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Looking to pursue a career in customer success – and thrive while doing so?
You’ll want to listen to Dan Farley.

Dan Farley, a veteran CS executive with more than a decade of experience, shared his advice for those pursuing CS careers in a recent conversation with UpdateAI CEO Josh Schachter on LinkedIn. 

While the definition of customer success “changes from company to company,” Farley said, “the premise is ultimately the same – you want to create advocates and customers for life.”

Whether you’re just starting out or looking to take that next step in your CS career, Farley had plenty of tips and insights to share. For those who missed the interview, you can watch the full discussion by heading here. And if you don’t have time for the full conversation, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered – we’ve put together 3 key takeaways for those looking to build a killer career in customer success. Check them out below: 

1. When Customer Success Is the Right Path for You

If you’re wondering whether Customer Success is the right career to pursue, Farley has been in your shoes before. In fact, Farley said he wasn’t really sure what CS was when it was first introduced to him in the early 2010s. 

So how do you know you’d be a good fit for a CS career? One clear sign Farley pointed to you genuinely enjoy helping others solve their problems. 

Farley shared a story with Schachter from earlier in his career that drove this point home.

While working for a startup in 2011, Farley was helping a large London-based electrical retailer solve a big problem: The PoS systems and printers at 25 stores had stopped working. Farley worked with a manager from the retailer for 6 hours a day all week, trying to debug the problem. 

When they finally broke through and resolved the issue at the end of the week, Farley was thrilled. But the retail manager’s response made it clear this was the path he wanted to pursue for the rest of his career. 

“I’ll never forget this,” Farley told Schachter. “This guy said to me, ‘you guys saved my job.’” 

The retail manager said his boss was returning the following week from vacation. “I’m pretty sure he would’ve let me go,” the manager said, if the boss had returned and the problem hadn’t been resolved.

It was a “surreal moment,” Farley said, that went beyond business and highlighted the “human element” that is part of CS. 

“That changed everything,” Farley said. “I knew at that point something customer-related… or something human-related was something I’d be doing for the rest of my life.” 

2. What CS Experts Look for In a Candidate

Alright, you know you want to pursue a CS career – but what are companies looking for? 

That can vary from place to place, Farley said, depending on the size of the company; a startup will likely have different benchmarks than a giant like Cisco, of course. Being nimble is critical. Still, there are a few key attributes Farley said he looks for when hiring for CS positions. 

Here are the 3 main things he has his eye on:

  • Someone with an incredible analytical ability 

This doesn’t necessarily mean a master of data analysis. Instead, it’s important a candidate is “able to unpack a very complicated scenario and analyze it from different angles,” Farley said. 

  • Entrepreneurial drive  

“Someone who doesn’t necessarily need a script or a playbook” to be successful, Farley said. This candidate has the inherent initiative to go out and drive the business forward. This approach is important because it is contagious – it rubs off on the entire team and helps push momentum forward. 

  • Passionate about CS 

This one might seem obvious, but it’s nonetheless essential. Candidates who show a true passion for CS stand out from the pack, Farley said. What’s this look like? It comes down to showing you follow key industry trends, even if you’re outside of the industry currently. If you follow Cisco’s Maria Martinez, or you can discuss Jeanne Bliss, or you’ve read “Customer Success” by Nick Mehta, Dan Steinman and Lincoln Murphy, you’re signaling you want to “really understand” CS, Farley said.

3. Create an Environment That Allows Customers to Discuss Their Issues Freely

Okay, you’ve nailed the interview and landed your dream CS job. That’s great! But now you want to make sure you help your customers in the best way possible. 

One crucial aspect to this is fostering an environment where customers feel they’re being heard. 

This means, Farley said, creating a “safe space [for customers] to not have a technical conversation – a safe space to discuss what’s going well and not going well.” 

Both CS employees and customers benefit from this; it gives customers the breathing room to share what they’re dealing with, while also preventing CS from being blindsided with issues that they may have been able to anticipate. Ultimately this helps build a stronger client-CS relationship. 

This doesn’t take much time and effort, either. Farley said it’s routine for CS to have weekly check-in calls with their customers, but those can often go sideways, with 15 minutes spent recapping everyone’s weekend and 5 minutes spent on actual issues.

That doesn’t need to be the case. Instead, Farley said it’s important to value your customer’s time. A great way to do this is by sending an agenda to customers before each meeting. This keeps meetings focused and also shows customers the meeting is worth their time and energy.

“You do that and they’ll turn up,” Farley said. 

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