datadog, centralized logs
Logs centralized and able to be queried in a single language
customer success manager datadog, user journey visibility
Visibility into user journeys and their performance in web and mobile applications

Like a lot of great SaaS companies, they solved a tough problem, focusing on strong UX and UI that was intuitive to use for anyone. People didn’t want to get caught up in learning how to use something and just wanted to start using it from Day 1.

Job Description Example

Even if you focus entirely on a pleasant UX, the more complex the problem that’s attempted to be solved, the greater the need for CSMs. Doing a quick search on LinkedIn showed a listing for a Customer Success Manager job in Sydney, Australia.

customer success manager datadog, CSM role
This is an excerpt for a CSM job listing at Datadog in Sydney, Australia

Let’s go through each of the dot points:

  • Like most good well-oiled CS systems, the focus in on the handover between sales and CS. You own the post-sale process and make sure to give your customer white glove treatment.
  • For existing customers, you will try to upsell Datadog’s offerings (this is a point I don’t agree with as much, CSMs should focus on delivering value in the product, not selling)
  • Building loyalty to Datadog is critical, as they want to keep their customers in their books for as long as possible. Ideally forever.
  • Identifying growth opportunities and handing then back to the sales team is part and parcel of being a CSM. This comes from building trust with your customer and getting them to open up to you and share what else they’re working on, etc.
  • You act as the SME to help customers for any questions they might have about getting value out of the product,
  • Tapping into analytics and usage, you can spot unhealthy customer behavior from a mile away and nip it into the bud before it flourishes into potential churn (not becoming a customer anymore),
  • Collaboration with other departments in Datadog to help them solve problems too, i.e. creating feature requests for product to explain what features customers actually care about.

What they offer

Unlike other companies, they’re not shy about what they give you as an employee:

customer success manager datadog, company benefits

Not bad at all, especially that they give you unlimited time off!

Like a few of the other companies I’ve reviewed, Datadog would be a good fit for people who, like the founders, come from developer or system ops fields and want a change of scenery. Or, if you’re keen for a challenge, throw your hat in the ring if you have any customer-facing experience. Tech companies are often open to new perspectives and you could be their next great hire. Go for it!

Customer Success Manager Company Review – Freshworks

customer success manager freshworks
https://www.freshworks.com/

This blog is part of a series of posts exploring the different companies that have looked for or are currently looking for CS talent. Learn more about your potential employers, see if their values align with yours and whether you can see yourself working there. We’re now looking into one of the largest providers of sales, support and employee management CRM SaaS, grown out of Chennai, India – Freshworks.

Freshworks – ridiculously easy-to-use marketing, sales, support and IT solutions

While the company was only founded in 2010, it’s grown to one of the bigger players in the CRM space. It counts its competitors as Monday.com and Hubspot.

It’s history is as follows:

  • 2010 – its founders start right from first principles: building a cloud-based software that helps companies manage customer service tickets, with an emphasis on positive UX.
  • 2015 – launches social services that help service desk people deliver support on the go.
  • 2016 – launches its sales CRM, Freshsales,
  • 2017 – officially rebrands to Freshworks (from Freshdesk)
  • 2019 – is included in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Customer Engagement Software,
  • 2021 – has an IPO and gets listed on the NASDAQ (during COVID!)

It’s a real success story as far as they come. Will you be a success story at this company too?

The Software Itself

Let’s look at their core offerings here:

Freshdesk

customer success manager freshworks freshdesk

It’s one of their core products and what put them on the map in the first place. Includes ticket resolution, live chat and CX modules.

Freshservice

customer success manager freshworks freshservice

This tool is all about getting an ROI from service delivery. Stop wasting time on repetitive tasks, get more software working and talking to each other in the same language and deploy fast.

Freshsales

customer success manager freshworks freshsales

Taking learnings from their earlier offerings and applying it to the sales environment, Freshsales was born. It enables sales people to close deals faster, improve seller effectiveness and reduce bottlenecks that are caused by miscommunications in systems used by IT teams and sales people.

