How do you know when a customer success career is right for you? For Sean MacPherson, that was easy.
“You can feel the customer’s energy radiating through the Zoom or through the phone,” Sean said, during a recent conversation with UpdateAI CEO Josh Schachter. “It’s something that’s just absolutely amazing as a customer success professional to hear… hearing just the customer get so excited about the journey that they were on and how they got there.”
This was something Sean felt early in his CS career, after completing a lengthy project for a Fortune 500 client – and he hasn’t looked back since. He’s now the Vice President of Customer Success at Smarter Sorting, a data-driven company that helps retailers and suppliers know more about regulated consumer products to make, market and ship.
Sean expanded on what makes someone right for a CS role during his conversation with Josh. (You can catch the full video discussion by clicking here.) If you missed it, here are the 3 key takeaways from their conversation:
1. The Curiosity Factor
One of the more exciting aspects of customer success is that it attracts an eclectic mix of talent. And that’s a good thing.
Sean, for example, has a background in logistics, product management and sales engineering prior to jumping into CS. Many CS professionals have sales, engineering and education backgrounds – experience that often comes in handy when finding solutions for their customers.
Still, there is one thing all successful CS professionals share: “The Curiosity Factor,” as Sean calls it.
Ideally, as a CS professional, you don’t want to wait for problems to pop up. Sean said you’re much better off being proactive and thinking about what your customers might be facing.
“Is there a roadblock my customer is running into on a consistent basis?” “Does that align with the challenges my other customers are dealing with?” “How can I make sure this isn’t a recurring issue?” If you’re consistently putting yourself in your customers’ shoes, that’s a great starting point to achieve CS success.
Ultimately, Sean said this boils down to having the willingness to be “constantly digging into” the problems facing customers, allowing you to “truly understand [customers’] challenges.” And once you’ve identified the issue, it’s equally important to match it with a timely solution.
That, Sean said, is what CS success is all about. If you’re a naturally curious person, that bodes well for you moving into CS – and you shouldn’t be afraid to reference this characteristic in your job interviews. Sean said he “hyper-prioritizes” this attribute in the interviews he conducts because he knows it’s the best indicator of CS success.
2. Identify Your Superpower
Speaking of job interviews, you’ve probably run into this one before: interviewers asking you what your superpower is. Sure, it may seem a bit trite – but that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant, Sean said. (Sean said this one particularly stands out to him as a self-identified Marvel “super nerd.”)
While being a jack of all trades certainly has its benefits, you really want to identify what you are uniquely skilled at. Maybe, after several years as an educator, you’ve found you’re a great listener. Or maybe, after starting your career in sales, you have a knack for project management. Whatever it is, make a note of it – and, if you’re being interviewed, highlight how you leverage that superpower in your day-to-day life.
Again, this goes back to CS being an eclectic industry. If you’re looking to put together “The Avengers,” you don’t want everyone to have the same superpower. The same goes for building a great CS team. You want to have variety, Sean said, because that forms a team that can “think differently” and “create better experiences” for customers.
So on a job interview, don’t feel you need to oversell yourself. Identify and embrace what you distinctively bring to the table – and be ready to share how that applies to CS. If you can do that, you’ll stand out.
3. Find Your North Star
In the same way it’s important to identify your superpower, it’s also important for your team to find its north star. By having a defined direction, it provides clarity and anchors your team to a common goal.
At Alyce, a software company where Sean was the VP of Customer Success for three years, he said the CS team was primarily focused on “value attainment and acceleration” with customers.
That meant the company’s north was was “net revenue retention,”; if you’re unfamiliar, that’s the percentage of revenue that’s retained from existing customers over a certain amount of time. That includes all upgrades, downgrades and cancellations.
For Alyce, this was a great point-of-emphasis for the CS team, Sean said, and helped the team grow to about 25 people. And this north star made a lot of sense for Alyce, considering the company specializes in helping sales and marketing learn how to create meaningful connections with prospects and customers via corporate one-to-one gifts.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the case for every CS team. “Every CS team is different,” Sean said.
“Just because one structure worked at one company doesn’t mean it will work at another,” he added. “I think that’s always [been] a really key theme that, as I’ve built and scaled CS organizations at different companies, I’ve always come back to.”
To thrive, adaptability is essential. By harnessing your superpower and being curious about the challenges your customers face, you will help your CS team find its own north star.