Apr 13, 2022

Issue #100: 100 Lessons from 100 Customer Success Leaders

Chris Hicken, CEO at 'nuffsaid

By Chris Hicken

CEO at 'nuffsaid

 

To celebrate our 100th newsletter, we asked 100 Customer Success leaders to answer this question in one sentence:

“What's the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from the past year in Customer Success?”

 

Use their diverse responses—from “claiming your seat at the revenue table” to “never underestimating your customers’ desire to feel heard”—to better both the customer and employee experience at your company in the coming months.

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#1 Chris Hicken, CEO at Nuffsaid
The best thing we've done this year (by far!) is asking customers how much value they're receiving from Nuffsaid, scoring their response, and distributing their responses to every team leader at the company.

 

#2 Emily Ross, CCO at Refine Labs

The most valuable lesson I've learned is how crucial it is to hear from your customers throughout the entire customer journey—this makes it possible to understand, in real-time, their changing business goals and get the necessary feedback to pivot effectively.

#3 Josh Loe, VP of CS at Hostaway

Value-driven customer engagements are absolutely key to customer retention and expansion.

 

#4 Nick Wilson, VP of CS at Stax

What stands out to me this past year and in all of this new Covid-19 world is that “If you can see a smile behind a mask, you can hear a smile over the phone” - meaning we’ve all had to adapt to new norms and environments that we find our selves working in. Regardless of how stressful these times have been it’s important to treat one another with respect and kindness in all interactions.

 

 #5 Charles Coaxum, VP of Customer Experience at Kenna Security

The process is important, technology is great, but people are key to CS. Seems like a no-brainer but really taking the time to reconnect with my team and keep them engaged has been vital this past year.

 

#6 Joslyn Mure, Director of CS at Qnary

The most valuable lesson I've learned in the past year in CS is that personal and brand reputation helps bring in talent, and you better be able to move fast in this market to get the best people for your team!

 

#7 Valerie Jones-Harvey, Sr. Director of Renewal Sales at TrustArc
Customer Success is a team sport and needs to have a seat at the revenue table. Everyone in the company should be focused on customer impact, not just one team.

#8 Fatima Thompson, Head of CS at EyeRate

I've learned to be a consistent brave voice for my team and protect their precious time, otherwise, they will burn out and won’t be able to focus their energy on the customer.

#9 Lane Hart, Director of CS at Heap 

During rapid change, slowing down to speed up—investing in psychological safety and the team's Growth Mindset—is the fastest path to success.

 

#10 Chris Longo, Director of CS, Enterprise at Varicent

Set clear goals, keep your team accountable, support them, empower them, and they will deliver exceptional outcomes for your customers and your business.

#11 Sean Savage, VP, Head of CS - Americas at FactSet
The most valuable lesson I learned the past year is to invest in CS Operations, first and foremost!

#12 Adam Wilson, VP of Business Operations & CS at Maximizer Software
Relationships are everything. That's it. We did a lot of adjusting regarding renewals, expansion, etc. If you have solid relationships, you will win deals.

#13 Ramona Aubry, Head of CS, North America at expert.ai ​​

The most valuable lesson I learned in the last year is that cross-functional alignment and collaboration is key to having a customer-centric and profitable business.

#14 Jaime Lynn Scott, Director, CS Strategic at iCIMS
At the heart of any Customer Success organization is the ability to listen—to ask for customer feedback and truly listen.

#15 Kathryn Moore, Director of CS at FMX
We recently switched from holding 1-on-1 meetings with all our clients to meeting with many at once through office hours and have seen customers are just as, if not more, engaged while simultaneously increasing our team capacity.

#16 Katrina Coakley, Manager of Customer Success at Ivanti
Relationships still rule the day. It's important for CSMs working with customers and for companies trying to hold onto their CSMs. Businesses are run by people and people have a desire to be seen, heard, and understood. That's the foundation for a good, lasting relationship.

#17 Jamie Robson, Head of CS at Aptem
Whatever CS strategy you put in place, it has to be reflective of not only what the company mission is and where you are going, but also where you are now—it's easy to ask too much from other areas of the business, but you have to be realistic about what can and can't be done. 