Job Description Example

The following screenshot was taken from a Freshworks role based out of California. There should be considerable overlap with roles all over the world.

customer success manager freshworks job description

Job Description Analysis

Let’s go through each of the dot points:

  • While a lot of roles are remote, it’s important for this one that the CSM is actually based in California.
  • owning the customer means being the custodian of the customer relationship. When people from other departments want to speak with your customer, they have to go through you.
  • Take an approach of educating and teaching customers about the Freshworks platform.
  • Always be influencing and demonstrating your expertise to build trust in customers.
  • Really believe in what the product does and how it helps solve the customers’ problems.
  • Teach, teach, teach!
  • Manage risk and mitigate it before it becomes a big problem.
  • When you nurture customers into champions, turn that into an opportunity for the customer to become a public reference.
  • Talk to the product team and get them to listen to what you have to suggest about improvements to the product,
  • Be best buds with sales and account management. Find opportunities to grow your accounts,
  • Own the renewal process so the business can keep getting money,
  • Be the customer’s voice and speak on their behalf so that when other departments each voice their needs, you ensure that the customers’ needs are always heard.

What They Provide

Larger, public companies like Freshworks have decent benefits, such as:

  • health/medical
  • dental
  • life insurance
  • flexible working arrangements

If you’ve worked in a service environment (i.e. hospitality, IT), a company like Freshworks could be a great choice to launch your career in Customer Success. If you’re curious, visit their website, Google them or even reach out to some current employees for a chat. Best of luck!

Customer Success Manager Company Review – IBM

customer success manager ibm
Website is https://www.ibm.com

This blog is part of a series of posts exploring the different companies that have looked for or are currently looking for CS talent. Learn more about your potential employers, see if their values align with yours and whether you can see yourself working there. Going to talk about one of the bigger players in the market this week: IBM.

IBM – Building your AI capabilities in the Cloud

IBM is one of the largest all-encompassing IT firms in the world. When you ask anyone to name big IT companies, along with the likes of Oracle, SAP and Salesforce, IBM usually gets a mention.

While they originated out of New York, the United States of America, they are now based all over the world. As of last year, they hired over a quarter of a million people. If having access to the resources of one of the largest IT organizations in the world appeals to you, this blog is for you.

Like all big large IT conglomerates, it’s difficult to define just exactly what IBM does. Visiting their Australian website, you see that right now, the focus is on security online. There have been a number of security breaches, so to show that they are on top of what businesses and their customers are concerned about right now, that’s their focus.

The Software Itself

There’s a whole suite of software on offer at IBM. Instead of naming them all, here are screengrabs of the main categories they offer:

customer success manager ibm automation
Automation
customer success manager ibm data & ai
Data & AI
customer success manager ibm infrastructre
Infrastructure
customer success manager ibm security
Security
customer success manager ibm, sustainability
Sustainability

Phew! What a list! While not all of these would have Customer Success Managers per se, many would. Some might be looking for roles that are still customer-facing and involve the deployment more of a service, but if you have experience managing customer expectations, you can potentially also perform excellently in these roles too.

Job Description Example

Here’s a screenshot on LinkedIn for a Customer Success Manager role at IBM in Melbourne, Australia. A lot of it will be applicable no matter where you are in the world.

customer success manager ibm job description
customer success manager ibm required technical and professional expertise

Let’s go through each of the dot points under Required Technical and Professional Expertise:

  • This is pretty technical, to be fair. OpenShift is a cloud-based Kubernetes platform that helps developers build applications. If it’s your first foray into CS and you don’t have a background in this, might be good to skip this one. If you do have a background in this and are perhaps exploring a more customer-facing path, read on!
  • If you’re a vendor who’s worked with IBM before, you will satisfy this requirement.
  • Again, less likely you’ll have this coming from a side path, but if you’re been in the industry and are looking to side step into a Go To Market role like CS, this is right up your alley.
  • Showing customers how to use offerings is the main reason for customer success managers.
  • Growth or Success Plans are a key deliverable for CSMs. If you can write out a step-by-step guide to help people improve on how they use software, you’ll know how to do this.
  • Yep having an analytical mindset helps here.
  • Don’t be too stumped by these acronyms. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and the others just mean software in the cloud.
  • This one is just about relationship building, which comes as second nature to you.
  • And of course, you’re a good multitasker, aren’t you?

