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Customer success manager: How I got my job and where I'm going

What education and training are required to become a customer success manager (aka client advocate)? Nick talks about his path to become a customer success manager and opportunities for growth in the field.

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Video transcript

In order to pursue a career as a customer success manager, there are a few different ways to go about it. It kind of goes one of two ways. Either you're a little more focused in sales or you're a little more focused in customer service. Because it really is a fusion of both of those things. We're having renewal conversations. We're understanding long term success and revenue for a company. At the same time, we're talking about making sure that customers are happy and having a good experience. The User Testing application process was really complicated but good. I had a friend who had worked at User Testing at the time. She recommended me. From there I got a call from someone in human resources which was just an initial scouting call. Talked with her for maybe 20 minutes. She said that I sounded like a good culture fit, and that she'd love to have me have a phone interview with one of the managers. I was over on the East Coast at this time, so I was interviewing for a position halfway across the world really. I wound up taking this phone interview with one of the managers. He said that stuff sounded really good, and he was excited for this to continue. I wound up having another phone interview. This time I was supposed to do a demo of the actual product for them. As you know, this product is a little bit complicated. I had to go through and practice a whole bunch, and I wound up doing that for two of the managers. They decided that I had done well enough in the demo that I would do two more rounds of interviews. From there, I interviewed with two different groups of two managers in each interview. They asked me a bunch of questions after which they told me I would interview with the director of the department. I interviewed with him, and at first it was very stressful. He gave me a lot of very direct feedback about uncertainties that he had about me. He said, "Well, I'm gonna tell you right now I'm worried that you might not be able to do this. Tell me why that's not the case." He was a little jarring. At the end of it, he said that he thought I would be a great fit. He asked me to come out the next week. I wound up packing my up all my stuff, canceling a bunch of plans I had that week, and moving out to California. I've loved every minute of it since. They want to make sure that if you're given a responsibility that you really feel wholeheartedly like you need to own that. Owning results and ownership of results is a huge part of the company here. I think that's what they were really kind of grading us on. The standard prerequisite is a bachelor's degree, and I think they're probably looking for one or two years experience although that might be a little bit flexible depends on where you're starting out. Experience, whether that's in customer service, customer success, sales, like I was saying before, those are all different areas to get your feet wet in and then expand a little bit into something like customer success I would say. As far as growth opportunities go, both at User Testing and in the customer success department, there are a lot of different opportunities. At User Testing in particular, we are a big company who focuses on research. Some of our customer success managers have gone on to do research, as well as, project management and product management so a couple different things there. Project management more focusing on making sure that different projects are proceeding correctly kind of throughout the organization. Product management meaning that you're focusing on how a product is designed, developed throughout its whole cycle and taking ownership of that. Couple different areas that are within customer success. There are managers and directors just like in any other department. We're called customer success managers. A customer success manager manager is a little weird. That's a position that I in particular I am gearing towards. I like managing groups of people, so I would love to hold a position kind of like that. There are also things like strategic planning and strategic thinking so strategy, business development, things along those lines can be really big for where to go after this. As a next step for me, I am aiming to work as a manager of customer success managers. In order to get there, I really need to make sure that I have a solid understanding of not only the way that everything works internally, but also the way that our customers operate so that I can think about them on a more strategic, higher level. I have to get a little more experience actually running renewals, and actually holding some of those more challenging conversations that customer success managers are expected to have, so that I'll be able to, in turn, help the people that I manage and hold those conversations. I know that what I love doing is working with people, helping train those people, helping them feel empowered and they have someone they can go to with any questions that they might have. I hope to be that person for a group of people in 10 years. If you're interested in becoming a customer success manager, a great place to start is to understand how to have really high level conversations with other people. That can be taking a communication course, making sure you're not nervous on the phone, making sure you're able to write a really great professional email. These are all things that will really, really be impactful at the end of the day once you're in charge of doing that day in and day out. Get your basics down. Learn that stuff. That's a great place to start. Once you're actually at a company, networking is also super important. You want to make sure that you understand internally who all is around so you can not only have friends. I moved across the country to be out here, right? I needed to make friends with my coworkers because otherwise I was alone with my two buddies. It's really great to be able to talk to people and meet new people. I have a friend who is at Facebook now. I have a bunch of friends who work over at Google. I have a friend who works at EA. This isn't just because I work here. It's because I have been going out and getting to know people through the community in Silicon Valley. Now if I were ever interested in something other than User Testing, which I'm not, I love User Testing. You're great. Then, I have other people who I could go to and talk to and see what's good. To start out, just be aware that other people are going to look at what you've done, and what you are doing in the future. Be weary of what you're putting online as yourself. People brand themselves when they go out. They post pictures of themselves out at parties which can be great and can be super fun, but also just be cautious depending on what type of employer you're looking to get hired by 'cause some of them take that really seriously.