5 Lessons Learned From My First Few Months As a Customer Success Manager

Authored by Kayla Brehm

Published on October 19, 2015

My day to day used to consist of managing a classroom full of (often wild) children and making sure that my lessons were meaningful. Now, my day to day consists of managing customers and making sure they derive the most value from our product. Though teaching and customer success might seem like very different careers, a lot of the skills and grit that I learned from teaching have helped me transition smoothly into the Customer Success Manager role at Help.com.

My first few months at Help.com have flown by. Switching careers from teaching to working at a SaaS startup has truly pushed me out of my comfort zone by diving me straight into the world of tech. With the support of my team, I’ve learned a few key lessons that have made this an exciting journey.

Here’s what I know (so far).


1. Communication is central to success

As a Success Manager, communication across all channels is vital. Not only is it important to communicate with our customers about our product, but it is also highly critical for our customers to feel comfortable talking with us.

Friendly, engaging tones are key. Without a friendly tone, your customers will not feel open to talking with you.

Like with customers, communication is important in teamwork. As a Customer Success Manager, it is my job to keep our customers updated on our team’s progress with our product. How can I do that? By communicating and collaborating directly with our engineering team.

But really. I got to know our engineering team really quickly.

The opposite is also true. I also have to find ways to make sure that our customers are being heard and that their input is valued. Without the customer’s voice and input, the team might be unable to provide the best support when it comes to our product.

For example, our engineering team works on really awesome updates to our app that we hope can really benefit our customers. We often realize that our customers end up using our app in very new ways that we never expected. When this happens, sometimes the features we developed don’t provide as much value as we had initially thought. If our customers didn’t feel comfortable sharing their specific use cases with us, then we would never learn the best ways to develop our product so that we DO provide the most value.


2. Learning is never over

There’s never a dull moment when working at a startup.

From day one, I’ve had to learn to become a human wikipedia.

These have been the constant flow of questions that go through my mind when a customer reaches out or our team makes an update to our product. It doesn’t stop there. I also had to quickly learn everything about our industry—from the kind of customers that use our product to the ways in which such products are built.

Working for a SaaS company means that our product is continuously improving, and so my knowledge of our product is also continuously improving. Everyday becomes an opportunity to improve, whether I have to learn to navigate a new feature or I have to work with a customer through a new use case.

Because learning is never over, my job has helped me grow as a person. Rather than becoming complacent, I’ve learned to look for opportunities for knowledge everywhere—whether that is learning how to navigate a new social media tool or just learning how to operate a Roomba.

Through all of this, it’s been extremely important to learn how to adapt to change. Working at a startup means that all aspects of the business are constantly evolving. Not only is our product continuously improving, but our team is also continuously changing. As new teammates come onboard and others leave, it’s been a challenge to adapt. Even so, new faces mean fresh voices that can provide new viewpoints that can strengthen a team and a product.


3. Customers always have a voice

We’ve all heard the expression that the “customer is always right,” and while I don’t necessarily agree with that, I have learned that customers should always have a voice.

Customers have increasingly had a voice through social media, expressing their satisfaction or anger at businesses through Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms. As a customer service organization, it is our job to make sure that we direct the power of social media in a positive way.

The best way to do that is to give our customers an active voice in the development of our product. This not only leaves a positive impression on your customers, but it also gets them invested in your product. Your success is their success.


4. Your team also always has a voice

Just like the customer always has a voice, I’ve also learned that my team (including me) also has a voice. Getting feedback about our product from all angles is the best way to develop. Because of this, it is so important that everyone on the team has a space to express their voice and opinion.

This also means that your team must be comfortable with both praise and criticism. You can’t learn to develop a great product unless you are open to hearing a voice that isn’t yours. Developing a culture of open communication and collaboration is key.


5.  Tools are your friend

Though I’m in constant communication with our customers, there is no way that my brain can keep track of everything. I’m human after all. But because I do work in tech, I’ve learned that many tools are my friend and act as my second (or third or fourth) brain.

My first few months as a customer success manager for Help.com have been a hugely positive experience in customer service. If you’d ask me to write this blog post again next week, I’m sure it would be much longer. After all, learning at Help.com is never over and my journey here has just begun.

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