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Sep 27, 2022

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12 reasons Customer Success teams need training

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This is a guest article written by Todd Eby, founder and CEO of SuccessHACKER.

In the business landscape today, Customer Success is a bit of an outlier. It’s newer when compared to more established departments like sales and marketing. It’s quickly growing and best practices are still emerging and changing. One other thing that makes Customer Success particularly unique in an organization: formal Customer Success training, or lack thereof.

The truth is that Customer Success training is far from standardized, and it doesn’t always happen. When Customer Success training does happen, it can be a little haphazard or surface level, depending on how the training is provided. But the paradox in this is that Customer Success teams are absolutely vital for companies today because they help reduce customer churn, boost retention, and contribute to business profitability and success.

Instead of taking a randomized or reactionary approach to training, leadership needs to invest in robust and detailed Customer Success team training for their team to ensure they deploy the best Customer Success practices and maximize their effectiveness in improving the customer experience. When approached in a targeted and methodological way, Customer Success team training can enhance your employees’ experience and the experience of your customers while leading your organization to accomplish its largest goals.

What makes Customer Success unique

It’s not just a feeling or an idea: Customer Success is different from other departments and teams in an organization. First of all, Customer Success is still experiencing explosive growth, as it has been for the past few years (it was named as a leading emerging job in 2020). We’ve also seen companies big and small add tons of Customer Success positions to their roster, showcasing the value that Customer Success provides (like when IBM hired 700 CSM positions). But not only is Customer Success hiring happening now: the future is also looking bright. Research tells us that the Customer Success platforms market is estimated to reach $3.1 billion by 2026, showing that a massive expansion is expected to come in Customer Success technologies.

The growth and importance of Customer Success is apparent. What hasn’t yet been made clear is a systematic approach for training Customer Success team members during these crucial stages of expansion and rapid departmental growth.

12 reasons why Customer Success teams need training

With all of that in mind, here are 12 reasons why Customer Success teams need formal, structured Customer Success team training.

1: People join Customer Success from a wide variety of backgrounds

Customer Success is a relatively new field that’s constantly changing, and it tends to attract people from a wide variety of professional backgrounds. For example, we often see people join Customer Success after a career in customer support, sales, project management, or as a new graduate. While all of these backgrounds might give you some of the base skills that are necessary for a career in Customer Success, there are definitely areas where a new Customer Success hire will be lacking. Customer Success team training ensures that everyone who joins a Customer Success team has the same core skills and competencies and provides a foundation for the team to be consistently successful.

2: Seasoned Customer Success professionals might have skills gaps

Because of the newness of Customer Success as a whole, and the dynamic way in which people join the field, even those who have worked in Customer Success for a while might have skills gaps. Skills gaps occur when there’s a necessary skill that a Customer Success professional should have for their role, but that they’re lacking in. See how your team stacks up with skills gaps by conducting a skills gaps analysis.

3: Customer Success skills aren’t often taught

You can study marketing at nearly every university, and you might learn some sales skills in business school. But finding formal classes that teach Customer Success skills is rare, and it’s not often that someone joins Customer Success with a degree in the subject. Customer Success skills typically aren’t taught in school, but they’re also not typically taught beyond that either. If this is the case, then the question remains: How do Customer Success professionals actually learn their skills? The most common answer to this is with on-the-job learning, mentorship programs, or training (if an organization chooses to deploy it).

4: Customer Success team training helps organizations adapt

Even if your Customer Success team is functioning like a well-oiled machine right now, they also need to stay on top of a constantly-evolving industry with new practices, business cultures, and needs. To weather the tides of change, organizations can lean on Customer Success training to help their teams adapt. LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report found that 87% of learning & development leaders say that training had some to a great deal of involvement in helping their organization adapt to change.

5: Customer Success team training is important for company culture

More and more, we’re seeing that employees don’t only want the chance to grow their careers, but that they need it. Providing training opportunities gives your people the chance to develop their skills, nurture their careers, and plan for a future in Customer Success. LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report also found that the top driver of great work culture was “opportunities to learn and to grow.”