What They Offer

While they aren’t as explicit about their perks, assuming you’re a top performer, you’ll have the ability to have a long and fulfilling career, exploring different business units and career paths all within one organization. Things like paid health care and study stipends are also the norm here.

IBM might not be for everyone, but if you’re already in the IT space and want to step it up a notch, using your technical skills and people skills, a CSM role could be perfect for you.

Customer Success Manager Company Review – Canva

This blog is part of a series of posts exploring the different companies that have looked for or are currently looking for CS talent. Learn more about your potential employers, see if their values align with yours and whether you can see yourself working there. I’m pleased to introduce one of the more well known Aussie tech companies out there: Canva.

Canva – Making Design Accessible to Everyone

I first used Canva when it wasn’t as big as it was. I needed a platform that allowed me to make decent graphics without having to invest in something like Photoshop. I can’t even remember how I stumbled across it. But since those days, I’ve used it to design:

  • brochures,
  • resumes,
  • case studies,
  • logos,
  • banners,

It appeals to those who aren’t design savvy (like me) and they’ve started ramping up their offering to Business-to-Business (B2B) customers. That’s where Customer Success Managers come in, but more on that later.

The Software Itself

They are only able to scale to the level they’re at because they’re in the cloud, that is, you don’t have to install anything on your computer. Simply log in, create an account and away you go.

Once you’re in, you can choose from a range of different templates for things you’re trying to design. You can mix and match things, import your own images, resize, change colours, save as PDF, share with other people and more, all with a free account.

A paid account typically aligns with you being in a corporate environment and using Canva more on a day to day basis. Maybe you’re a marketing coordinator who’s doubling up as the designer on the side. You need to have folders to manage different projects, which is only available for paying members. Fancier templates, fonts and images are also available for paying members.

Job Description Example

I Googled “Customer Success Manager Canva” and found this old job description. Not sure if they’re still looking, but it gives a snapshot into what they expect of their CSMs:

Desired Skills and Expertise

  • Own the post first sale relationship with a customer, ensuring we’ve identified the value outcomes the customer is looking to achieve and enabled a strategic change plan to ensure we’re meeting those outcomes
  • You will provide your customers best practices in how to connect the customer’s value outcomes to ways in which the product can achieve them
  • You will develop new and existing relationships across your customers to ensure we’ve strengthened our partnership and created new advocates
  • Account growth: identify areas for growth within existing accounts and manage the renewal process
  • Best-in-class processes, practices, and efficiency: create, educate, experiment, and collaborate with senior leadership and our growing customer base with building team practices and playbooks for operating as a top SaaS business and solutions provider

Let’s go through each of the dot points:

  • pretty standard, sales will handover to you and you take over and build value for the customer.
  • the way that you build value is by showing them the best way to use Canva for their business,
  • you will meet new people across the organization and extend the reach of Canva that way.
  • you will facilitate the growth of the account, i.e. making them pay us more each year.
  • you will help improve internal and external processes.

What they’re offering

Perks they list are:

  • equity (options),
  • hybrid (flexible) work model,
  • inclusive parental leave policy,
  • Vibe & Thrive allowance, for you to spend on whatever makes you feel good,
  • wellness benefits,
  • donation matching.

Could you see yourself working there? Would you consider applying for them in the future? Keen to hear your thoughts!

The Path from Customer Success Manager to Product Manager: Is It Possible?

customer success manager to product manager
customer success manager to product manager

On this blog, I share everything I know about how to get started as a Customer Success Manager. I think it’s a great way to get into tech, using many of the transferable skills that you already have from other jobs. That’s not all I talk about though. More than you becoming a CSM, I care about you having a long, fulfilling career, which is why I also discuss pathways related to CS.

Once you get started in tech, you’ll find that there are other departments that you interact with. Undoubtedly, one of them is Product Management. If you haven’t heard much about Product Management, here it is in a nutshell:

  • the role is known as being the “CEO of the product”,
  • you care about how to make the product the best it can possibly be,
  • it’s very cross collaborative.

It also pays quite well as well. It’s not an easy job though, but for people who are interested in the above key points, it might be a role you consider moving into from Customer Success. Here are some key points to keep in mind if this is you.