#18 Sue Farrance, Head of CS at Contingent
Customer Success is never "done". We are on the continuous journey of meeting ever-changing customer needs—keep the momentum.

#19 Lily Kriegs, Team Lead CS at Spryker Systems

The best value Customer Success can bring is to enable the customer to make informed decisions around all alternatives to reach their definition for success.

#20 Jackie Smith Norton, Director of Customer Onboarding at Spekit

The #1 thing I learned in the last year for CS is to make sure you have a seat at the revenue table.

#21 Lorie Lagares, VP of Global CS at Nexthink
Value means something to every client. You need to speak in their currency.

#22 Leah Katherine Hill, RVP of CS at Outreach
The key to unlocking the full potential of customers is an unwavering commitment to documenting and driving your customers’ perception and attainment of value.

#23 Daniel Sheets, Director of Enterprise CS Management at Workato
As the first step in a new customer engagement, you need jointly define with the customer what success looks like as a partnership.

#24 Sumitra Narayanan, CS Associate Director at LinearB
The most valuable lesson I've learned this past year in CS is to develop a mindset of forecasting vs. reporting—be the impact in your 'destiny' with customers.

 

#25 Alex Aguero, Senior Director of CS at Sitetracker
Because of how often business goals change, the answer you get today can be different tomorrow, next week, and next quarter so don't stop asking your customers how the product can bring them value.

#26 Adar Cohen, VP of Customer Success at UBIO
I learned that when we simply work with our customers to achieve their desired business outcomes we achieve ours.

 

#27 Daryl Colborne, Leader of CS, Americas at Aqua Security
Mutual success between a vendor and its customer boils down to value realization and a strong relationship formed by communication, trust, and transparency.
 

#28 Kate Peter, Director of Enterprise CS at Gainsight
This past year taught me the importance of treating your CSMs not just as trusted advisors and masters of retention but as the keys to hitting your growth targets company-wide.

#29 Bradley Liou, Head of CS at Acquire App
There is no Customer Success when you can’t retain your talent. Customer Success comes from employee success.

#30 Jesse Herrin, Manager, CS at CaptivateIQ
The most valuable lesson I have learned this year in CS is the importance of placing weight on several variables to measure a customer's health. Too many times we focus solely on just the main user and our relationship with them to measure a customer's health to then be surprised when we find out they are not going to renew because the executive team didn't see the full value of the product. If you are prepared and diligent in your research, nothing should come as a surprise most of the time.

#31 Jen Jackson, VP of Customer Experience at Dialpad
In the past year we have seen now, more than ever, that humanity and kindness are absolute necessities—people first is paramount.

 

#32 Angela Hoch, Sr. Director of CS at PrismHR
Actions will always build trust, not fancy words or PowerPoints.

 

#33 Jyo Shukla, Head of CS at ActiveXchange Australia & NZ
A business strategy that balances Customer-Led Growth with product and sales-led models is rarely found yet the most sustainable recipe for success.

 

#34 Elena Cocco, Manager, CS at SafetyCulture
There is a whole community out there that can share experiences and help speed up your growth, don't miss out on the chance of asking questions and participating.

#35 Subha Shrinivasan, VP, Global Head - CS at Robin.io
Extreme personalization is the key to CS-led growth and so the need to invest in a mix of automation and CSMs to deliver such premium experiences has never been more urgent.

#36 Ellie Hutton, Director of CS at Dooly
Pausing to celebrate the big and small wins helps people feel valued, appreciated, seen, and heard.
 

#37 Gillian Taylor, Manager, CS at VRIFY
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned in the past year is that even when the role or purpose of Customer Success isn’t completely understood, something that always resonates is that empathy is key to being able to provide value and a great experience to customers.
 

#38 Emma Lo, Director of CS at MaxSold
2021 was about building an inclusive workplace and recognizing everybody’s differences and strengths. It was also about respecting boundaries and creating a supportive environment for the team to feel safe and thrive.

 

#39 Gary Rubinstein, Director of CS, APAC at WalkMe
Customers need a combination of data-driven value realization and storytelling to articulate the optimized organizational outcomes.

