Written by Rachel Provan - Contributor for CS Insider
Customer Success Managers are an incredible group of people. Most are strategic, empathetic, and generally high achievers.
But with so many strong co-workers, it can be hard to stand out.
Here’s a list of 15 ways you can knock your boss’ socks off!
It’s all too easy to focus on the fires you have to put out. But what if you took a couple hours a week to focus on your successful accounts?
Look for trends.
Keep asking questions about where the similarities lie.
This information is GOLD to the whole CS team, and CSMs can often spot these EARLIER than their bosses, just by spending some time analyzing their book of business.
This doesn’t need to be a huge project. The point is that you are being considerate and are sharing your knowledge.
Ideas to try:
I’m fairly sure your job description did NOT read:
That’s because those are both impossible. So why pretend otherwise?
If you are put in a position that makes you feel out of your depth - speak up!
There’s a big difference between “Oh, I can’t do that” and “I actually haven’t done that before but I’d love the chance to try. Would you mind walking me through it?”
This doesn’t make you look stupid or unprepared. If you’ve got a question, it’s likely you’re not the only one. Those who need help will get answers more quickly; those who can provide answers get the chance to shine; and everyone else benefits from having a clearer idea of what needs doing next time around!
Take ownership when you make a mistake
It can feel terrifying to admit that you’re the reason the company lost money or a client left. It feels safer to just act natural and see if anyone realizes it’s your fault… But that’s a recipe for anxiety, and it’s not a very adult way to handle things.
If you know you’ve made a mistake, tell your boss immediately. Though they won’t be thrilled, they may be able to do something to minimize the fallout if they find out in time. But even if not, admitting your mistake shows that you care about the project at hand. It also shows that you care about the quality of your own work.
You’re not merely saying “It was my fault” you’re saying “I want this thing done right.”
It’s a sign of integrity.
Everything is subjective. You have two choices in how you interpret any event.
Whether you want to call it a self-fulfilling prophecy, manifestation, or just good old optimism vs pessimism, your mindset does affect your results. You can’t come up with a creative solution if you’re not looking for one.
Both optimism and pessimism are contagious. You have a choice in which one you want to spread.
It can feel awkward to ask your boss what their KPIs are. Tell them that you're asking so that you can keep them in mind if you think of any information they may find useful.
Make sure you are doing your part on your own KPIs first - built once you’re knocking those out of the park, be on the lookout for other ways you could contribute. Are their playbooks to create? Cross-functional projects to do? A meeting that’s hard for them to attend that you could take notes at?
This also gives you insight on what skills are needed to move up, and some practice using them as well!
Many companies offer professional development opportunities or have learning and development budgets, and almost no one uses them. This is essentially throwing away future salary. You can’t be too busy to invest time in yourself.
Learn what’s available to you and look at classes from places like SuccessCoaching, Success League, or private coaching. It doesn’t have to be 100% customer success focused to benefit the department either! I’ve taken courses in speed reading, data analysis, and neurolinguistic programming which were all incredibly helpful professionally. You can also get certified in Customer Success.
Keep your boss in the loop on what you’re learning, and offer to put together some key takeaways if they have any interest.
Never hoard knowledge. It may feel unfair to you that you’re taking the time to level up, and others are getting the benefit, but that’s exactly what a leader does - enabling the success of others. This is the behavior that will get you a promotion faster than any other (Just make sure your boss sees you doing it - team meetings are a great time to share, so long as there is time on the agenda).
A cross-functional project is a great way to get yourself known in your company and to build relationships with people in other departments. These projects not only help you learn new skills but also allow you to gain a better understanding of how the whole company works. If you're able to impress your boss enough that he or she wants to assign more projects of this nature, it can also show them that you're willing and able to take on more challenging work.
Keeping everything in your head is a recipe for disaster. When your boss can easily access your notes and understand immediately what is happening with a customer, it becomes clear that you are organized and on top of things (It also makes it much easier to go on vacation!).
Problems will come up. That’s a given. But 9 times out of 10, try to come up with some possible solutions before presenting the issue to your boss. Managers want employees who can get things done. If you can solve the problem, do so. This isn’t kindergarten. You don’t need to ask permission to do something you know is the right thing.
If you’ve got 200 clients this might get a little too noisy. But if you keep it to your top 20 or so, it should be totally manageable. Make sure to put the business name in quotes (e.g. “Business Name”) and set the option for either “at most once a day” or “at most once a week”. If these are too noisy, try changing the alert to “Business Name” and “Press release”.
Being able to speak to your clients and know what is going on in their company - without them having to tell you - elevates your status to that of a trusted advisor.
If someone is drowning and you have an easy week, reach out and see if you can cover a call or help them out with a few emails.
Offer to train new hires. By doing these things, you not only establish yourself as a leader, but you also make the entire team better. Often it just takes one person setting the example to get the entire team to learn they can rely on one another - and when that happens the results your team gets are supercharged!
We can always build a better mousetrap, but you have to figure out which improvements will drive significant results, and which just aren’t a priority right now.
Be specific about what you would like to change and make sure you understand the current process before proposing a new one. You should also be prepared to explain the benefits of your proposed change and be willing to put in the legwork yourself to get it carried out.
Otherwise, even if it’s a great idea, you’re just piling more work on them. You don’t have to be able to handle every bit, just make sure you can do most of it.
It’s essential to know what is happening in your industry. Not only in customer success (though I highly recommend following that as well) but in your company’s industry and your end user’s industries.
It’s easy to get overcommitted here, but you can keep it manageable by asking - what is keeping our clients up at night? It may seem to have NOTHING to do with your product, or with customer success, but this is how you can impress not just your boss, but the C-Suite as well…
Let's say you are in EdTech with an LMS tool. When something changes in Education, you need to know about it. While it might not feel like it’s relevant that all superintendents are going through special elections - it probably affects your clients significantly. This could be a great opportunity to create a community event with a speaker on lesson planning in uncertain times. Whether or not that affects how customers use your product, it shows you are thinking about them. It can also bring in new customers to that industry.
Do you have to do it? No. Will it make you a rockstar? Absolutely.
The boss wants you to succeed, but you don't have a manual. You’re both doing the best you can. If there’s something your boss could be doing that would make you better at your job, by all means, tell them! This is called managing up.
Be respectful, but be honest. State what it is that you need and why it will be helpful for your growth at the company. Be specific about what exactly you're looking for and make sure it's something that will support your career goals—don't just ask for more work or tasks without any direction as to how they'll benefit everyone in the long run.
As you pursue your first SaaS role, it's incredibly valuable to set up a few conversations with CSMs to gain insight into their work. Learn how to run these informational interviews to get into the mindset of a CSM, even if you have zero experience working in Customer Success.
I made the jump from teaching to customer success and learned a lot along the way. If you're trying to do the same, here are the steps I took and how you can make the jump as well!