Absolutely Ace CS

There is no way in hell that you would be considered for a jump to a different part of the business unless you were already killing it in your current role, period. Arguably, if you were already doing really well in your current role, your manager would probably want you to stay in that role, otherwise you’ll leave her with a headache and a huge hole to fill.

But your strength as a CSM lies in your ability to build customer relationships. That is going to put you in good stead as a PM, as you will still be talking to customers a lot. Leveraging those relationships will become critical in you being successful, especially as you get customers’ feedback on new features.

In terms of “playing the game” though, definitely build a strong case for yourself to be considered for a side step. Management will always be more inclined to consider a strong performer rather than a mediocre one.

Build Strong Relationships

If you do become a Product Manager, you might not feel that your job changes much on some days. Know why? Because just like a CSM, as a PM, you’ll be speaking with people across the business. That’s why as a CSM, you should be building those bridges with people that you will keep working with.

While you should generally be approachable and talk to everyone, you should particularly focus on:

  • engineers, as they build the product you have in mind and you need to consider their workload and resources,
  • designers, as they’re the ones who have to design the product. Like you, they’re really in tune with customer needs and you’ll be working together to build the right thing from the get go.
  • sales/CS/GTM, basically anyone and everyone customer facing. These are people who get all the insights from the customer about the product. They are your fingers on the pulse and should be telling you the moment that a customer doesn’t like something.

If you’re considering a move into PM, start building these relationships yesterday.

Show An Interest In the Product

This sound super obvious, but being product-focused will put you in a good position to be considered for PM roles if and when they pop up. As a CSM, you enable your customer to use digital products well. You’ll cut your fair share of bug tickets and feature requests. There are different levels of dedication though:

  • Low – cut the tickets, forget about them until engineers respond, then mention them in passing to the customer that it’s been acknowledged,
  • Medium – follow up on the tickets, add more context from other customers who have said the same thing, keep the customer in the loop throughout the process,
  • High – become a “mini PM”, where you’re an ambassador for the feature/bug to be fixed, build a strong case for it to be escalated, do customer research, talk about why it should be prioritized, pull every string you have to get eyeballs on it.

I can tell you that it’s a lot of energy to be high dedication but if you are, it won’t go unnoticed. Plus, you can use it as a case study for when you are being interviewed for the position.

So if you’re considering future pathways after becoming a CSM, Product Management is totally possible. Follow these three suggestions and you’re well on your way. Good luck!

What Does a Customer Success Hierarchy Look Like?

customer success manager hierarchy
All about climbing that CS ladder

For those of you who are considering a job in customer success management, you might have also thought about how the future looks like once you start. You don’t want to start in the role only to realize that it’s a dead end. That’s why in this blog, I’ll talk a bit about how customer success hierarchies look like in different organizations. Let’s get straight into it.

To do it, let’s pretend we’re in fast food (stay with me here). When you’re looking up at the menu and have decided what you want, what’s the next thing you need to make up your mind about?… the size!

Small

CS hierarchies in smaller tech companies tend to only have the CSM on their own. Their starting to get traction and need someone to look after all the customers who are coming on. The JD will often read something like:

  • fast-paced culture,
  • will need to wear many hats,
  • likes getting their hands dirty.

Some people may see these things as warning signs, but I find that that’s not always necessarily true. If it’s your first foray into the world of CS, doing customer success for a smaller tech company – maybe pre-Series A – is a great way to get your foot in the door.

There’s a good chance you will be reporting directly to the CEO/founder. If you’re not reporting to her, you might be reporting to someone one below, who possibly isn’t a CS leader (remember, you’re likely to be the first CS hire). It might be:

  • Head of Sales/Business Development,
  • Head of Product,
  • Head of IT.

Don’t let this deter you too much. They might not know as much CS as you do, but they will have their perspective that will give you a look into the business from a different angle.

Medium

You might eventually join a team that has an established Customer Success department, that is, the person you report to is Head of Customer Success, Customer Experience, Customer Solutions or something similar.

They oversee the strategy, execution and tracking of the CS function and need good people to see their plans come to fruition. The great thing about joining a company with someone like this is that depending on the timing, you might find that you’re in the right position to become that leader’s 2IC (2nd In Command) that they rely on, meaning that you’re next in line for promotion.