 

#40 Ja'Rod Morris, Director of Customer Success at TechSoup
The baseline of competencies for a CSM have evolved tremendously and there’s much more to stepping in the role, even for junior level CSMs. Those aspiring to enter into the world of Customer Success should brace themselves for the increasing demand for an in-depth, foreign language-like familiarity with the discipline, which is becoming ever more rewarding to those willing to put in the effort to prepare.
 

#41 Laura Blackmore, Director of CS at Cascade
In order to make an impact with our customers, we now need to communicate with customers in other ways, such as short videos, Whatsapp, or LinkedIn!

 

#42 Maiken O'Byrne, Director of CS, Nordic at Siteimprove
Never underestimate the desire by customers to feel heard and their willingness to help you get better.

 

#43 Matt Timmins, Director, Global Scaled CS at Culture Amp
Personalization and human-to-human matters, even when building Scaled CS Programs.

 

#44 Tammy Krieger, VP of Client Success at RainFocus
Working smarter with operational excellence is no longer a nice-to-have, it is a must-have if we are to meet our business objectives while also giving our people work-life balance.

 

#45 Austin S Gardner, Head of Customer Experience at Syncari
I've learned how vital it is to triangulate and report on the ROI that your CS org brings to the company (NRR, Customer health, CLV, how each CSM drives these, etc.)—when done properly, it'll amplify your voice and increase investment into Customer Success.

#46 Carly Agar, Customer Success Enablement Manager at Heap
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned from the past year in CS is the more we enable CSMs to refine their skills as trusted advisors, the faster we enable our customers to advocate on our behalf.

#47 Dana Venino, Chief Customer Officer at SQAD LLC
After 7 years with an organization, I made a change and accepted a new role, so my lesson is about trust. Trust is so important to build and have for your colleagues and clients but most importantly, yourself. You must trust in your abilities, wisdom, and gut when faced with the unknown.

#48 Fred Tsai, VP of CS at Liferay
Last year, I came to appreciate both the importance of quantitative case studies (that include KPIs achieved, ROI delivered) AND how much time it takes to get them—prepare at least 6-9 months out in advance (run it like a sales pipeline) to ensure you've got the right analytical and legal hurdles cleared!

 

#49 Matt Harmon, Director, Head of CS Ops as a Service at Aruba
The first 5 minutes of all Zoom calls need to be reserved for catching up and connecting with our teams.

 

#50 Adam Kroeger, VP of Client Success | Benefits at Virtus
Our organization is growing rapidly, and as we scale, I've learned to always think about the 5-10 year big picture when leading, installing technology, developing processes, or organizing job responsibilities.

 

#51 Cameron Broussard, Head of CS at Blue Prism
Trust, Transparency, & Vulnerability.

#52 Saima Inayat, Director of CS / Ops at PerfectQue
Customer Success is the intelligence to predict roadblocks & the ability to proactively provide solutions very early in a customer’s journey.

#53 Mike Haygood, Director of CS of BuildXact
The most important lesson that I have learned in the past year in CS is that you have to be prepared for the game to completely change by the time you identify the rules. Often times being ahead of the curve puts you on time, whereas only following the trends makes you a step too slow.

 

#54 Leigh-Ann Mosca, CS Leader at Salesforce
The most valuable lesson I have learned in CS this past year is that Customer Success is evolving. The next generation of CS will be led by product and industry experts (CSM or TAM). Customer Success will be monetized in the future—this is already happening in larger companies.

#55 Alex X Jardine, Senior Director of CS & Training at Anomali

In order for the voice of the customer to be truly heard in a business, there must be a strong culture of open feedback where the company’s product needs to be improved to help the customers succeed and achieve value.

 

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#56 Peter Grant, Enterprise Customer Success Team Leader at InEvent
If you believe in your product and feel valued in your work, your happiness and success will seamlessly transfer to your customers. 

 

#57 Freddy Cleveley, Director of CS at Seenit
To deliver a CS program, you have to learn to show the kind of empathy you give your customers to your product, sales, marketing, and leadership teams.
 

#58 Diana Rubine, Director of Customer Engagement at Spike
Selling the value of CSM within your organization is as important as selling it to your clients. Without internal support, any chances of getting things done for your clients drastically decrease.
 

#59 Ewa Curac-Dahl, CS Director at Zonifero
In a customer-centric company, the Product Team is not only alarmed when something is wrong but is also directly informed each time a customer is happy about the product or simply compliments us.
 

