Dec 8, 2017

Read Time 4 min

[Infographic] Top 5 Traits of a Customer Success Leader


The following is a guest post by Ellie Wu, Founder & Chief Evangelist of PictureCS.

In addition to the end of the year checklist and prep, it’s important to focus on one element that is a common thread across all Customer Success teams regardless of size and maturity – hiring & scaling.

Within CS, we’ve sensed the exponential growth & competitive market in this space. Additionally, a recent presentation for a Data Deep Dive on the Customer Success Industry from PayScale’s Paige Hanley, CCP (Sr. Manager, Services) and Chris Martin (Lead Data Analyst) sharing CS trends shows that pay is on the rise and 62% have the intention to leave their current employer. So, expanding upon my previous post on PictureCS, it’s time to take an audit and arm your organizations with top talent in all levels of leadership.

1) They have conviction & clarity on Customer Success as a discipline and industry.

Leaders with a strong understanding of CS as a practice provide consistent guidance to their team based on best-practices within the industry as well as create a powerful element for the company brand. There will be less adjustment of strategies, minimize the associated frustrations among the team, and develop enduring relationships with customers.

As a starting point, CS is not and should not be:

  • a slight adjustment from account management
  • an evolution of inside sales or any form of rebranded lead-gen
  • support 2.0
  • the default catchall from a scaling organization.

2) They interpret value from the Customer’s perspective, not just vanity metrics.

A common misstep & point of contention is if you have managers measuring activities instead of leaders delivering on outcomes. With an experienced CS leader and a clearly defined strategy, your tactical plans align with the necessary outcomes.

Instead of measuring:

  • # of leads or $ in pipeline generated for the sales team per quarter.
  • # of QBRs completed with your customers.
  • # of days since the last check-in with the account?

Track this instead:

  • Are they getting enough value (to renew) from existing product(s)/solution(s)?
  • Rating/feedback from customers on the QBRs being delivered?
  • When was the last time you delivered a meaningful insight to your customer?

3) They possess Entrepreneurial Tenacity.

There are no definitive guides for Customer Success. So, much like the first companies to enter SaaS, we need people who are capable and unafraid to think differently and refuse to settle for good (or better) when they know they can be the best. Leaders who have the confidence of their team to go to bat and have earned the respect of other decision-makers in the organization. Find those who can overcome failure and have the perseverance to keep getting up.

4) They have the right network.

This network contributes to their net worth and their potential for your organization. Who is helping them learn & grow (mentors)? Who are they learning with & from (peers)? And who are they inspiring (followers)? Someone with the continuous drive to unlock the value for their industry and themselves is better positioned to unharness the potential value with and for our Customers.

5) They attract the best people, deliver impact, and can be a pipeline of talent.

With over 5000+ open CSM positions, there is a perpetual gap between the supply and demand. Knowing how to reframe this to see your group as a pipeline for talent for the rest of the organization will attract champions to you and your team. Invest in your A players and be the best path for continuous growth and go back to your active network for your next group of champions.

As we continue to experience this hyper-growth of Customer Success, let’s get intentional about adding layers of leadership, not just management. Let’s seize our moment in this renaissance and curate the best talent for this industry at all levels and deliver the outcomes promised to our Customers.

About the Author: 

Ellie is an industry recognized customer success thought leader with over 14 years of experience growing million-dollar customer accounts. With a forward-thinking approach and first-hand understanding of the full customer lifecycle, she leads cross-functional teams to create mutually beneficial opportunities for clients, product, marketing, sales, and operations.

She is also the Founder & Creator of PictureCS, the CliffsNotes for Customer Success Best Practices, and an Advisor at CSM Practice, providing high-quality consulting for CS leaders to establish innovative teams and strengthen organizations through their customer engagements.

When not discussing/delivering Customer Success, Ellie loves to travel, sail, and explore the outdoors.

Customer Success Around the Web


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