They have probably done the hard yards themselves as CSMs and know a bit about how to make it work in tech companies. You might be part of a team of two to three or even more, depending on the maturity of your product.

Large

At the time of writing this article, I’m part of a team that has nearly 20 CSMs. I’d consider that pretty large. We have three layers in our hierarchy:

  • CSMs,
  • CS Team Leaders,
  • Director of CS

Within the CSM function we also have:

  • standard CSMs,
  • enterprise CSMs,
  • tech-touch CSMs

So you can see that there is a level of maturity in the organization that necessitates this breakdown of role. There are quite a few things we do in the organization that you probably wouldn’t see in smaller tech companies:

  • have internal wikis to democratize information so that everyone can learn from everyone’s knowledge,
  • have a CRM (Gainsight) specific for tracking and managing CS activities,
  • roundtables every two weeks to open the floor to all CSMs so that we can ask questions of one another and spread the knowledge.

In terms of career growth, I feel that there’s the most opportunity in larger organizations like mine now, but that doesn’t mean that you should turn your nose up at opportunities at smaller ones. They might eventually end up becoming the bigger ones that everyone wants to work at – and you might end up being the CS leader at the top by then!

Is being a Customer Success Manager a Sales Job?

is customer success manager a sales job
Is customer success manager a sales job?

Some people possess the gift of the gab. There are heaps of cliches: they can sell you the shirt off your own back, could sell ice to an eskimo, etc. For me, this scene from Wolf of Wall Street comes to mind.

It’s… um… a nice pen?

Safe to say, they know people and what to say to get them to part with their hard-earned cash. Give that Customer Success Managers work so closely with people as well, does this mean that it’s a sales job? That’s what I’m going to talk about in today’s blog.

Well yes… but no.

In the purest sense, Customer Success Managers are sales people. Before you scream and run for the hills, away from all those scary KPIs, hear me out. While there is still some muddiness around what a CSM’s job entails, you don’t have to pick up a phone, cold call and close deals. You don’t even have to close warm deals (inbound).

Customer Success Managers should only work with existing customers, who have been handed over from the sales team. Once more, for those in the back: Customer Success Managers should only work with existing customers, who have been handed over from the sales team.

You might find some roles that state that there might be sales involved. Those companies either:

  • don’t know what Customer Success is,
  • are smaller companies, trying to “buy” a BDM and CSM bundled into one (stay away from these companies),
  • are still trying to figure out exactly what they need for their business at that stage (also stay away from these companies).

A well-oiled tech company has a sales team (or even just a sales person) who handles everything pre-sales, before doing a clean hand over to you so you can help that customer start using the SaaS solution.

Note: there’s nothing wrong with companies who have a single salesperson and CSM. I’ve worked in that set up before, building a good relationship with sales (critical for increasing customer confidence in the business) such that we could see each others’ blind spots.

Bigger tech companies that have been in the game longer will talk about specific ratios of AE (Account Executives) and CSMs, whether there should be more sales or more CS, but that’s a topic for another article.

So what did you mean that CS is a sales role then?

While CS doesn’t have any sales targets to hit, they should still see themselves as a salesperson, in the sense that they’re trying to build a relationship and encourage the customer to invest time and energy into it as well. Besides money, there are several things that a customer can give to a tech company that’s valuable:

  • Testimonials: positive, on-the-record comments that can encourage prospects sitting on the fence to come over,
  • Product Dev Sessions: when the product and engineering teams are trying to get input on new features, a 30 minute conversation with customers can clear up blockers and put the company on the right track,
  • Positive Word of Mouth: the most powerful conversations are the ones that the CSM isn’t a part of. What the customers say to other customers or prospects that we don’t know about is ultimately one of the strongest votes of confidence, in that it’s unsolicited. The only way we know about it is if a new customer joins and specifically mentions that they only heard good things from another existing customer. And when that involves you as their CSM… fewer things can make your day!

The above list isn’t exhaustive but they are all valuable when it comes how customers can help tech companies. They won’t enthusiastically agree to help right out of the gate. It only comes when they feel that the value they’ve gained has exceeded their expectations and that it’s only fair that they give something back.

So yes, when you do become a Customer Success Manager, see yourself as a salesperson, even if you aren’t knocking down doors and dialing for dollars. Your job is as important, if not more important…er.