#60 David Epperly, Director of CS Ops at Red Canary
Accurate renewal/upsell/expansion forecasting by Customer Success leads to trust, resources, and a seat at the table.

 

#61 Brooke Simmons, VP of CS at Spekit 
Investing in CS Ops early is a game-changer for scaling and standardizing your success processes.

 

#62 Hadas Rahamim, Head of Customer Success, Exceed.ai, Genesys
Irrefutable value realization, on top of close relationships, is key to bridging you through issues, upsells, champion changes, or other surprises. Let the numbers do the talking.
 

#63 Laurence Leong, VP of CS at Wandera
Health before wealth—wealth will follow health.
 

#64 Saahil Karkera, Head of CS at Optiply
Invest in employee success, it's the key to companywide success.

 

#65 Jade Ranjalahy, Customer Success Leader
More startups understand the need to operationalize CS from the early stage, so it's not about reverse-engineering the customer journey anymore—it's about building success with the customer while they go through the stages of their journey for the first time.
 

#66 Andrew Olsen, Head of CS at Searchlight.ai
In the last year, the most valuable lesson that I learned was customer value is not always found in high performance and the numbers, but in the relationships and trust we build in every moment our team and product connects with the customer.

 

#67 Craig Jackson, Regional Manager of Customer Success UK/IE & Spain at Pleo
Over the past year, I've been privileged to have been a key contributor in Pleo's Success re-org and European expansion. My most valuable lesson has most certainly been that continuous improvement always trumps delayed perfection.

 

#68 Edgar Ramirez Vilchez, Sr. Director, CS Ops at ADP
A great CS Ops team will not "just build reports", but help Client Success scale, focus on priorities, land strategy to reality, and drive the future.

 

#69 Brady Price, KCM CS Regional Director at KnowBe4
For me, it was the realization that I created a highly skilled team of CSMs by simply caring, boots on the ground training, and always providing transparency behind my actions.

 

#70 Carrie Harris, Manager, Customer Success Lyve Mobile DTaaS at Seagate Technology
For a new CSM motion, the greatest lesson of the past year for our team has been diving deep into the full onboarding journey, really mapping what the customer expects from setting up their account through the first time using our service for the value they expected. We have been focused on how our customer's onboarding objectives can be met.

#71 Simon Cundall, Director of CS at CampMinder

Getting team buy-in on new tools is often more important than the features of the tools themselves - a happy team equals better adoption.

#72 Cris Sample, Head of Customer Success at ServiceCore
Customer Success starts with ensuring the team members serving your customers are set up for success.
 

#73 Brad Davis, Senior CSM at Matchbook AI
In the past year, I've learned that simplifying your SaaS offering to one simple 'job-to-be-done' has provided additional clarity for my customers on how to advocate more effectively for expanding our service internally.

 

#74 Stavros Aivaliotis, Global Head of CS at Exiger
The customer is not always right but you always have to do what is right for the customer.
 

#75 Anna Korzeniowska, Head of CS at Precursive
Building a Customer Success roadmap around identified key outcomes and providing guidance around change management are the top 2 things that will help your customers see value quicker and position you in a strategic way.


#76 Ty Raia, Leader of CS for the Americas at Nozomi Networks
My biggest lesson from this past year is that it is ok to slow down to build something the right way, not just the fast way.
 

#77 Doug Owens, Manager of CS (U.S. Team) at Keysight Technologies
Customers in the software testing vertical have a very difficult time identifying SMART success objectives. That means CSMs need to take a much more involved role in helping the customer define them.
 

#78 Mauricio Lima, Customer Experience Officer at Paylivre
Deliver the basics with excellence, always.

 

#79 Billy Davidson, Jr., Customer Success Manager at Red Canary

The effort you put into building & maintaining cross-functional relationships pays huge dividends.
 

#80 Glenn Hummel, Sr Manager, CSM, Global at AVEVA
The last year left me with a valuable lesson—the CS community is full of really knowledgeable people who are willing to share and help others. My takeaway is 'How can I do the same?'

