So You’re the First Customer Success Hire at Your Company…

Congratulations! You’ve joined the exclusive club made up of individuals who are the first customer success hire for an organization.

What now?

Well, since Customer Success is still a new concept, every organization and every situation is different. We know that many organizations are finally starting to see the value in having a solid CSM team and are making the right moves to put it in place.

Take my experience for example. I was the second Customer Success Manager hired at my current company. It was me, another CSM that had been hired about 6 months previously, and the Head of Customer Success who was a woman who had been with the company for about 5 years working in various roles. When I was hired we had a cheap CRM and that’s about it. No playbooks, no CS Software, no real CS processes in place. I was still pretty new to my CS career so this was an exciting challenge to be a part of a CS department that was basically in “start-up” mode.

Now, a year and a half later, things are much different. We have HubSpot, Churn Zero, a Customer Journey Map in place, playbooks and processes so we know what’s expected for us to excel in our roles, and have a growing global team of rockstar CSM’s. It’s been a fun, bumpy ride up to this point and we’re still growing and evolving every day.

If I could sum up what I’ve learned being one of the first CSM’s at my company, it would be this: Collaborate with your fellow CSM’s on a daily basis and never be afraid to voice your ideas. As I said earlier, Customer Success is still new so many of your ideas on how to improve, streamline, and innovate things can be very valuable to the department’s and company’s growth.

So how about being the first Executive of VP-level Customer Success hire?

After doing some field research on the subject, I came across some great advice and best practices.

For starters, Gainsight wrote an article about this very subject and outlined the 7 most important things every new VP of Customer Success should prioritize:

1) Understand your customers
2) Understand your team
3) What is your segmentation strategy?
4) What is your engagement strategy?
5) What tools do you have at your disposal?
6) What are the boss’s expectations?
7) Make sure your CEO is all-in

Read the full article here: https://www.gainsight.com/blog/youre-the-new-vp-of-customer-success-now-what/

I also asked my fellow LinkedIn community about their experience being the first CS hire. I asked them to share the top 2 or 3 lessons they learned. And, as always, the advice did not disappoint.


1. Success teams are most reactive when they aren’t communicating or collaborating well with product, support and sales.

2. Digital engagement is key for Success teams, especially when there’s a large SMB customer base at play, but paradoxically, self-service strategies are useless if you don’t continue enough 1:1 conversations to know what your customers pain points are.

– Liz Stephany, Director of Customer Success at Close


Learn as much as you can about the sales process and do some support tickets to quickly learn what customers are regularly struggling with.

– Rav Dhaliwal


1. We know enough to listen and “love” on our clients, but are we doing this internally with our team? Continually improving new hire onboarding, and taking the time to understand each CSL’s superpower has been helpful in creating harmonious collaboration. Advocate and support your talent like you would your top client.

2. CS moves fast and information changes daily. Don’t assume that other key players across the organization know what’s going on. Take the time to pause and educate others on your process and share the “why” behind the decisions that you make to create buy-in. Trust can be ruined when decisions are made in vacuums. 

-Amanda Torrelli, Associate VP of Client Success at Mongoose


1. Be flexible. Customer Success is an integral part of any organization. With as much weight as CS holds, you can’t expect processes and procedures be 100% correct in their first iteration – fleaxability is key

2. The challenges you are facing are not specific to you/your organization. Leverage your network, connect with other CS professionals and don’t try to recreate the wheel for everything.

-Nashad Abass, Customer Success Manager


Lesson #1 – Infront of the customer, you are the CEO of the company and you got to own everything.

Lesson #2 – You got to set the expectations right at your customer’s end.

Lesson #3 – Its okay to question the processes at your organization and suggest changes which can expedite the delivery to your clien

-Amit Bhadu


1) Recognize that your CSMs will likely be more reactive to begin with and take that into consideration in your planning. There are probably a lot of quietly frustrated customers out there that no one is seeking out.

2) It’s already been said, but active listening in the first 30-60 days is critical to get a sense of what you need to prioritize. This applies to both customers and employees. Go on a relentless pursuit of learning WHY things are the way they are.

3) Don’t assume you’ve got the “playbook” from previous roles. Every company’s needs are different. Apply your best practices from the past, but don’t assume that they will all have a place.

-Parker Chase-Corwin


Make sure Executive Leadership is clear on why they are hiring YOU and why NOW. I’ve joined organizations where the leaders thought they understood CS or why they needed the function but clearly “didn’t get it”.

-Kristi Faltorusso


Progress over perfection, the program will constantly evolve. Be scrappy don’t get stuck over-engineering for scalability. Get started simple see what works and resonates then iterate. Build a foundation of every interaction adding value to the customer not a culture of “checking in” noise.

-Samantha Styles



Learn as much as you can about the sales process and do some support tickets to quickly learn what customers are regularly struggling with.

– Rav Dhaliwal


1. We know enough to listen and “love” on our clients, but are we doing this internally with our team? Continually improving new hire onboarding, and taking the time to understand each CSL’s superpower has been helpful in creating harmonious collaboration. Advocate and support your talent like you would your top client.

2. CS moves fast and information changes daily. Don’t assume that other key players across the organization know what’s going on. Take the time to pause and educate others on your process and share the “why” behind the decisions that you make to create buy-in. Trust can be ruined when decisions are made in vacuums. 

