Looking to Break into Customer Success? Start Thinking Outside the Box.

Transitioning customer success experience into the tech industry isn’t always smooth sailing — but it can be with strategic planning and following the advice of experts who have been there before.

Written by Tyler Holmes
Published on Oct. 24, 2022
Looking to Break into Customer Success? Start Thinking Outside the Box.
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No two customers are alike — and like the clients they serve, neither are customer success managers.

What isn’t unique is the fact that almost every industry hinges on customers who use various products and services for their needs, which means that almost every industry also relies on customer success experts for help. Oftentimes those previously acquired customer-facing skills, while stemming from different experiences, translate into other industry’s CSM roles with a bit of guidance. In a complex and booming field like tech, this rings especially true.

In fact, hiring in the computer and information technology industry has a faster projected growth between 2020 and 2030 than all other fields, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — meaning customer success experts are paying attention, and many are curious about making the switch.

“Pursuing a customer success role in tech has always been something that has appealed to me due to the ample growth opportunities and the exciting products or services that are constantly being developed in the tech space,” said Jose Mella, head of customer experience at Supernatural. “But a customer success role for a tech company differentiates itself from other CS roles in that your relationship with the product requires a much deeper level of understanding.”

Built In LA caught up with Mella and two additional customer success experts to discover how they translated their diverse career experiences into a successful role in tech and their best pieces of advice for any job seeker looking to do the same.

 

Brittany Liu
Director, Customer Success • AuditBoard

 

AuditBoard’s platform helps auditors assess risk and drive better decision-making.

 

Briefly outline how your career progressed into a customer success role in tech. 

I started my career in tech unexpectedly. My number one requirement for my first job out of college was finding a company that would enable me to use my French and travel to France. I landed at a Linux backup software startup in Carlsbad, CA and was sent to Paris within four months on the job to work with counterparts. I quickly leaned into all things customer-facing: marketing programs, website development and customer analytics. From there I focused on customer marketing and global campaigns at a company primarily serving manufacturing, distribution and retail customers.

While at Cisco, working with cloud security customers in a customer marketing role to enable success at scale, I was offered an opportunity to join the customer success team to engage with a large majority of customers at scale  — to onboard, drive adoption and expansion, plus remediate renewal risk with only digital programs.

Since joining AuditBoard, my team partners with all customers through one-on-one human touchpoints and one-to-many scale programs. My keen interest in customers, a marketing background, empathy for customers and colleagues, and drive to win have enabled my career in customer success.

 

In your experience, what’s a common mistake that customer success professionals often make early in their career, and how can they avoid it?

A common mistake I see is not thinking outside the box. Customer success is a newer role in SaaS and continues to evolve each day. Be prepared for regular change — especially in a startup — by being able to measure your impact on overall business metrics, and by supporting customers each and every day. Each customer brings new challenges and opportunities to think outside the box to enable their success: Partnering with a new colleague, pushing for new functionality to be added to the roadmap, piloting a new one-to-many program and more are all great options. Be creative, have fun and always keep the customer in mind.

Each customer brings new challenges and opportunities to think outside the box to enable their success.”

 

What resources or opportunities does your company make available to help you build your skills?

AuditBoard offers a number of resources and opportunities to help build my skills: Access to LinkedIn Learning, trainings and certifications via third party platforms used to run my team, mentoring programs, regular manager knowledge sessions, supportive executive leadership team, and frequent performance reviews to focus on our career growth have helped sharpen our capabilities.

 

 

Jose Mella
Head of Customer Experience • Supernatural

 

Supernatural is a virtual reality fitness app.

 

Briefly outline how your career progressed into a customer success role in tech.

I’ve worked in customer success for more than years across various industries, so I’m well-versed in communicating with our end users, as well as being an effective listener when it comes to their needs and expectations. Pursuing a customer success role in tech has always been something that has appealed to me due to the ample growth opportunities and the exciting products or services that are constantly being developed in the tech space. 

A customer success role for a tech company differentiates itself from other CS roles in that your relationship with the product requires a much deeper level of understanding. It’s not like other industries where your interaction with the customer begins and ends after the transaction. In tech, a lot of your customers are asking very detailed questions about your product or they’re long-time users that have very specific requests and suggestions. Your teamwork skills are really put to the test as it’s critical that you’re working closely with your engineering and product teams to stay informed of the latest updates and features. In tech, everything is moving at a million miles per hour and customer success is no different.

 

In your experience, what’s a common mistake that customer success professionals often make early in their career, and how can they avoid it?

A common pitfall customer success professionals fall into is missing out on valuable feedback and learnings during our interactions with the customer. Support agents are wired to provide a quick and easy resolution, so much so that it’s easy to miss an opportunity to learn more about the problem that led the user down the wrong path.

It’s important to train your team to ask the right questions that encourage the customer to expound on their issue and to provide feedback on what we as a company could have done better. Doing so not only shows that customer that you’re invested in their long-term success, but you’re also gaining valuable insights that can be shared cross-departmentally. Insights and learnings that lead to a better understanding of your end user ultimately lead to a better product and customer experience.

Insights and learnings that lead to a better understanding of your end user ultimately lead to a better product and customer experience.”

 

What resources or opportunities does your company make available to help you build your skills?

Our company is heavily invested in each employee’s personal development. We’ve organized several training and development sessions both internally and using outside vendors. Supernatural has also invested in learning platforms where employees are encouraged to sign up for online courses that cover a wide range of topics, from time management to data science.

We also have a company perk called “Invest In You,” a program intended to provide employees with the opportunity to invest in their general well-being. The program provides each employee the option for eligible reimbursable expenses such as fitness classes and meditation app memberships. It’s great to work for a company that recognizes the importance of being in a good place both physically and mentally, as it makes developing new skills that much easier when you’re feeling like your best self.

 

 

Asheley Griffin
Director of Customer Success • Flowspace

 

Flowspace is an on-demand warehousing and online retail fulfillment platform.

 

Briefly outline how your career progressed into a customer success role in tech. 

I’ve held various roles throughout my career, and I think the skills I developed to become successful in sales led to my transition to customer success. Customer success is about managing an experience and making sure your customers’ needs are not only met, but that they exceed expectations. Sales is about identifying needs and educating customers on how your solution will fix that need. Learning your customer and making yourself a resource is really transferable to any role that is customer facing.

 

In your experience, what’s a common mistake that customer success professionals often make early in their career, and how can they avoid it?

Mistakes are made when customer success teams make initial assumptions about what is best for a customer. 

CS pros must ask thoughtful questions and engage in conversations around pain points, or else they run the risk of taking a wrong turn with a customer. You can have two customers come to you to fix a similar problem — but both have differing pain points, expectations and experiences. It’s important to create an individualized solution that addresses each customer’s specific issue and provide direction on how it can be prevented in the future.

Mistakes are made when customer success teams make initial assumptions about what is best for a customer.”

 

What resources or opportunities does your company make available to help you build your skills?

Flowspace has a host of talented leaders that always make themselves available for coaching or brainstorming. Our wider team comes from various industries and brings a lot of different experiences to the table. 

The company offers tools and resources to help improve team outcomes and personal development. Recently implemented process updates have improved CS team capabilities and response times, leading to Flowspace’s recognition as Organization of the Year in the 2022 Excellence in Customer Service Awards presented by Business Intelligence Group. 

We also encourage employees to continue learning in any avenue they are interested in, as well as host mentorship programs to make sure that team members are prepared for their next role, be it with us or at their next workplace.

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies and Shutterstock.

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