 

#81 Kash Young, Director of CS at Articulate
Do not let your assumptions overshadow real customer insights and learn how to be comfortable with asking clarifying questions. There is more value to be gained by listening to your customers, and what they have to say may surprise you.
 

#82 Saravana Sathaya, VP of CS, Americas at Sandvine
CS is where the rubber meets the road in as far as enabling the customer to realize the benefits of what they signed up for when they purchased our solution.
 

#83 Robin Smith, CS Business Unit Director at IBM
If your team doesn’t own at least an element of ARR in 2022 you’ve got an accountability problem.
 

#84 Claudia Belardo,  VP of CS at Red Sift
I have yet to work anywhere that doesn't want the 'Success' part of CS—however finding a company that values the investment and effort it takes from the customer point of view to achieve that has been the key. Finding a company with a CS ethos that matches your own is the only recipe for success so keep rolling with the punches and find your tribe.

 

#85 Stephen Corsale, Head of Deployment & Integration | Professional Services at Arista Networks
The most valuable lesson I've learned in the past year is that Customer Success is a mindset that must be shared by the entire organization, a universal philosophy, in order to keep your customer base happy and satisfied for the long term.
 

#86 Morika Georgieva, Manager, Customer Success EMEA at Permutive
Align your own business metrics with the metrics that matter to your customers—this will focus all teams on value before all.

#87 Aaron Roach, VP of CS at Kahuna 

I’ve learned to focus on those actions our team can control and that understanding our customer’s business outcomes is critical.


#88 Nina Lagesen, Chief Customer Officer at LORN.TECH
Customer Success works best when it is part of the vision, and clearly stated in the mission. It's your roadmap to success.
 

#89 Talia Bahri, Head of CS at Ready Education
Sometimes, the definition of strategy is knowing what not to do.

 

#90 Ramya Ragavan, VP of CS at AnyRoad
To be a successful CS leader, building strong internal stakeholder relationships is crucial and equally important as building external stakeholder relationships.
 

#91 Ely Lenik, Director of Customer Success at Torqata Data and Analytics
Habits cannot be undone, only modified. 

 

#92 Nicol Batra, CS Director at Actito
Customer Success and project success and customer satisfaction are not all necessarily the same.

 

#93 Deepak Venugopal, Head of CS at DropThought
Obsess over your customer journey—if you think it’s good, try to make it great—you will be surprised how incremental and iterative improvements have a big impact on your customer.

 

#94 Lea Therianos Mitchell, Director of CS at Lingo Live
This past year as companies adjusted to the new normal post-Covid, we learned that it’s more important than ever before to stay in tune with the business priorities of your clients (whether or not they specifically relate to how you partner together) in order to ensure that you’re continuing to bring their entire organization value and to secure future renewals.

 

#95 Andrea Ngui, CS Consultant at HEROVI COACH
I learned the importance of understanding the impact of Covid on my client and the organization he or she represents.
  

#96 Cameron Marijosius, SVP of CS at GovOS
The most valuable lesson I have learned from the past year in CS is that in a time of great change (pandemic, great resignation, etc.) customers still have expected outcomes and we have to be ready to pivot and listen more than ever before.

 

#97 Rasika Kelkar, Team Lead - Customer Success at BrowserStack
Challenging your customers and asking them the right questions at the right time is a segue into unexplored opportunities.

 

#98 Aditya Maheshwari, Director of CS at AppsFlyer
Focus on and understand the customer's business outcomes and not your product's features; all your KPIs will fall in place.

 

#99 Anthony Edwards, VP of CS at TiLT
Empathy rules the day. Understand how you fit into the lives of your customers and the employees that deliver CS. Let that shape how you deliver, prove, and articulate value.

 

#100 Karla Kannan, SVP of CS at BirchStreet Systems
The value your customers get out of your product/service is always evolving and therefore you have to keep your ear to the ground to fine-tune your engagement strategy.
 

#101 Cassie Price, Manager, Customer Success at vCandidates.com
I've learned how important it is to have change agents in your organization. Leaders should identify and support them in their role, collaborate, and embrace implementing the change for successful customer onboarding.

#102 Andri Annuka, CS Team Lead at Pipedrive
Customer Success is never done, as there is always more that can be achieved.
 

