Mar 1, 2019

Read Time 6 min

ChurnZero Customer Success Professional Spotlight


churnzero customer success professional spotlight

 It’s time for another installment of our blog series where we spotlight a Customer Success professional and get their take on the industry as well as get to hear some of their top tips they’d like to share.

This spotlight will be featuring, Brett Andersen who is the Director of Client Success at Degreed. At Degreed he is leading a team of Client Success Managers on a mission to inspire transformative learning practices in companies around the world. He has 15 years of experience, having consulted with multiple Fortune 500 companies like Bank of America, PwC, Microsoft, Waste Management, Symantec, Taco Bell, and Standard Chartered. He has also led teams in client success, technology implementations, professional services, and change management. He has been an adjunct faculty member in psychology and personal development and a talent development facilitator.

But he’s not 100% business. He is also a volunteer soccer coach, ice cream connoisseur, avid book collector (and reader), sneakerhead, accidental punster and loves to travel and see new places.

So, please enjoy the tricks of the trade and valuable expertise from our featured CS Leader, Brett.

Q: What characteristics do you look for when hiring CSMs?

A: I like to differentiate between mindsets and skillsets. Mindsets are the sets of beliefs, perspectives, and attitudes we have of ourselves and our world. Skillsets are the combination of skills that can be applied to specific situations or contexts at different levels of expertise or mastery. Both are extremely important but I especially emphasize bringing on people with the right mindsets.

There are five that I look for in CSM.

  1. Authentic altruism: The natural habit of thinking of the well-being of other people over your own interests, discomfort, pride, or ego, and at its core is selflessness and empathy

  2. Relentless ambition: Constantly pursuing excellence in themselves and in the work they do

  3. Extreme Ownership: Taking ownership and being accountable for all of your decisions and all of your outcomes – not making excuses and not blaming

  4. Bold Optimism: Lifting up your head, accentuating the positive, challenging the naysayers in what is possible, and consistently bringing energy and passion to their work

  5. Radical Candor: Caring so much about the people you work with (your customers, your partners, your team) that you tell them what they need to know because you know their life will be better by saying something or challenging them to think differently

The skillsets I look for are also important but easier to develop than mindsets (although both are certainly possible). They are:

  1. Strategic Insight: Understanding the customer deeply (goals, expectations, pains), reviewing relevant data and coming to each interaction with insight that will guide them to positive results

  2. Disciplined Execution: Delivering on well-intentioned plans through deliberate time management, email management, risk management, project management (i.e., Do they follow through on what they say they will do?)

  3. Intentional Agility: Adapting to the unexpected and prioritizing as demands and needs change (i.e., Can they manage a lot of change and stay in control?)

  4. Reliable Expertise: Developing the domain language and knowledge to maintain the speed of business for the customer (i.e., Do they learn quickly?). See one of my LinkedIn posts on this topic here.


Q: What are some trends you see happening in the Customer Success industry?

A: Companies are not just buying a product from vendors. They are evaluating, buying and expecting a partnership and an experience. This is raising the expectations of the Customer Experience/Success industry. Also, the vendor community is massive and growing. As companies partner with more and more vendors, they get greater exposure to what great partnerships look like and they begin expecting the same from other partnerships.

For example, data and insights are incredible tools to help delight the clients in unexpected and proactive ways. We are being challenged to deliver more value more quickly, to delight in more surprising and creative ways, and to innovate and continue raising the bar because of those expectations. The expectations of soon-ness (how soon can I see value?), much-ness (how much value will I get out of this?) and sure-ness (how confident are you that I will get value out of this?) continue to rise.

It’s also forcing us to focus more on the question, “Why do customers stay with us?” vs. “Why do companies buy from us?” It’s not good for anyone in the vendor community (Sales, Marketing, Business Development, Product, etc.) to focus on why companies buy because that only gets customers so far. We must know what it takes to win over and over with our product, be confident that we can, and clearly demonstrate how.


Q: What are your best career/Customer Success hacks?

A: Two of my favorite career hacks are especially relevant when I start in a new role.

1) Role profiles are a tool that I use to get very clear on expectations of certain roles. Having simple document in place with those ideals helps eliminate the guesswork and gives every CSM a roadmap to their own success. This clarity gives way for greater speed in execution of core responsibilities and prevents unnecessary and often damaging “leftover” responsibilities in the company related to the customers to the CSMs simply because they are the long-term client-facing representative.

The five questions to ask to build a role profile for CSMs or any other role are:

  • Why does the role of a CSM exist here?
  • What are the core responsibilities that the CSM is accountable for?
  • How does a CSM do their job well? (relates to both mindsets and skillsets)
  • What does a CSM need to do the job well? (tools, training, technologies, etc.)
  • How does a CSM know when she has done the job well?

(See more on this topic in a LinkedIn post I wrote here.)


2) PAINStorming is a design thinking process I’ve used with several teams to start with the end persona in mind and then work toward solutioning for roadblocks that are preventing each persona from accomplishing their core responsibilities.

PAINStorming is an acronym that outlines the process:

  • Persona: Identify which role or user you are trying to improve the experience of (end user, system admin, CSM, etc.)
  • Activities: Identify the core activities or responsibilities that this persona or role is accountable for.
  • Issues & Ideals: Identify the challenges or roadblocks that are preventing them from being able to effectively or efficiently accomplish the listed core responsibilities. Then identify the ideals in their role – what they do have that is working very well in being able to fulfill their core responsibilities.
  • Needs: After prioritizing the issues, identify what they need to overcome that roadblock. (This is not about solutioning yet. It’s just understanding the emotional or logical needs they have to accomplish the task at hand.) The ideals can play a role in being leveraged to know what needs those may already fulfill and whether they can fill other unfilled needs.
  • Solutions: Then, in a separate environment or a different time, encourage creative problem solving and innovation to discover solutions that will meet those unfilled needs and allow the persona/role to more effectively or efficiently fulfill their core responsibilities. Once solutions have been identified, it’s about narrowing down and selecting a “vital few” to focus on delivering, considering both potential impact and level of effort required to implement.


Q: What’s the best career advice you’ve gotten?

A: Focus on results and relationships. Get things done that matter. And develop real relationships with others in the process. That will build your career more than anything else.


Q: What’s the best thing a customer has ever said to you?

A: “You are the best partner I’ve ever worked with.” To this day, that is one of the most meaningful compliments I think a customer can give.


Thanks to Brett for participating in our spotlight and we look forward to talking to and sharing insights from others in the Customer Success community!

Follow these links to check out tips from our previous spotlights.


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