Top Traits of a Customer Success Leader
By Ellie Wu
Search for "Top Traits for a CSM, " and you get all kinds of answers; however, type in "Customer Success Leadership Traits" (even different permutations like "CSM Director Traits"), and all I can find are a subset of the CSM Trait results.
With the growing need, our industry leaders have an incredible responsibility to determine what is next and shape the future of CS. So, here is my submission of Top Customer Success Leader Traits based on interactions with Leaders across industries and companies that have impressed and inspired me.
1) They have conviction & clarity on Customer Success as a discipline and industry.
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.
Customer Success is the renaissance of the relationships and interactions between you and your customers. It is a unique opportunity, if understood and captured correctly, will be a defining moment for your company in any space. It is the soundtrack of your company brand.
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. After gaining clarity around your goals, take an honest inventory.
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 for 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 and scale, 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.