-Amanda Torrelli, Associate VP of Client Success at Mongoose


1. Be flexible. Customer Success is an integral part of any organization. With as much weight as CS holds, you can’t expect processes and procedures be 100% correct in their first iteration – fleaxability is key

2. The challenges you are facing are not specific to you/your organization. Leverage your network, connect with other CS professionals and don’t try to recreate the wheel for everything.

-Nashad Abass, Customer Success Manager


Lesson #1 – Infront of the customer, you are the CEO of the company and you got to own everything.

Lesson #2 – You got to set the expectations right at your customer’s end.

Lesson #3 – Its okay to question the processes at your organization and suggest changes which can expedite the delivery to your clien

-Amit Bhadu


1) Recognize that your CSMs will likely be more reactive to begin with and take that into consideration in your planning. There are probably a lot of quietly frustrated customers out there that no one is seeking out.

2) It’s already been said, but active listening in the first 30-60 days is critical to get a sense of what you need to prioritize. This applies to both customers and employees. Go on a relentless pursuit of learning WHY things are the way they are.

3) Don’t assume you’ve got the “playbook” from previous roles. Every company’s needs are different. Apply your best practices from the past, but don’t assume that they will all have a place.

-Parker Chase-Corwin


Make sure Executive Leadership is clear on why they are hiring YOU and why NOW. I’ve joined organizations where the leaders thought they understood CS or why they needed the function but clearly “didn’t get it”.

-Kristi Faltorusso


Progress over perfection, the program will constantly evolve. Be scrappy don’t get stuck over-engineering for scalability. Get started simple see what works and resonates then iterate. Build a foundation of every interaction adding value to the customer not a culture of “checking in” noise.

-Samantha Styles


To read my nearly 150 answers I got on my LinkedIn post, click Here

So friends, if you find yourself being the first CS hire for an organization, you’re in for a fun ride. There will be challenges along the way but make sure you have an open channel of collaboration with your team and the C-suite and a clear vision of what you want to accomplish for the organization.

Best of luck to you and, if you’re not only new to the org but new to Customer Success, welcome to the family!

Additional Resources

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/one-step-time-lessons-learned-from-building-customer-success-steve/

https://360leaders.com/2020/10/09/customer-success/

The Customer Success Manager: Why the Hype?

The Customer Success Manager is the single most important role a company can hire for.

Now, if I were Bill Gates or Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank, you might have taken that first sentence a little more seriously.

Let me see if I can convince you. Stay with me.

The Customer Success Professional’s Handbook is a must-read for anyone wanting to get a deep dive into the impact CS can have on an organization. One page 4, it describes perfectly why the CSM role is so vital especially for the SaaS industry.

“Because of the current business landscape, the customer’s requirements have evolved. Customers expect outcomes, not just a completed transaction. Businesses have realized they must deliver value in a way that fulfills their product’s promise and meets clients’ expectations. Enter Customer Success! The CS function is the bridge between customer expectations, the experience they receive, and ultimately their retention. As a result, Customer Success is now one of the most significant contributors to company growth. In 2016, McKinsey & Company published a report that was titled “Grow Fast or Die Slow: Focusing on Customer Success to Drive Growth.” They concluded that ultimately the focus on customer success not only accelerates revenue growth but also creates a more efficient and effective go-to-market organization.”

Check out the full study here: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/technology-media-and-telecommunications/our-insights/grow-fast-or-die-slow-focusing-on-customer-success-to-drive-growth#

Kellie Lucas says in her book, The Customer Success Pioneer “It is literally life or death for your business, if you are not fully and demonstrably committed to knowing and understanding your customer. Return on Investment (RoI) has been crowned as being king for your customer; this is absolutely a key objective. In a business economy where customers have the freedom of movement more than every before, the urgency for embracing Customer Success is a reality.”

She then goes on to quote Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, and a true pioneer for CS. He says, “Nothing is more important to Salesforce than customer success … And that’s why I believe being so committed to the customer is more important than it’s ever been … because it’s really this culture that’s driving us forward.”

Zendesk, a customer engagement software company based in Silicon Valley, weighed in on the importance of hiring CSM’s for your organization.

In a recent article, they shared this analogy, “Have you ever gone out to eat and were overwhelmed by the menu? And what you really want is someone to help you decide? That’s how I view [Customer] Success,” explains Delores Cooper, Customer Success Associate at Zendesk. “[We] look at the picture in its entirety; what will provide immediate gratification as well as long term stability. Success members accompany the customer on their journey and stick around for the entire lifecycle.”

Read the full article here: https://www.zendesk.com/blog/customer-success-manager/

There’s no other way to say it: Software companies are no longer living in the days where they could sell a product, make a profit, and not have to speak with the customer ever again unless for emergencies.

As SaaSX puts it, “SaaS companies have to keep customers happy to make a profit. Instead of selling a piece of software for a lump sum, you might sell a subscription to an app for a monthly fee. That means customers have to keep getting value out of your software in order to maintain their subscription. If your customers succeed with your product, they’ll keep using it, and your business will profit.”

Full article here: https://saasx.com/2020/04/08/the-importance-of-customer-success-in-saas-and-how-to-help-your-customers-succeed/

So there you have it. The need for a quality Customer Success team has never been more important especially for SaaS companies.

And if you’re a start-up, then jumping on this bandwagon can be the single more important decision you make. I’ll explain more in my next post.

Cheers!

Additional Resources