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What are other Customer Success Managers doing?

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Ask Stephanie Fauvelle (of PhishLabs) what got her into Customer Success and she’ll tell you it’s the perfect marriage of her interests in technology and interacting with people. She admits she always has her phone on her and is constantly checking email, staying on top of everything that’s going on so there’s nothing new in her inbox by the time she gets to the office (even though I’m not in customer success, I definitely appreciate a cleared inbox 😉 ). It’s obvious from her dedication that her job doesn’t end when her day ends. In fact, she’s a perfect example of a CSM who understands that delivering value to the customer happens on the customer’s cadence.

She jumps into the picture once sales closes the deal and she’s then responsible for product training, onboarding, and ongoing nurturing — on average she maintains about 15 accounts simultaneously. Once the accounts hit the renewals or upsells phase, this is handled by the sales team. At her organization, they strive to maintain the reputation of their CSMs as trusted advisors. As such, there isn’t a financial quota attached to her role as a CSM. Her company has structured out their compensation with a base salary and a yearly bonus structure based on performance measured by MBOs (Management by Objectives).

Her best practice advice to others in the field? “Learn the art of listening to client requests and understanding the rationale behind it. There will sometimes be requests that can’t be accommodated immediately. This will help you avoid overcommitting yourself and the company while keeping clients happy.”

Their chain of command goes from CSM → CEO.

New  Jim Stone PicIn a similar role at a different company, Sara D’Angelo, who works at Box, spends about 4-6 hours a day on average on calls with clients doing kickoff calls, implementations, quarterly business reviews, and strategy discussions. Although there is daily risk management — checking to make sure her accounts are in good health — her goal is not to focus on renewals, it is about helping her customers get value.

She jokes that her best and most successful customers are so invested and happy with her company you’d have to pry the product out of their cold, dead hands. 😀 “It’s important to understand the ecosystem of the client,” she explains, “You need to know why they purchased your product, what they were trying to achieve…but you’ve also got to make sure they don’t forget their original driver either. It happens!”

Her personal success story: Sara was working with a client who seemed very reluctant to push new technology to their end users out of worry that no one would adopt it as they weren’t a very tech-savvy organization. Despite some internal pressures to proceed with their usual speed and process of onboarding these new customers, she pushed back and strongly urged that they work on the client’s cadence, to get them comfortable. Although it was a slow process (it took about a year), her consistent follow up with the client helped establish her role as a trusted advisor to them, and the CIO of the customer’s company finally reached out saying they were ready and needed more help. By understanding their concerns and resistance, Sara was able to establish an adoption plan that helped her client get to where they wanted to be while also giving them the time they needed to get there.

Does she handle support tickets? “Not directly. We work tightly with Support and monitor the tickets that come in from our accounts. I add internal comments to give added context to our support team so they can resolve the issues better.”

Their chain of command goes from CSM → Manager of CS team → SVP of CS → COO.

If you’re curious about Customer Success compensation, don’t forget to check out my post on the 2014 Customer Success Salary Survey Report.

Jill Rubin

Jill is a senior marketing and business development executive with experience leading successful teams in both large companies and startups. She has taken companies from early stage to strong revenue growth and propelled established businesses to industry leadership positions.

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