6: Customer Success team training can bolster on-the-job learning

Typically in Customer Success, many skills are learned on the job, and this is certainly a suitable practice for certain skills. Some skills that might be picked up on the job might include domain expertise and product knowledge, for example. New Customer Success Managers (or those new to your organization) might learn these skills during training or while shadowing another employee. But not every skill will be learned on the job, and even if it can be, you might not want your team to be forced to learn it on the fly. Many crucial skills and competencies are harder to pick up or can be rough to learn in real time. Skills and competencies that are customer-facing, for example, might not be best for learning for the first time while working with customers in a new scenario.

7: Customer Success team training can reduce your need to hire

There are times when you’re going to need to build out your Customer Success team by hiring new team members. But hiring is often only one solution to the need for more skilled employees. Instead of just turning to hiring, Customer Success leaders can typically ask themselves if they should be looking for new talent or if they should be investing in training their own talent. We know for a fact that bringing on new employees is more expensive than investing in current employees. For example, research tells us that a new hire costs 18 percent more than it would to promote an internal resource to the same job. By investing in training instead of hiring, you might be able to solve some of your most pressing talent needs at a fraction of the cost.

8: The skills and competencies your Customer Success team needs are unique

There are specific skills and competencies that almost every Customer Success team values in its Customer Success Managers, and that are uniformly valuable in the industry. Some of these key skills and competencies might include open communication, emotional intelligence, and teamwork skills. But there are also skills and competencies that are unique to each Customer Success team that might not be common at other organizations. That’s why Customer Success leaders should create a tailored competency model that’s unique to their own organizational needs and customized to their department. It’s helpful to understand exactly what skills and competencies you need to focus your training curriculum.

9: Your team (definitely) has untapped potential

Customer Success team members don’t often join the field as experts in Customer Success, even if they’re top-performing and highly capable. More often, leaders hire for Customer Success potential because they see that candidates possess qualities and traits that will lead them to become excellent Customer Success Managers. While it’s common to hire for Customer Success potential, active steps then need to be taken for Customer Success Managers to realize their potential, in the form of comprehensive training.

10: Onboarding just isn’t going to cut it

If your organization doesn’t have a designated Customer Success training, you’re definitely not alone. More commonly, Customer Success team members will undergo general onboarding and some light training, before jumping into their new position. Instead of only providing standard onboarding and on-the-job training to your team, Customer Success team training can ensure that new hires start off highly skilled and with the tools they need to excel in their roles.

11: Things are changing, and fast

Even the most highly skilled Customer Success teams need to be constantly prepared for changes that rattle the Customer Success landscape. From emerging technologies (such as the prevalence of remote work) to rapidly changing customer needs and expectations, Customer Success teams need to be steadfast pioneers, leading their customers through change. When you choose a Customer Success team training, it likely will include not only core techniques and skills but also new and developing topics. Staying at the forefront of industry practices and customer needs is what can set a Customer Success department ahead of the pack from its competitors.

12: Your customers want a better-trained Customer Success team

Customer Success team training doesn’t only benefit your employees and your company: it also benefits your customers. When your customers are entrusting their business with a highly-trained Customer Success Manager, they’ll come to view them as a helpful advisor who provides value and who helps them have the best experience possible with your company and product. When Customer Success Managers lack training, some aspects of their relationships with customers might be rocky or uncertain, and they might struggle with certain tasks and responsibilities.

Customer Success team training is one of the few things that can set Customer Success departments apart from their competitors. At the end of the day, Customer Success team training provides your employees with valuable experience that helps them excel in their current roles and prepare for the future while better-serving larger business needs and goals.

How to use Customer Success training as a tool for advocacy

A core competency of a Customer Success leader is knowing how to showcase your team’s value to the rest of the organization. Todd shares five ways Customer Success can advocate for itself in our article, “Championing the Customer Success team’s role in a way that other teams can’t ignore.”

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