#103 Gregor McInnes, Head of CS & Professional Services at Tyk

Regardless of any external noise, politics, or world affairs, customers just want to be heard and have their problems solved.

 

#104 Charlie Brasor, Customer Success Leader
Over the past year, I realized how important it is to align with customers on pricing and perceived value of your product—even the best customer relationships won't renew if they don't think they are getting their money's worth.

#105 Saafi O’Neill, VP of CS at Sales Impact Academy
The culture and environment you create in the customer function is crucial because it diffuses out to customers. Your actions don't just affect your direct reports—they can affect anyone in the company and your customers.
 

#106 Laura Lakhwara, Sr. Manager of CS at UiPath

​​No matter a company's maturity, a winning Customer Success team must continuously evolve by listening and iterating based on feedback from customers, team members, and cross-functional peers—be a driver of the change.

#107 Brian Hansen, Director of CS at Aurora Solar
Happiness or satisfaction does not always result in a renewal, and we must truly know how decision-makers and influencers measure value to understand if we are meeting expectations. 

#108 Phil Weiss, VP of CS at CipherHealth

What's been top of mind for me over the last year: Everything around us, including us, is constantly changing. It's all impermanent. 

#109 Michael Stelmakh, Director of CS at HID Global
Nothing is more important than the well-being of your employees.

 

#110 Emmanouil Mavrikos, VP Global Head of CS at iProov
Never compromise on the core values of CS—one of the most important ones being that the most effective organizational structure for CS to best represent the customer is to report directly to the CEO.

 

#111 Brandon Williams, Senior CSM at MajorClarity

Keep in mind that there are more factors that go into a “healthy customer” than just NRR or NPS scores. There has to be rapport and relationships built, multiple stakeholders engaged, and customer goals to be accomplished. So many times people will look at high NPS scores and assume the job is done for CS—when in fact there are so many other factors that produce not just a healthy customer account but an advocate!

#1112 Patricia Saunders, VP of CS at ATP
Despite all the CS playbooks and best practices out there, CS is as much art as it is science: be present, bold, and willing to adapt to where your team, company, and customers are.

#113 Emily Campos, Director of CS at PetDesk
Always give customers a "seat" at the table in internal discussions: whether you're with your Product team, Support, CS, or anyone else—consider how your customers might react and whether your solutions will help them reach their goals.

 

#114 Steve Bernstein, Principal at Waypoint Group
Never assume that you know the customer's sentiment unless you specifically ask...I've learned that just because someone is nice or unfriendly, doesn't mean that they are a promoter or detractor.

#115 Sean Connolly, SVP Customer Success at HYPR
Gain consensus early that it takes a company to improve most leading indicators, and that leading indicators can imply the direction of Customer Success measurements but are not measurements of Customer Success.

#116 Mark Flanagan, CEO & Cofounder at Twin Peak Consulting
It has become clear to me that a SaaS CEO that operates with a customer-centric strategy, has a direct reporting line with the Customer Success, and makes sure that every employee is focused on delivering continued value to those that they serve, is tuned into what it takes to achieve business success.

#117 Stefan Gustafsson, CCO at Hive Streaming
The world is changing and customers' communication pattern and availability is changing with it!

#118 Michelle Linck, Principal, CS at Fusion Risk Management

Customer Success is a collaborative effort of the entire organization.

#119 Roxanna Cabanillas, Manager of CS at Keap
A customer’s growth, valuable outcomes, and success should be your primary focus. 

#120 Andrea Perrino, Director of CS at JDXpert
My most valuable lesson learned this year is that having defined, structured, organized Customer Success processes in place will allow our CS team to be proactive and prepared to provide the best set of recommendations based on our customers' goals.

#121 Scott Severe, CCO at Next Gear Solutions

#1 lesson this year: the profound impact of pondering 'how can I add value?’

 

#122 Jennifer Ward, Global Head of Enterprise Client Services
I learned the hard way to invest in CS Ops instead of borrowing from Sales Ops.

#123 Jeff Justice Williams, Sr. Executive Director, Enterprise CS at Box

Never say the words 'How can I help?' Instead, come with a hypothesis or established perspective and remove the burden of decision about your product from the customers. Give them guidance in a time where business dynamics are complex and the way of work is in constant change.

 

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