5 Pieces of Career Advice for Starting in Customer Success
Ranked as one of the top emerging jobs by LinkedIn, you’ll find no shortage of Customer Success careers across SaaS and other markets. Demand for this role only continues to climb as Customer Success becomes an indispensable part of how organizations retain and expand recurring revenue.
As a Customer Success provider with our own fast-growing Customer Success team, we rounded up the best pieces of career advice from our Customer Success team members who know firsthand what it takes to hit the ground running in this role.
Take Charge of Your Professional Development
With a slew of (mostly) free online resources available to develop your Customer Success skillset, learning a new field has never been easier and more accessible. Take advantage of all the trainings and educational resources that are at your fingertips. You, and you alone, are in charge of your professional development and career. Push yourself to learn a new facet of Customer Success, hear a different perspective, or dive deeper into topics or specializations that interest you most.
Of course, nothing can replace actual practice and application. But a consistent and purposeful consumption of creditable content is one of the best ways to build your knowledge base while also welcoming new viewpoints that encourage you to reevaluate your own assumptions and beliefs.
Best Customer Success Learning Resources:
- LinkedIn Courses – many of the courses are free and you can even earn badges that display in your LinkedIn profile
- Customer Success Podcasts
- Customer Success Slack Communities – Slack groups and other online Customer Success communities, like Gain Grow Retain, make it easy to find mentors in the space
- Customer Success Blogs
- Customer Success Books
- Udemy Customer Success Courses
- Industry Webinars
- And naturally, this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning ChurnZero’s Resources comprised of guides, webinars, cheat sheets, eBooks, and more.
Build a Competitive Advantage: Your Personal Brand
The truth is building a personal brand takes time and hard work. It’s something we know we should do but don’t because we feel like it’s not worth the effort, we feel like we don’t have anything worth saying, or perhaps, digging a bit deeper, we feel like a fraud (those moments when your imposter syndrome loves to rear its ugly head).
But – and you may know this is coming – you’re wrong. Yes, it’s true that thanks to the internet and, you know, the passage of time, everything under the sun has likely already been said about whatever topic, idea, or opinion you want to put out into the world. But – and it’s a big one – that thing hasn’t been said with your voice and through the lens of your perspective. If we all abided by this false pretense of the need for 100% originality then we’d all be SOL (“sadly out of luck” if we’re being polite).
And here’s the lucky thing about Customer Success: since it’s an emerging field, there’s still sooo much to be said, debated, defined, learned, pondered – you name it. The opportunity to carve out a niche and brand for yourself is completely possible for those who go after it.
Don’t be afraid to have an opinion on things you’re passionate about. There’s a deluge of wishy-washy, broad advice on the interwebs. Having a solid stance gets your voice heard. So, share your ideas, author content, host webinars, take on speaking opportunities, and be generous with your time. Putting yourself out there opens up conversations with others that would have never happened otherwise.
And if that still sounds too scary, start small. Take advice from Privy CMO and former VP of Marketing at Drift, Dave Gerhardt, when it comes to publishing on LinkedIn:
Lastly, just in case you need a humble reminder and final push to get started, remember this:
Know Your Solution
While Customer Success job descriptions can widely vary across markets and solutions, there are a few core commonalities to the roles. Knowing your solution inside and out is one of them.
Chase Tinkham, one of ChurnZero’s founding Customer Success Managers, advises, “I personally and professionally feel that if you understand your solution and how to use the product to get customers to the outcomes you promise on the front end, then you can support most, if not any, SaaS product.”
Of course, it’s helpful to understand the industry you’re serving, but Chase says that by knowing your solution well, you can:
- Creatively solve for challenging issues that may not be obvious at first to the customer
- Confidently deliver advice on how to use the solution to get customers to their goals
- Push back on atypical and, sometimes cannibalizing, ways of using the solution
Product mastery is a foundation – that’s largely within your own control – to build trust and confidence with your customers. Your customers need to feel confident that you know what you’re talking about – especially in situations that involve change management, such as adopting a new way of working or testing out a different strategy.
Understand the Skill Set and Personality Needed for Your Next Career Move
This advice comes from ChurnZero’s own Manager of Customer Enablement, Bora Lee. Starting out in Business Operations, Bora made the switch to Account Management and then to Customer Success before ultimately transitioning to Customer Success Enablement.
As Bora recalls, “When I was in Operations and I was moving into Account Management, I knew that I needed to be a little bit more social. I needed to be able to connect more quickly. I needed to understand what the issues were or the root cause of whatever the objective was for the individual I was speaking to.”
Similarly, when comparing Customer Success Management and Customer Success Operations or Enablement, there are inherent differences in the characteristics and traits of each role. “The personality of the folks who enjoy the things that occur in these two respective roles tend to be different,” says Bora. “You’re likely not going to see a CSM necessarily enjoy moving into an Operations role, and vice versa.” Though, Bora points out that sometimes when individuals do successfully transition, it might be because they were not in the correct role to start.
Remember, just because a new role may look better on paper, you have to be extremely honest with yourself not only about your strengths and skills, but also about the work you truly enjoy the most.
And if you want to dip your toes into a different role, ask your management team if you can take on a few aspects of that role to test the waters before diving in headfirst.
Play the Long Game
Know that playing the long game can help get you to the place you want to be. Because in this context, timing is everything. “I cannot stress this enough,” says Bora. “Sometimes, it’s just about being patient and waiting for the right role at the right time.”
Don’t compromise on taking a role you’re passionate about – it’ll be worth the wait. “With all the different startup spaces and established firms in the Customer Success industry, there’s going to be no shortage of finding that exact role you want to take over,” says Bora. “And if it’s not there, the nice thing is that if you start with a smaller company, you can likely evolve or fight for a role that you believe is valuable for the company, and that you’ll enjoy.”
If you’re currently looking for a new Customer Success role, SuccessHackers hosts a Customer Success job board, in addition to releasing a monthly job report that analyzes trends and insights from the Customer Success job market. And of course, we couldn’t talk about career opportunities without mentioning that we’re hiring at ChurnZero for roles across Customer Success Management, Implementation, Support, and more!
Do Well by Doing Good
When you’re unsure of what path to take with your career and work, or even how to handle a tricky customer situation, always come back to this simple and intuitive advice:
- Do the right thing and trust your gut
- Work hard and smart
- Stay curious and be interested in other people
Everything else tends to work itself out.
Prepping for a Customer Success Manager interview? Read these 20 Customer Success interview questions to come prepared and ready to impress your potential employer.
Customer Success Around the Web
- Digital Customer Success: the what, the who, and the how– Learn how (and why) you should mix tech-touch with high-touch Customer Success models.
- How to Launch a Voice of the Customer Survey That Can Change Your Customer Success Team and Your Company– Discover how you can quickly process and help influence change in your org and create an improved customer experience.
- Why Your Team’s Soft Skills Probably Aren’t As Good as Your Think They Are– Find out how to start remedying a soft skill gap on your Customer Success team.
Fighting Churn is a newsletter of inspiration, ideas and news on customer success, churn, renewal and other stuff and is curated by ChurnZero