In the 2021 season of The Game Changer Podcasts, Gainsight’s Adam Joseph, Regional Vice President-EMEA, pulled out all the stops for his listeners. The season’s guests were a global group with a passion for all things CS.
Adam returned to the fundamentals of customer success, from getting started in the profession, to forging a CS organization in your company, and evolving it to hyper-scale. When Gainsight examined the 2021 season, we picked out three critical areas employees and companies seem to be currently focusing on.
Culture is the Glue
In episode 12, Adam recounted reading a Harvard Business Review article that said, “Culture is the glue that binds an organization together, and it’s the hardest thing for competitors to copy.” As a result of building a winning culture, you have created a “lasting source of competitive advantage.” Is that true? Eduardo Amorim, global head of customer success at Sendcloud, believes it is.
Company culture is easier said than done. For Eduardo and Sendcloud, the foundation was already set for the three pillars of their company: people, culture, and business. Though there’s not a sequential order to the pillars, consistency is needed in making it a part of the company’s daily experience. It is essential to realize that culture is not static. It evolves with inertia each time you bring new employees on board. So, your internal framework should reflect that.
Anyone added to your team, organization, or company must embody both diversity and inclusion in their mindset. They should be a culture add, not necessarily a culture fit. However, you should acknowledge that certain businesses draw a particular kind of employee.
When companies become too protective of their culture, it can become a blocking force. So, become an advocate for your culture, coach your teams, but always be on the lookout for an employee who will challenge your team, company, and customer’s to become better.
Building Out and Up Your Customer Success Career
It is common knowledge that CS is one of the most in-demand careers right now. Even as we adjust to the “New Remote Reality,” customer centricity and CSMs are rising in popularity. But as a CS newbie or a career climber, how do you accomplish your goals in a competitive environment? And if you’re an employer, what are you looking for when creating your new team or organization? As the category creator of customer success, Gainsight is always looking for creative and innovative solutions.
There is good news for those wanting to enter CS as a career. There is someone who has become the expert on CS Employment Success. Dana Soza, CEO, and founder of Customer Everything Solutions, is a consultant and coach in the business of helping companies and individuals begin the CS journey. She joined Adam in the Building Your Customer Success Career episode. Her advice for the CS newbie? Get creative with your employment search strategies and tactics.
With the field becoming highly competitive, you need to stand out. She developed a process based on the Ten Laws of Customer Success and applied it to Employment Success. What’s the first Law? Sell to the right customer.
In Employment Success, it would be translated as finding the right job or employer that aligns with your values. There is also the aspect of what you can offer them and what they can offer you—both have mutual goals to reach. As a business, look for employees that will make you a success while making your customers a success. It is an actual situation of success for all.
Dana also said that those seeking employment in CS should get their education and do their homework. Attend conferences, watch webinars, read books, and look for CS leaders to follow. Dana also suggested staying connected to the CS community because it is changing so rapidly. Utilize LinkedIn to gain information about companies you want to join and identify ten that are hiring. Once you find a job, stay engaged! Relentlessly improve on your skills and pay attention to your OKRs and KPIs. You want to become an employee that is value-driven and brings value to your employer.
We also heard great insights from Rachel Provan, Customer Success Director at Doodle. She joined Adam for the podcast episode Navigating Your Career in Customer Success. She, too, acknowledged that this is an exciting time in customer success where people can “really can chart your own path.” While some companies are slow to start or scale their CS organizations, others have discovered that “People are finally starting to understand the value that it’s not just about making your customers happy, it actually drives value and drives revenue.”
Rachel also believes that a career in CS can be a stepping stone to various positions, even administrative or in the front office. According to Rachel, to make it up the CS ladder, “It’s important to show upper management the need for those roles because a lot of the time you’ll need them to be created for you, for them even to exist.” As for the question, “Are CSMs the CEOs of the future?” Rachel stated that she could see a CCO moving to the CEO role. In fact, some already have. However, the most important thing is to make sure that you like what you’re doing. That should be your end goal. Not that you’re just doing it because you can move up the corporate ladder.
The Emerging Importance of the CCO Role
One of the most exciting new roles to emerge in SaaS businesses is the CCO or Chief Customer Officer. Adam cited a LinkedIn statistic that states there are 1300 Chief Customer Officers in the US and 300 in the UK, with over half working within technology software and SaaS. In the past, customer success reported into Sales, Marketing, and Operations. With the new CCO role, CS has a seat at the executive table and a seat in C-suite. That was the center of the conversation between Adam and Rosalyn Curato, CCO at Allovue, in the podcast titled The Importance of the CCO Role.
What does the emergence of the CCO role mean as customer success evolves? According to Rosalyn, “Having this role is not just a signal internally, but externally, that you value the customer at every level of your organization.” This role indicates that the customer is the center of your business, ensuring that customer success is a priority. While the communication of the message of customer-centricity varies between companies, the clear message is the value of the customer.
Rosalyn indicated that experience in the field, a CS acumen, and an incredible skill set are necessary for any customer success leader role. However, to transition from a VP level to CCO, an individual must-have has two key ingredients. First, you need to have a definite communication ability. Communication is critical and should be a focus and priority for you, your organization, and your company.
Secondly, as CCO, you need a strategy that considers every option. Think not? When COVID-19 hit the US, and the new remote work environment became the new reality, a CCO had a contingency plan for this type of emergency. It may not have been perfect, but it demonstrated the proactive nature to put your company and customers in the best position possible.
As we look to the future, the CS world looks bright. Rosalyn weighed in, stating that the pandemic had an interesting side effect. “A lot of organizations have been hiring more CSMs, which has been phenomenal. And there’s this extra attention being given to retaining the customer and keeping the customer happy. It’s a sentiment I hope will continue well beyond COVID Recovery days.”
To hear more exciting customer success highlights and insights, check out the entire 2021 season of the Game Changer Podcast.